Hayley Kiyoko talks journey to self-acceptance: 'I didn’t want to associate with the rainbow' (Exclusive)

Hayley Kiyoko has cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with within the music industry, proving to be a self-assured artist capable of churning out hits and connecting with her fans.

The singer broke out with single "Girls Like Girls" in 2015, and fans have since dubbed Kiyoko "Lesbian Jesus" because of her confidence in her sexuality and lyrics that deal with her journey to self-discovery, relationships with other women and experimentation. Her fearless public persona, however, doesn't necessarily reflect the struggles that the singer has gone through in order to get where she is now.

"It’s the struggles and the lows that really make you proud of who you are when you break through those moments. I used to be so afraid of the rainbow and not like the rainbow and I didn’t want to associate with the rainbow," Kiyoko told AOL's Gibson Johns during a recent phone interview around her partnership with Olay Body. "I get to wave that flag so proudly on stage because it represents all of the struggles I went through in loving myself and finding love for myself. There’s a lot of weight behind that. It’s not just waving a flag for me; it means so much more for me. It’s about our journey."

And Kiyoko's journey has been an impressive one: Since 2015, she's experienced countless career highs, including the 2018 release of her debut album, "Expectations," which hit the top 20 on Billboard. For the Los Angeles native, though, it's the people she's met along the way who have made her journey worth it.

"I’ve checked so many things off my bucket list that I didn’t even know I had," Kiyoko told AOL. "The thing that I’ve learned is that what really impacts you the most is when you meet kind and generous people in the industry. That, to me, makes the most impact."

Adding to her list of accomplishments is her hosting gig at this year's Billboard Women in Music event, where she was given the Rising Star award last year.

"I’m so inspired and I applaud so many incredible female artists like, this year, Lizzo and Billie [Eilish] and all these people that I don’t know personally, but I’m so honored and excited to cheer them on because they’re doing what they love and they’re being recognized," she said of the event's DNA, which is to empower and celebrate women in her industry. "The past couple of years with my career have been really exciting. It’s not only about me, but also about people being recognized for who they are and being celebrated for that."

To get ready for her fearless moment of hosting this year's Women in Music event, Kiyoko partnered with Olay Body's 14-Day Transformation Journey to use the Olay Body Ultra Moisture Body Wash, which marked her first ever beauty partnership.

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"It’s so important to align with brands like Olay Body and spreading not just awareness of their products but also promoting powerful messages about fearless beauty in all forms, so it just made sense to come together for this event and try out the 14-day skin transformation," she explained of the collaboration. "My skin is glowing, and when you go to an event you’re stressed out about how you look or what you need to do to look a certain way, and a lot of times it’s more about the preparation. I’m went into this week not needing to spray paint glow on my legs is a great feeling."

For the "Curious" singer, her work with Olay was the perfect way to prepare for Billboard Women in Music 2019, as both represent the same values and motivations of empowering women.

"The Billboard Women in Music event is about celebrating that journey of breaking the mold as a woman in music and breaking boundaries," she said. "The whole thing and the campaign with Olay Body just aligns so well, and I’m proud that Olay is recognizing that and celebrating our natural beauty and amplifying it. It’s a really cool thing."

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