Does “Expectations” Meet Expectations?

Hayley Kiyoko’s Debut Album Hits #12 on Billboard


Hayley Kiyoko has over 4.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Taila Lee, Copy Editor

Pop star and actress Hayley Kiyoko released her debut album Expectations less than a month ago, hitting #12 on the Billboard 200 album charts.

Proudly lesbian, Kiyoko first came to fame as a teenage actress, but she quickly found her passion in music and performing.  Her self-directed music videos have gained millions of views on YouTube, with some of her earlier singles including “Rich Youth,” “Gravel to the Tempo,” and “Girls Like Girls.”

“I first saw her on Disney Channel,” Woodside sophomore Caden Hansen said, referring to Kiyoko’s role as Stella Yamada in Disney Channel’s 2011 film Lemonade Mouth.  “I think she’s amazing, because she sets this stage for very normalized LGBTQ representation in the media… and that’s something that there isn’t exactly a lot of.”

Hayley Kiyoko has over 935k followers on Instagram, and she recently performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and at Coachella.

“I think it’s great that she’s making [unique] music… and that she is open about her identity,” tenth grader Isabel de Oliveira commented.  “[It] can help lots of young people who are questioning their sexuality.”

Her fans have dubbed Kiyoko “Lesbian Jesus,” with Kiyoko as the founder of the hashtag #20GAYTEEN.

We should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art, and the fact is that I’ve never encountered homophobia and she has.”

— Taylor Swift

“In ‘Girls Like Girls,’ it’s straight up just about LGBTQ and how that’s okay, and that was something that’s so refreshing. That’s something I hadn’t seen before,” Hansen explained.  “I think her presence in the media is incredible, and what she’s been doing with advocacy and getting that message out her that [being LGBTQ+] is okay.”

“Girls Like Girls” is one of Kiyoko’s most popular songs that describes a relationship between two women, with over 35 million listens on Spotify and 89 million views on YouTube.

“Representation in the media is important in a lot of different ways for the LGBTQ community, but [we need] to create a more normalized environment for LGBTQ [and] have positive LGBTQ representation,” Hansen elaborated, “because a lot of the time when you hear about it in the news, it’s never something 100% positive.”

Vianne Nickel, a sophomore and member of Woodside’s Rainbow Club, agrees that LGBTQ+ representation in media is limited.

“I feel like a lot of kids don’t think that they could be LGBTQ because they don’t see it in the world around them,” Nickel described.  “If they live in a relatively conservative community, they wouldn’t even know that it exists… It’s good for them to see [LGBTQ+ representation] at a young age, [so they can] learn that, one, it’s not wrong, and, two, it’s normal.”

Controversy recently arose after Kiyoko’s interview with Refinery29, where she mentioned, “I’ve had several music industry execs say, ‘You’re doing another music video about girls?’ I… was like, ‘Um, yeah… Taylor Swift sings about men in every single song and video, and no one complains that she’s unoriginal.’”

Swift fans criticized Kiyoko, interpreting the comment as offensive, but Swift herself defended Kiyoko on Tumblr.

“We should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art, and the fact is that I’ve never encountered homophobia and she has,” Swift stated in response to a fan.  “It’s her right to call out anyone who has double standards about gay vs. straight love interests.”

Jet Thipphawong, a fan of Kiyoko’s music, talks about what could be changed concerning the representation of the LGBTQ+ community.

“A lot of other artists only sing about people of the opposite gender and are never or rarely criticized for it,” Thipphawong noted.  “Maybe [Kiyoko] shouldn’t have called out a specific person, but her statement was true.”

According to a study from 2016 to 2017, less than 5% of characters on television are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Thipphawong stated that in order to change stigma against LGBTQ+ people, society needs to “normalize representation, have more LGBTQA+ people of color in media, more bi, pan, ace, [and] trans people in media, have actual trans actors play trans characters, [and] TV shows that don’t kill their LGBTQA+ characters.  I also think that representation should be normalized so that bad representations are not treated as a good thing.”

“There’s a lot of focus on people who are gay and lesbian, but not as much focus on identities that are lesser known,” de Oliveira added.  “I think we can [change this underrepresentation] by educating people further on the LGBT community.”

As the opening performance for Panic! At The Disco tour this summer, it is clear Kiyoko’s musical career has only just begun.

“I’d love for people to just like me and my music,” Kiyoko explained in her interview with Refinery29.  “But if I don’t allow labels, there’s no way to normalize them.  Over time, my existence alone will help people see that a lesbian singer is just a singer.  So while I might not want to constantly be asked about my sexuality and just be me, a big part of me is my love of women.  So I guess I’m talking about it until it’s no longer seen as something to talk about.”