When I heard the news that Hayley Kiyoko was releasing a perfume, I said out loud to no one in particular, “Thank Lesbian Jesus! Somebody has finally found a way to bottle gaydar.” Much like the synthpop music that made her famous, Kiyoko’s energy is upbeat and fun, but at her core is radical, unapologetic inclusivity. For many queer people, her music is like a warm hug of acceptance — so her new gender-inclusive fragrance, Hue, is a perfect next step. Created with Kiyoko’s style and audience in mind, Hue (made in partnership with Slate Brands) toes the line between masculine and feminine so beautifully that it stands to be armor for legions of young people, gender notwithstanding, for years to come.
Conveniently, that’s exactly how Kiyoko wants her fragrance to be used: as protection, a way to make its wearers feel fearless when facing the world. “I find a lot of comfort in fragrance,” she tells me over the phone. “Growing up, I would douse my body with Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. It would give me the courage to be myself, speak to girls, and be more social. I’ve never left the house without spraying on perfume — it’s my armour.” Kiyoko always gravitated towards fragrance as a boost of confidence, and now, she wants to give other people that same feeling.
At first sniff, Hue starts out somewhere between floral and clean laundry. As it dries, it settles into citrus and musk, a breezy combination that’s not overpowering in a way that feels intentional. “The scent is complicated. The official notes start out with blood orange and freesia,” Kiyoko explains, “then it transitions into special rose, lychee, and pink magnolia. Once it dries down, it turns into a musk and a special cacao. It’s all over the place, but it all works so well together.”
Kiyoko, who identifies as a gay woman, has always battled with her feminine and masculine sides, so her goal for this gender-neutral perfume was to bottle both those extremes. Fair to say, I think she nailed it: Somehow, it makes me — a gay woman who has barely worn perfume since it was cool to smell like an Abercrombie store — feel a mix of sexy, approachable, and safe.
And then there’s the actual bottle. I’ve always thought of perfume bottles as delicate pieces of glass that I’d be scared to break, but Kiyoko has made a bottle fit for aesthetic value and clumsy folks alike. Deep red with gold detailing, the chunky bottle is made of hearty glass, and fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. “I don’t really use a purse, so I wanted a bottle that I could carry just in my pocket,” Kiyoko says. “I also wanted it to be bold. The red is powerful and volatile, but also vulnerable. Wherever you keep it, I want it to stand out.”
In a time when we’re barely going outside (and probably showering less), Hue is a welcome, comforting scent that I can’t wait to wear everywhere from the supermarket to my eventual return to the office. Kiyoko has successfully brought gender inclusivity to a space that hasn’t always welcomed fluidity, and the fragrance feels both powerful and calming in a way I foresee needing as we reenter society. I feel a deep sense of pride as Kiyoko and I end our conversation talking about snow and my recent gay wedding.
For both the way it smells and the care and thought behind Hue, I can’t recommend it enough — and for all you queer women out there, you definitely need a bottle so we can finally identify each other in the wild.
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