Troye Sivan may live and breathe the Internet, but he's far from your run-of-the-mill millennial. At the ripe age of 21, the South African-born Australian YouTuber and budding pop star has become an LGBT icon for Generation Y, commenting on everything from Beyoncé lyrics to safe sex for his robust following of 13 million-plus (and counting). "At the end of the day, it's about being genuine and real," he recently told InStyle over the phone. "I try hard to only make stuff that I'm proud of."
Next up is a new album, Blue Neighbourhood (endorsed by none other than Taylor Swift), and a new partnership with SweeTarts for the candy brand's "Follow Your TART" campaign. "The message [of the campaign] is to follow your passion," he added. "That's definitely been my mindset for my entire life, so it's something I can get behind." Below, Sivan talked more about vlogging, his new single with Alessia Cara, and meeting T-Swift in the flesh.
What initially prompted you to start vlogging?
I had been making music videos, but I lacked that sense of connection [with my audience]. So I decided to make one blog video to try it out, and people immediately started blogging back about who they were and where they were from. For the first time, I felt that bond. It was really exciting. I became obsessed with it.
You memorably came out publicly in a YouTube video in 2013. Why did you choose that platform?
I was out in my own personal life, and it got to the point where I saw this opportunity to live openly and freely, and I felt like I owed a lot to the Internet because I turned to it when I needed it most. At a certain point, I felt comfortable enough with myself to upload the video. The support was overwhelming. And it continues: I played a show the day after the tragedy in Orlando, and people were holding up pride flags in the audience. That's the most inspiring thing in the world—it's that kind of love and support that means the most.
Is there a backstory to the name of your album?
I was traveling a lot while I was writing the album, so there's a theme of the mundaneness and comfort of home. Blue is my favorite color—it can be bright but also dull and mundane. It felt like a nice way to capture the complexities of how I feel about where I'm from.
What was the inspiration behind "Wild"?
It's about the very beginning stages of a relationship and enjoying those initial butterflies. After I remixed it with Alessia Cara, it's taken a different turn. She sings about distance and wanting to make the most of your time with someone. That's something I can relate to being on the road.
Taylor Swift memorably tweeted her support for the song. Did she give you any tips for breaking into the music biz?
I had seen her out and about but I'd never gone up and said hello. Then, after she tweeted about the song, I met her at the GLAAD Awards and thanked her. She said that everything had felt really authentic and genuine so far, and that's something I strive for. If anything, I took that as a push to keep going.
Has your sense of style changed since you came out?
Definitely. Before I came out, I was scared of fashion because I didn't want people to think I was gay. Now, in hindsight, I see how silly that is. For me, a big part of coming out was admitting that I liked boys. The rest of it was about accepting who I am in all aspects of my life and embracing that, and getting to the point where I can wear what I want to wear and paint my nails if I want to. All of that opened up to me once I really accepted who I was. Painting my nails was something that I had always wanted to do and never really had the courage to do. Then, the first show I ever played was in Seattle on Spirit Day and I painted my nails purple. It was super liberating.
Watch the video for "Wild" featuring Alessia Cara above, and buy Blue Neighbourhood for $12 from the iTunes Store.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.