BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Following the announcement of her “Panorama” tour, Hayley Kiyoko doesn’t have plans to come to Birmingham in 2023 but the Magic City had its chance five years ago today.
iHeartMedia’s Birmingham radio station 103.7 the Q hosted a meet and greet event for the singer-songwriter on March 23, 2018, to celebrate the upcoming release of her first album, “Expectations.”
For Alabama natives Sesaria Calderon and Kelly Lao, meeting her surpassed all of their “expectations.”
‘An unforgettable experience’
Sesaria Calderon, a native of Blount County, describes herself as a huge fan of Kiyoko’s early EPs and remembers being excited for the release of Kiyoko’s first album – which became one of her favorite albums of all time.
“I think ‘Expectations’ helped me through a lot, specifically just for that time period that I was in,” Calderon said. “But I also am a really big fan of ‘Girls like Girls,’ ‘A Belle to Remember,’ that kind of era too.”
Calderon admitted to being very excited but also nervous about meeting a celebrity, let alone one of her favorite musicians, for the first time. However, once Kiyoko walked into the studio, she felt the butterflies in her stomach fade away.
“I just remember her coming in and she was just smiling and glowing,” Calderon said.” “She just had a naturally calming aura to her, which made me less nervous.”
For Birmingham native Kelly Lao, meeting Kiyoko left her starstruck in many ways. To make the pop star feel welcome, Lao prepared a gift bag with a stuffed animal and snacks she knew Kiyoko liked. The most important was an invitation to Lao’s high school prom, comprised of lyrics from all of Kiyoko’s current songs.
“She said it was her first promposal literally ever and loved it, but our prom was [scheduled for] three days before the start of her tour,” Lao said. “So obviously she was preparing for it and said she couldn’t go, but she was really nice and kept the letter and the gift.”
Both Calderon and Lao felt that getting to meet Kiyoko in Alabama was particularly special, as the artist’s status as a queer woman of color was both refreshing and surprising for their conservative home state.
“I wasn’t out in high school, even my friend that came with me didn’t know at the time,” Lao said. “I wish more artists would make stops in the South so [representation] is more normalized.”
“No matter if you’re looking at it as being a woman, a person of color or a part of the LGBT community, seeing somebody being able to meet someone who’s made it and see how humble they are — just means a lot,” Calderon said. “I left feeling good, like, it’s something that I’m never going to forget.”
‘From Expectations to Panorama’
When CBS 42 reached out to Kiyoko about the Birmingham event, it highlighted a key factor of why she makes music — to connect with fans on a down-to-earth and personal level.
“I’m so happy that visit made such a great impression on my fans,” Kiyoko said. “It definitely made an impression on me and I’m so happy that we could all share that moment together.”
Her ‘Panorama’ tour will mark the first headlining show that Kiyoko has performed since ‘Expectations,’ and needless to say, she’s more than excited to hit the road for this revival.
“It’s been very exciting and also nerve-wracking,” Kiyoko said. “I’ve just been locking in merch design and the stage design is going to be incredible. I’m just really excited for this next chapter and headlining era of mine and I just can’t wait to get back on the road.”
When she was told her first EP ‘A Belle to Remember’ would celebrate its 10-year anniversary on March 12, 2023, Kiyoko was stunned.
“I feel like I’m still at the beginning stages of my career, and so to think that it’s been 10 years of trying to grow and chase my dream is just wild to think about,” she said. “I was still discovering my sound; I was in the closet at the time, just trying to find my voice, so it’s been a really fascinating and amazing 10 years for sure.”
Though her journey to stardom has not been straightforward, Kiyoko prides herself in being an icon for those who lacked a role model to admire and a voice for those who wish to be heard.
“If you don’t see someone who looks like you or identifies like you succeeding in the world, it can be very challenging to believe that you can have that for yourself,” Kiyoko said. “So my goal in life has always been to challenge that by being an openly queer person and biracial and hopefully inspire others to chase their dreams in spite of what society deems success looks like.”
As far as the setlist is concerned, Kiyoko says fans should expect to hear a variety of her discography — from classics to current releases.
“We’ll definitely be performing not only music from the ‘Panorama’ era, but songs that we all love,” Kiyoko said. “I’m probably playing a little bit of music from each era of my journey so far so it’ll be a nice collection of music for the evening.”
While ‘Expectations’ delves into her journey of self-care, Kiyoko says ‘Panorama’ expresses themes of healing and reclaiming self-confidence — something she hopes her fans will connect with once she takes the stage again.
“I would love my fans to walk away from my shows having a great reminder that community is so important,” Kiyoko said. “Being able to share music, art and things that you enjoy with like-minded people is such a powerful thing and hopefully they’re inspired to continue to chase their dreams and to love themselves.”
Tickets for the “Panorama” tour can be found here.