While Troye Sivan’s music and films continue to stream on platforms across the world, the 23-year-old still finds solace and friendship with his social media base — the ones who’ve been there since the beginning. Still, there’s no doubt Sivan has carved a new following since his YouTube roots.
Unlike many young artists, the South African-born Sivan has always refused to negotiate his identity for the public. He’s been unapologetically out (he identifies as gay) since sharing his identity on YouTube when he was 18. And his nearly 6.6 million subscribers rewarded him for it. In 2014, Time named Sivan one of the “25 Most Influential Teens” of the year. His status as an icon was secured after the release of his 2015 VMA-nominated album Blue Neighborhood. That was followed by last year’s hit Bloom, named for an infectious song about bottoming; the album also includes the unapologetically gay single "Lucky Strike"; the video of which just premiered today.
Last year Sivan costarred in the Joel Edgerton-directed film Boy Erased, based on the memoir by Garrard Conley. The movie reveals the brutal realities of gay "conversion therapy," following Conley’s true story of his religious parents (played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crow) sending him to one such destructive camp.
Played beautifully by Lucas Hedges, the young Conley [named Jared Eamons in the film] ends up meeting boys in the camp who, like him, are forced against their will to battle their truth against a backdrop of religious authority. One, Gary (Sivan), acts as an anchor of sorts to the confused teen.
For Sivan, it was a particularly impactful story. “I knew that [conversion therapy] existed and I knew that it was still happening,” he says. “I did not know that it was as prevalent as it is. It really hit home.” The artist, who came out to his own parents at 15, believes coming out on social media helped him keep his public image in his own hands. “I didn’t have anyone telling me how to be or what to say or what to put out or what not to put out kind of thing,” Sivan explains. “I belonged to myself.”
“The thing that has always stuck by me is that I knew how important my coming out was in my life and knew how much I valued my parents, and how they reacted to my coming out,” he reflects.
In preparing for the role, Sivan “went right back to being 15 again. I imagined that moment, what if it had gone another way? I imagined me coming out to my dad and all of those nerves and all of those fears, that sick feeling in my stomach, not being able to get the words out and imagining all of that and a negative reaction afterwards. I tried to put myself in that position and relive all that kind of fear.”
Sivan wrote an original song for the film, “Revelation,” a haunting, Golden Globe-nominated track that can be heard in the film’s trailer. In fact, the singer may be helping other artists to have their own realizations: in 2018, Sivan spoke out against rapper Eminem using a gay slur in one of his songs, telling Variety, “I don’t think there’s ever really a reason — I just feel like some words are not meant for everyone, or for anyone.” Eminem later apologized.
Sivan says in his own work, he tries keep other people’s experiences in mind. “I try the same way, like anybody would in their everyday conversation, to be sensitive to other people. I try to bring that into my music.”
He urges other public figures to speak out against those misusing their power, particularly surrounding the #MeToo movement. “It definitely helps [the cause],” he says about the importance of stars speaking out publicly. “I think it’s really important.”
As is having visibly out LGBTQ people who queer youth around the world can look to as role models. “I didn’t know any gay people growing up or any queer people growing up at all. I turned to the Internet and I think it changed — and saved — my life,” he says. He urges LGBTQ teens not to give up. “If you can make it to the other side of that circumstance, I guarantee there are people out there who will love and support you for exactly the person you are. You just got to make it.”