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Singer, songwriter, actor, and director Hayley Kiyoko in conversation with Tori Marchiony.

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Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor.

She was born as Hayley Kiyoko Ashcroft in Los Angeles in 1991. Her father was comedian Jamie Alcroft of duo Mack & Jamie; her mother was Japanese Canadian figure skater Sarah Kawahara. Kiyoko acted in commercials as a child. Her big acting break came in 2009, when she played Thelma in Scooby-Doo 3: The Mystery Begins. She reprised the role for the 2010 sequel. She has appeared in numerous feature films and TV shows since, with lead roles in CSI: Cyber (2015–2016) and Five Points (2018–2019).

In 2007 she was recruited to join girl group The Stunners, who toured the world in 2010 as an opening act for star Justin Beiber. The Stunners broke up in 2011 and Kiyoko focused on her solo career. Her single “Girls Like Girls,” about coming out as a lesbian, was certified Gold on the back of 100 million streams of the music video, which Kiyoko directed. Her first full-length album, Expectations (2018), reached number 12 in the Billboard charts.


(‘Curious’ by Hayley Kiyoko)

I can handle things

Like I wish that you would

You’ve been out of reach, could you explain?

I think that you should

What you been up to?

Who’s been loving you good?

Since she was little Hayley Kiyoko’s inner world has been musical and cinematic.

Been looking through the texts and all the photos

Hayley Kiyoko: I’ve always lived in this fantasy world. My friends make fun of me because they tell me that I live in music videos ’cause I just, I like to dream.

If you let him touch ya, touch ya, touch ya, touch ya, touch ya, touch ya

The dancer, singer, songwriter, director and actor had her first hit back in 2015 with the viral video for her song “Girls Like Girls”. The lyrics were personal, rooted in her own experiences with coming out. But it was the video, which she directed and cast, that most embodied her creative visions.



Tell the neighbors I’m not sorry

If I’m breaking walls down

Building your girl’s second story

Ripping all your floors out

Saw your face, heard your name

Gotta get with you

Girls like girls like boys do

Nothing new

And this take-charge attitude is nothing new for the 27 year-old.

Kiyoko: I just kind of told people what to do when I was young, if I’m going to be frank with you. I would boss people around in a good way, but I’d be like, ‘okay this is the vision. We’re going to be ‘N Sync. I’m Justin and this is the dance and Dad, you’re going hold the camera here.’ And so, I would kind of like, create the space.

(performance of ‘Feelings’)

I’m sorry that I care, care

I’m sorry that I care, care

It’s really not that fair, fair

I can’t help but care

I over-communicate and feel too much

I just complicate it when I say too much

I laugh about it, dream about that casual touch

Sex is fire, sick and tired of acting all tough

I’m hooked on all these feelings

Dance was Hayley Kiyoko’s earliest passion, but she faced a major setback as a preteen when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine.

Kiyoko: I will never forget the day when they were like, ‘If you don’t wear a back brace you have to get surgery and you won’t be able to dance.’ And, at the time, dancing was my outlet. I was devastated and I had to face reality. And in middle school, go to school every day with this huge plastic, oval, I don’t even, it’s just, it was over my whole body. I appreciate that experience because I feel like that was a pinnacle moment where I could have crumbled and I found my confidence through that. I went to school and I was like, ‘punch my stomach, I’ve got abs of steel. I’m cool, I’m correcting myself.’ And I had to convince myself and other people that I was cool because I was taking care of myself. But it was hard.

But Kiyoko has never been one to back down from a challenge. A fact that’s brought a variety of opportunities her way over the years. As an actor she’s landed roles in film and TV projects including–– the Scooby-Doo live action series, the Disney Channel movie Lemonade Mouth, CSI:Cyber and recently, a lead in the Kerry Washington produced show, Five Points. This, in addition to a spot with the now-defunct pop group, the Stunners. But, while there were benefits to her obsessive dedication, there have also been downsides.

Kiyoko: I crash and burn all the time, lots of injuries. I was that kid growing up who had an injury every month. I was very, you couldn’t count on me because I kept running myself down and that was something I had to learn to not do because it’s not sustainable.

But learning to look after herself didn’t come naturally and in 2016, she sustained a serious concussion.

Kiyoko: It was a life-altering experience. I’m completely different. I would say I was very disappointed in my body. So many people are going through way more intense and life-threatening experiences than what I’ve been through, but losing my ability to think for myself was horrifying, because that’s my talent. My talent is not singing and dancing. My talent is creating and thinking. And when I couldn’t do that it was awful. I felt like my life was taken away from me, because I was like, ‘if I can’t think then what’s the point?’ And so it was a very depressing moment for me. It’s been an over two-year journey and I’m still recovering from it. But it really made me rethink my whole life and have to learn to communicate. That was a moment I had just released my Citrine EP. I had a tour lined up. I had all these things. If I couldn’t think for myself I had to communicate what I needed or what people could do for me. And I really learned to rely on other people and not myself, because I didn’t have myself for a very long time.

These days Kiyoko is learning to care for herself a little bit better every day. All this in the hope of burning bright instead of burning out. The trick now will be letting herself enjoy the fruits of her success.

Kiyoko: The past couple of months have been amazing. And I’ve had to be open to being happy and letting, allowing myself to embrace that. And it’s very hard for us to do that because it’s like, as soon as you’re happy, you’re like, ‘Why am I happy? What’s gonna happen next? And, do I deserve this?’

(performance of ‘Girls Like Girls’)

“I wanna see everyone’s hands in the air. Swing with me to the left! Sway! Yeah! You’re beautiful! Are you ready? One, two, three, four!”

Saw your face, heard your name

Gotta get with you

Girls like girls like boys do

Nothing new

Isn’t this why we came

Gotta get with you

Girls like girls like boys do

Nothing new

Girls like girls like boys do

Nothing new