Closer to Lesbian Jesus

How Hayley Kiyoko’s Coachella was more than just a great show, but also a moment for those who’ve been inspired by her music.

Graphic by Audrey Parayno.

Believe me or not, in the midst of “Beychella” there were other great artists that performed. Now don’t get me wrong, Queen Bey was definitely a highlight and a once in a lifetime experience. However, there was one artist in particular that I was the most excited to see ever since the lineup came out: Hayley Kiyoko.

I first discovered Kiyoko’s music during the summer of 2015 when the music video for “Girls Like Girls” came out on YouTube. Granted, I knew her from “Lemonade Mouth,” but I didn’t put two and two together until I looked her up. The first time I watched the video, I obsessed over who the singer was, what she was about, and the fact that she put into the music video and the song something that I related to, but couldn’t express.

From that time on, Hayley Kiyoko became a role model for me on my journey for self-acceptance. Once I found out that she was on the Coachella lineup, I immediately knew that she was the one artist I HAD see.

She was set to perform at the Mojave Tent on the last day of Coachella at 4:35 p.m. The entire weekend, I waited for the moment that I would finally see one of the most influential people in my life perform.

I knew I had to be in the front, so I got to the tent early and even watched some of Japanese Breakfast’s performance because she was on right before Hayley Kiyoko. And while Japanese Breakfast is hella dope, and I’m glad I got introduced to her there, I was only there to make my way to the front to see “lesbian Jesus” up close.

I took a picture of Japanese Breakfast just to make it seem like I wasn’t only there to be in the front for Hayley.

I knew I wasn’t the only one with the idea of watching in on some of Japanese Breakfast’s performance in order to get a better seat to see Hayley Kiyoko. As my cousin, her friend, and I kept creeping to the front every time someone left, I noticed so many determined faces rushing to do the same. Whenever a small space opened up, it was like a race to who could move one foot closer.

Once the real Japanese Breakfast fans left, it was a free-for-all for the barricade. Luckily, my cousin’s friend found herself on the barricade toward the left of the stage. I could’ve shoved and pushed myself to the barricade, but I was content being in the middle with only with one person in front of me. I knew Hayley Kiyoko would still be feet away and hopefully make eye contact with me.

Once everyone was in their desired tight spaces, we still had about a 40 minute wait until our hero would be blessing us with her presence. We were all squeezed together despite the desert heat and watched the stage get set up as everyone waited anxiously. Not going to lie, I got pretty hyped once they brought out the drum set with “HAYLEY KIYOKO” written on it.

The Snapchat I took once the drum set was brought out.

As I waited for Hayley Kiyoko to come on, I started to reminisce about the impact she’d made on my life. I stood in a crowd of people that felt the same feelings that I did when I listened to or watched her music and videos.

I heard numerous conversations about how they were excited. They talked about their love for her and what she meant to them, and I felt a weird sense of comfort in that. To my right, there was a couple, and the girl behind them said they were “so lucky to be seeing Hayley Kiyoko together.” In front of me, there were two girls holding up a “#20GAYTEEN” pride flag. I knew they’d been waiting for an even longer time than me.

The conversations kept coming:

“I love her so much.”

“I skipped Russ just to see her.”

“I’m here alone because I told my sister I couldn’t miss Hayley.”

“I literally only came to Coachella for her.”

“I can honestly leave right after her because she’s the only one I wanted to see.”

“I only bought a pass just to see Hayley.”

“She’s so pretty.”

Listening into all of these conversations, it blew my mind because I was surrounded by so many people whose lives were changed by Hayley Kiyoko just existing and making music. I felt at ease because for the first time, I felt like I was around people that understood the part of me that I was still trying to understand.

Then finally, the wait was over. Her band walked out onto the stage. The screen behind them showed different clips and pictures of her music videos. Everyone just screamed. We started to hear an extended intro to “Gravel to Tempo” and we knew she was gonna jump on stage soon.

A couple minutes later, she ran onto the stage. It stood silent for a second, and the music continued as she started singing.

The crowd went wild. Everyone screamed and a loud “You’re so hot!” came up from behind. The energy in the air went from anxious excitement to people having the time of their lives. Everyone jumped and sang with so much joy. For a lot of people in the tent, it was their first time ever seeing her live, myself included.

Of course, I wanted to hear the anthems she released off her first few EPs, but one of the things I looked forward to was being able to hear the songs off her debut album “Expectataionsthat had just come out. The first song she performed off of “Expectationswas “Feelings.” Other songs she performed from “Expectationsincluded “What I Need,” “Wanna be Missed,” “Palm Dreams,” “Let it Be,” “He’ll Never Love You (HNLY),” and of course “Curious.”

Hayley Kiyoko dancing during “Curious”

During her performance, she talked about how she was “used to playing for like 15 people.” She spoke about how it was a dream to be playing Coachella and how there were only two reasons people come to Coachella, “For the music and the pretty girls.”

Being in the front for her Coachella performance highlighted the impact Hayley Kiyoko had since becoming such an icon for so many people in the LGBTQ+ community. Since I started listening to her, Hayley Kiyoko helped me start to feel comfortable in my skin and bisexuality. Although her music and videos only cater to one part of my spectrum, it’s the part that I’ve been too scared to embrace and accept.

She provides that reassurance of not being alone and gives others an outlet to really express their thoughts and feelings is amazing. I know the mark she’s left on my life, and watching her live showed me a little more of the extent that her work does for others. She’s known as the “lesbian Jesus” and she definitely deserves that title. The authenticity and rawness of her portraying the feelings that come with being a girl who likes girls is so real and relatable to women in the LGBTQ+ community. There aren’t many women in popular media that closeted girls can look up and relate to.

It’s not common to have a mainstream female singer that is so open about her gay sexuality in her lifestyle, music, and videos. Hayley Kiyoko’s work brings a lot of light into the dark closets that many people are still in. I got to see just a taste of the wonders she’s done for the community.

To close off her set, Hayley Kiyoko sang the long-awaited song that everyone wanted to hear, “Girls Like Girls.” Being able to hear that live took me back to the confused and slightly ashamed freshman in high school. It let me reflect on how far I’ve come in terms of accepting and figuring myself out. Getting to hear Hayley Kiyoko and so many people sing the words “girls like girls like boys do, nothing new” was one of the best experiences of my life.

Hayley Kiyoko with a fan’s pride flag.

Toward the end, Hayley Kiyoko motioned to the girls with the pride flag. They threw it up, and Hayley danced around the stage and waved the flag around her. And then just like that, the performance was over. It was scheduled to be 50 minutes long, but believe me when I say it only felt like five.

So many people look up to Hayley Kiyoko. She is an influential icon and role-model, and I’m so blessed to have been in the presence of lesbian Jesus.

Thank you Hayley Kiyoko.

Hayley Kiyoko existing the stage.