In middle school, Hayley Kiyoko wore way too much perfume. Every morning, the 29-year-old actor/singer doused herself with the sweet scent of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. Like a layer of armor, the fragrance helped protect her confidence and her heart as she was understanding her identity.
"Girls would tell me that I smelled good, and I would think, 'Wow, they may not have a crush on me, but they like how I smell,'" she tells Allure. "In a time when I was navigating my sexuality and felt like an outcast, it was a weird validation."
When Kiyoko was offered the chance to develop her own perfume, in partnership with her record label Atlantic Records and product development agency Slate Brands, she knew she wanted to recreate those feelings of acceptance for her fans.
The result of two years of testing is Hue, a fragrance with fruity notes, like blood orange, watermelon, and lychee, alongside florals, such as peony and rose; and a warm, deep finish of musk and cacao.
Altogether, the notes are a mix of traditionally feminine and masculine ones. Although the gender-specific label are slowly but surely disappearing from the fragrance world, Kiyoko still appended the phrase "gender-inclusive" to Hue. Of course, fragrance — and all beauty products — has no gender, and in an ideal world, people of all genders should be unafraid to spritz themselves with any scent their nose desires. However, Kiyoko hopes the wording encourages fans who may not feel welcome or seen in the beauty world to explore beauty beyond the stereotypical binaries.
"I've really struggled with balancing my masculinity and femininity, and I thought it was important to create a fragrance that walked that perfect line," Kiyoko shares. "I tried to include a little bit of everything in one perfume, which was very challenging where the notes are concerned. But that's who I am as a person."
Because she's never concocted a fragrance before, Kiyoko teamed up with perfumer Constance Georges-Picot to create Hue. When it came time to weigh in on the tester scents that Georges-Picot put together, Kiyoko took some time to find her sea legs. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into, to be quite honest," she laughs.
Visualizing perfume as music, a medium she's more comfortable (and tends to be "very micromanaging") with helped Kiyoko with the process. "I realized [each scent] are notes, and when you combine notes, they make a chord, just like music," she explains. "You have a beginning, a middle, and an end to a song — just like the first spray of a perfume — then, the scent on your skin, then, the dry-down."
While she prepares for Hue to launch – in its vivid red, matte bottle that will make a striking addition to any perfume collection — Kiyoko has been wearing the scent around the house whenever she wants to feel "fresh, confident, and attractive," she shares. In fact, Kiyoko considers perfume to be a natural aphrodisiac (maybe due in part to those compliments from childhood crushes) and has been spritzing it on to help tap into self-love.
"It's important to remind people that they are welcome and that they do belong," Kiyoko says. "That's what the name of the perfume is inspired by. We all bring color to this world. I'm hoping that this perfume boosts people's confidence and helps them feel that they belong."
Hue is available for pre-order now at huebyhaley.com for $65 for a 2.2-oz. bottle and officially launches on March 3.
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Originally Appeared on Allure