( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) From Closeted Disney Star to Chart-topping Lesbian Artist, How Hayley Kiyoko’s Music and Novel Encourages Vulnerability and Sparks Conversations
ENSPIRE Contributor: Margaux Jubin
Lesbian actor and singer Hayley Kiyoko began her music career after starring in Disney’s Lemonade Mouth in 2011. Still closeted Kiyoko released her first EP in 2013. Despite knowing she was gay since age 6, she waited to come out to the public until her most popular single, “Girls Like Girls” was released in 2015. With over 120 million streams, the gay anthem gained Kiyoko a large queer following, earning her the nickname “Lesbian Jesus” among fans. Years after this smashing success, Hayley Kiyoko decided to adapt “Girls Like Girls” into a young-adult romance novel.
Just like the “Girls Like Girls” music video, which has over 150 million views, the book follows an Asian-American teenage girl as she moves into a new town and comes to grips with her sexuality. At the beginning of the book, we learn that the main character, 17-year-old Coley, lost her mother and now has to move to rural Oregon to live with her dad, whom she hardly knows. Soon after moving, Coley befriends a girl named Sonya, who runs with the popular crew at school and seems to be her opposite. Shortly after meeting Sonya, Coley feels an attraction toward her that is both overwhelming and undeniable.
As the novel progresses, the two girls grow closer as they spend the summer adventuring and partying together. During this time, they are drawn closer and closer but also further apart. Their feelings for each other become stronger and stronger, but there’s one problem; Sonya has a boyfriend and is not ready to come to terms with her feelings for Coley. Can Sonya and Coley fight to have what they want and fear the most?
As this novel deals with shame, abandonment, and growth, this coming-of-age story has been a source of comfort for queer teens everywhere. Not only is the characters growth inspiring throughout the story, but Kiyoko’s own evolution from a closeted Disney star to an open and proud lesbian icon is also nothing short of empowering. Her music, and now her book, has deeply resonated with the LGBTQ+ community and has encouraged conversations about coming out in the music industry.
Harnessing the bravery it took for her to release “Girls Like Girls,” Kiyoko is building on that to create a piece of literature for readers to enjoy and relate to. Proving vulnerability can have an immensely positive impact, Kiyoko’s novel establishes a safe space for young members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel seen, accepted, and celebrated.
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