At a concert attended primarily by tween girls, “I LUV U GUYS!” might be a manic screech, a tweet texted midsong, or a message scrawled in glitter pen on a poster.
Wait — this is a Justin Bieber concert. The 16-year-old Canadian singing idol with the floppy locks and flocks of female fans is ONE guy, not “guys.”
Tweens at Bieber’s recent concerts, however, are also falling in luv with another musical act featuring not one male but five young females: The Stunners.
The five-girl pop band, which includes Hayley Kiyoko of Westlake Village, is one of three opening acts for Justin Bieber's My World Tour (the others are Sean Kingston and Jessica Jarrel) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Nokia Theatre, 777 Chick Hearn Court, Los Angeles. The concert is sold out, but tickets ($34-$54) might become available as the date of the show nears; call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com.
Courtesy of Jamie Alcroft
/> "No single person is the lead singer," Hayley Kiyoko says of The Stunners. "We try to implement everyone's talent."
The all-girl pop group, which formed in 2007 and signed a contract with Universal Republic Records, has landed a dream gig this summer: opening for Bieber on 20 dates of his My World Tour, which will land in our world on Tuesday at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Also opening for Bieber are vocalists Sean Kingston and Jessica Jarrell.
The Stunners are (in alphabetical order) Marisol Esparza, Allie Gonino, Lauren Hudson, Hayley Kiyoko and Tinashe, and yes, several “I LUV U GUYS” (or similar) messages have popped up in their Twitter account.
One luv-ly Stunner is one of us.
Kiyoko, 19, lives in Westlake Village and graduated from Agoura High School.
A multidexterous entertainer, Kiyoko is adept at acting, singing, dancing, songwriting, ice-skating, and playing drums, guitar and keyboards. She also has a red belt with black stripes in karate.
The only reason Kiyoko hasn’t gone for a black belt, she said, is because her mom didn’t want her to risk injuries to her hands or feet from attempting to break boards.
Instead, Kiyoko is braving the hazards of Bieber’s touring world, which include “epic” water-gun fights and Biebermanic fans who step in front of moving tour buses in hopes that their hero will acknowledge them.
Five Stunning heroines are happy to meet the screaming masses, using such moments to toss Stunners T-shirts out of bus windows to the waiting Bieber faithful.
“It’s the best tour to be on EVER,” Kiyoko said during a phone interview last week from Colorado. “Fans are just CRAZY, like crazy good. I remember at my first concert, which was *NSYNC, a rapper opened for them. The arena was probably 40 percent full. With Justin, at 7 (when the opening acts begin), the arena is 90 percent full. We get to perform to a huge audience, and they will be fans for life.”
Girl pop power is alive and well — and fighting.
During post-concert skirmishes waged with plastic water guns, The Stunners have held their own against opponents Bieber and Kingston, Kiyoko said.
“We stand for estrogen on the tour,” she said.
Kiyoko is just one-fifth of that estrogen dose, but like the other Stunners she wields her own personality. The members’ individuality and “girl power” ethos sets the band apart, Kiyoko said.
“We’re five very different girls and we’re about girl empowerment and self-confidence,” she said. “I get to be me. I don’t have to act like a pop star, or wear clothes I don’t like. We really embrace our individualities, and try to teach that to other girls. We all respect and support each other, and it’s not fake.”
The Stunners’ manager was a little hesitant about The Star wanting to write a story that focused on just one Stunner because the band members are a collective force.
Sure, we salute the esprit de corps of a quintet, but regional pride leads us to highlight Kiyoko’s 20 percent contribution.
Kiyoko’s genes are laced with performing DNA.
Her father, Jamie Alcroft, is a professional comedian, voice actor and co-producer of Headliners Comedy Club@Fiamme, which presents a weekly live comedy show at Fiamme Restaurant in Thousand Oaks.
Kiyoko’s mother, Sarah Kawahara, joined the Ice Capades at age 17 and is an Emmy Award-winning figure-skating choreographer whose Olympian-heavy client list includes Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill and Michelle Kwan.
Kiyoko, who uses her middle name as a stage name instead of Alcroft, ice-skates as well — she even performed in the 2007 Will Farrell movie “Blades of Glory” and in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the latter choreographed by her mother — but figure skating isn’t her passion.
“I’ve grown up on the ice,” Kiyoko said. “We all ice-skate, although not professionally. I like the land that doesn’t move. That’s why I dance.”
Kitoko also has an older sister, Alysse, 23, who lives in New York City and is pursuing a career in musical theater. Her younger brother Thatcher, 16, “plays golf and focuses on being a really good brother,” she said.
“Right from the get-go my parents involved us in every possible extracurricular activity to figure out what we liked,” Kiyoko said.
Alcroft said he and his wife were not pushy stage parents, however.
“I didn’t put her into the business,” he said. “She had been around it with her mom and me, whether in comedy clubs or casinos or ice arenas.”
Now, he said, “she has a manager, agent and entertainment lawyer. I remain as a ‘consultant.’ I’ve never been paid or taken any money. I decided it was more important for me to be her dad than her manager.”
‘Santa, can I have an agent?’
Who: Singer, actor, dancer, instrumentalist. Currently one-fifth of The Stunners, an all-girl band opening for Justin Bieber’s My World Tour. Also ice-skates and does martial arts.
Local ties: Lives in Westlake Village; attended White Oak Elementary and Lindero Middle schools; graduated from Agoura High School.
Family ties: Parents are Emmy-winning ice-skating choreographer Sarah Kawahara and professional comedian Jamie Alcroft. Also has a sister, Alysse, 23, and brother, Thatcher, 16.
