Troye wears Coat Ports 1961. Coat (worn underneath) Dries Van Noten. Waistcoat (worn underneath) Wrangler from Breuer Dawson Archive. Jeans Evisu. Badges stylist's own. 

troye sivan: the voice of the internet generation

He’s the YouTube sensation turned pop star whose legendary 'Coming Out' video has been watched nearly seven million times.

by Matthew Whitehouse
|
06 June 2016, 12:20pm

Troye wears Coat Ports 1961. Coat (worn underneath) Dries Van Noten. Waistcoat (worn underneath) Wrangler from Breuer Dawson Archive. Jeans Evisu. Badges stylist's own. 

At only 20-years-old, Troye Sivan — the YouTuber turned pop favorite — has been uploading videos from his parent's home in Western Australia for the best part of a decade. So much so, you feel as though he's surely shared all there is to share already. Thankfully, in terms of popstar backstories, it's a good one. Born in Johannesburg and raised in Perth, 12-year-old Troye discovered the potential star-making power of the internet when his cousin sent him a link to "this website called YouTube." Encouraged by the idea of singing to more people than he could busking in his local mall, the Michael Jackson obsessed pre-teen decided to upload a cover. Several hours of salt and ice challenges, rainbow cake epic fails and One Direction covers later, the rest was telegenic-youth-meets-internet history. Until on the August 7, 2013, Sivan uploaded a video entitled "Coming Out." Over the course of eight minutes, the then 18-year old revealed to his half a million YouTube subscribers what he had told his parents exactly three years earlier. 6.7 million views later, and it changed his life forever.

"I was gay as hell in real life, but I wasn't out in public," Troye says today, in London for the European leg of his Blue Neighborhood tour. "I would open my Twitter app and almost tweet about Zac Efron and then not. And I would think, 'Why am I doing this? Why do I care so much? I don't feel like my audience is going to.'" Of course, Troye's reasons for caring ran much deeper than his audience would have guessed. As well as his sexuality, Troye had been hiding the news that only two months earlier he'd signed a dream deal with EMI Australia. The label was impressed with a song he'd written based on the John Green novel The Fault in Our Stars

For all its "Born This Way" platitudes, Troye was all too aware that the traditional pop landscape remains a stubbornly heteronormative place. What he was also aware of, however, was that the internet is not your traditional pop landscape. "In the period where I was figuring myself out, I turned to the internet 100%. I had anonymous accounts on every gay teen forum. I watched every coming out video on YouTube and I felt like I really owed the internet a thank you. I felt like I owed the internet my story."

Top Raf Simons. Shirt (worn underneath) Lanvin. Jacket (worn underneath) No. 21. Trousers Paul & Joe. Charm MCM. 

Type the words "coming out" into YouTube today and you'll be hit with thousands upon thousands of similar videos, a veritable genre of self-shot declarations, from everyone from fellow YouTubers Connor Franta (10.6 million views) and Ingrid Nilsen (14.7 million views), to Olympic diver Tom Daley (11.8 million views). An important part of online LGBT culture, vlogging allows the uploader to maintain a degree of control over their coming out. And what's more, it's very, very efficient. "I haven't had to come out to anyone in soooo long!" Troye laughs. "It's been like killing a millions birds with one stone." Not only was the video met with an enormously positive response ("an overwhelming wave of support and love, nothing changed"), it also dispelled the music marketing myth that "out" singers risk losing their teen girl audiences (teenage girls apparently being one mindless, ululating hormone). Which is not to say Troye's concerts don't contain their fair share of screaming: "To be honest, I still haven't figured out why girls come to my shows and act the way they do," he says modestly, of a reaction befitting any pretty teen idol. "For me, it feels more like friendship than anything else. Whereas for someone like Justin Bieber, maybe it's more of a sex symbol thing. I feel like they just want to wrap me in a blanket, you know? Take me home."

While that may be partly true, it's more likely because the music is good. Really good. Far better than you might expect from a former child actor (Troye appeared in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine) turned internet celebrity turned pop artist. "When I got signed by EMI I was as skeptical as anyone else," Troye admits. "I was like, 'Why is this record label signing me? What do they want from me? What are they going to try and turn me into?' I'm very, very lucky that there wasn't any of that at all." The resulting album, last year's hugely acclaimed Blue Neighborhood, is a triumph of tasteful We Gotta Get Out Of This Place pop, one that paired with Troye's outspoken stance on issues of identity — he dedicates a portion of his live show to discussing his own coming out — has won him an audience of switched-on teens all over the world; not to mention a Twitter shout out from fellow pop star Taylor Swift who called his music "wild and awesome," and a place on Time's '25 Most Influential Teens' list, alongside none other than Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. "When I'm on stage and I look out at the shows, I see smart kids, I see well dressed kids, I see people who are older than kids, which is cool. I see a lot of gay people. I see happy and excited people, it's really inspiring," Troye says.

So how have other artists reacted to how he got his break? "I guess it's just different and maybe some people are a bit uncomfortable with that," he says carefully. "I didn't have to sing in bars or ship my demo tape off to record labels. But at the same time, I spent a really, really long time making videos, editing videos and trying to build a community online. What's going to happen, going forward, is more and more people are going to come from online and soon you won't even know who has and who hasn't." Not that Troye is in any hurry to forget his internet roots. "It's obviously been instrumental to everything. Not only career-wise but also personally. That platform and that audience has grown up with me. Sure, maybe things have changed a little bit, but why would I leave that behind?"

Top Haal. Jeans Evisu. Badge stylist's own. 

Credits


Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Leon Mark
Styling Tara St Hill
Hair Naoki Komiya at Julian Watson Agency using Kiehl's since 1851
Make-up James O'Riley at Premier Hair and Make-up using Tom Ford
Photography assistance Henry Hewitt
Styling assistance Rebecca Davis, Carmen Hudgens. 
Troye wears Coat Ports 1961. Coat (worn underneath) Dries Van Noten. Waistcoat (worn underneath) Wrangler from Breuer Dawson Archive. Jeans Evisu. Badges stylist's own. 

Tagged:
Fashion
coming out
Troye Sivan
music interviews
the futurewise issue