TV résumé: Roles include Stevie in Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” and Velma in Cartoon Network’s “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins” and the yet-to-be-released “Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.”
Musical influences (for her solo music): Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metric.
Someday : Wants to become a Gwen Stefani-like entertainment entrepreneur.
Yes, she’s met Bieber: “We see him backstage all the time, and bump into him,” Kiyoko said. “He’s a nice guy, and I’m good friends with all his dancers.”
Kiyoko’s website: http://www.myspace.com/dollylamahka.
Someday, Hayley Kiyoko wants the chance to show off her talents outside of The Stunners. "I probably want to do my own music and tour," she says.
Whether at home or onstage, Kiyoko gravitates toward the front and center.
“I actually started off in sports,” she said, “but I got injured too much. I did dance to get my grace and balance back, but I didn’t want to be a background dancer, so then I did music.”
Couches, tables and chairs in the Alcroft house form an unusual configuration.
“In our living room, the furniture has always been on the perimeter because (the room) has been used so much as a stage,” Jamie Alcroft said. Kiyoko, he explained, was always dancing — and directing.
“I would have girlfriends come over, I’d choreograph and we’d put on shows,” Kiyoko said.
She started playing drums at age 7, and writing songs in sixth grade. But “when I got older, I didn’t want to be in the back of the stage,” she said.
In seventh grade, after seeing Eurasian girls like herself (her mom is Japanese-American and her dad is Euro-American) in J.C. Penney commercials, she figured, “I can do that,” and asked her parents for an agent for Christmas.
Santa Claus was generous that year; Kiyoko got her agent and started doing commercials.
In middle school and high school, Kiyoko was part of the dance and drama scene, performing in a hip-hop group and acting in such plays and musicals as “Oklahoma!” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
At Agoura High, “I found Student Council — that was my calling in high school,” Kiyoko said. She was freshman class president, organized and choreographed pep rallies, and held other ASB positions.
Kiyoko graduated from AHS in 2009 and was accepted at the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
“I got accepted right out of high school, but I deferred,” Kiyoko said. “You can only defer one year though, so I had to decline after one year. Actually, my dad had to do it because I was so sad. School’s really important to me. It still hurts my heart to think I’m not going. But my career is moving now. I have to take it while I can — take my five minutes and make it 20.”
Kiyoko’s “five minutes” includes TV time.
In 2009 she played Velma in “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins,” a live-action and computer-generated animated film (Scooby-Doo was in CG) on the Cartoon Network. The movie, a prequel about how the teenage sleuths in the story met, was the most-watched program in the Cartoon Network’s history. A follow-up, “Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster,” is set to air in the fall.
It’s a complete alter ego for me,” Kiyoko said. “I feel like a secret agent — my hair is Velma-ized, cut in a bob. I wear glasses.”
Kiyoko, known for her short dark hair with blond stripes, said she “almost didn’t go out for the audition. When my dad suggested auditioning, I said, ‘No way, Jose, I’m all punked out.’ But I think it’s awesome that the director, Brian Levant (who lives in Agoura), saw this girl with short spiky hair with blond streaks and thought I could be Velma.”
Kiyoko also starred in four episodes of Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” this year, playing Stevie, a friend of Alex, the character played by Selena Gomez.
Brian Gilbert, producer of the two Scooby-Doo films, said Kiyoko “has a sort of a vibrance, comic timing, good humor and a really confident presence.” He sees her career heading “only upward. She’s got a combination of excellent musical talent and she’s a talented actress. That’s a devastating combination.”
The Stunners came together in 2007.
“We all kind of knew each other beforehand,” Kiyoko said. “We had done acting gigs with each other and known each other through the industry. Then, our creator, Vitamin C (aka musician-producer Colleen Fitzpatrick) suggested we all form a group.”
At first, Kiyoko said, she hesitated joining the band because she wanted to focus on a solo singer-songwriter career, and her own music is more indie-alternative than pop.
“But I realized it was a great opportunity. I would get to meet a bunch of people, and I would get to use my dancing skills,” she said.
The Stunners all play instruments (including mandolin and violin) and write some of their own music. No single person is the lead singer. “We try to implement everyone’s talent,” Kiyoko said.
The group originally signed with Sony Columbia Records, but “bought out of the contract,” she said. “It was the right record label at the time because they had a connection with Nickelodeon, and we were younger, 15 and 16. We realized we were developing quicker than we thought.”
The band members, now ages 17 to 20, released a five-song EP in October 2009 and are promoting their current single, “Dancin’ Around the Truth,” featuring the New Boyz.
Also in 2009, The Stunners recorded “Santa Bring My Soldier Home,” a ballad to honor men and women in the military. The song is available as a free download at http://santabringmysoldierhome.com, where you can also make a donation to the USO.
Kiyoko said the group is working on a full-length album slated for release in fall or early 2011.
The Stunners, Kiyoko said, also have “a show in development with MTV that will be about a girl band’s personal lives.”
Fellow Stunner Lauren Hudson, Kiyoko’s tour roommate, praises her comrade’s personal magnetism.
“Hayley is very spontaneous,” she said. “The other day we were really bored at the hotel, and she goes, ‘Do you want to go play lacrosse?’ She’s always doing something random and fun; you literally can’t have a bad time with Hayley.”
Many a girl band — Spice Girls, the Go-Go’s — has split so that members could pursue solo endeavors.
Eventually, Kiyoko said, “I probably want to do my own music and tour. In the end I just want to be an entrepreneur businesswoman performer, like Gwen Stefani, and have my own clothing line. But I love what I do right now, performing with The Stunners. Hopefully we’ll take over the world.”