The Bachelor

How The Bachelor’s Becca Tilley Found Her Person in Hayley Kiyoko

For years, Bachelor alum Becca Tilley struggled to open up to potential partners. Then she met singer Hayley Kiyoko at a 2018 record release party and that first impression changed everything.

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko

It took years for Bachelor alum Becca Tilley to realize she wasn’t necessarily in relationships for the right reasons.

The 35-year-old, who competed for both Chris Soules‘ and Ben Higgins‘ hearts before romancing fellow franchise alum Robert Graham, described a former paramour as “such an amazing human, like everything I wanted on paper.” And yet, as she put it on a May episode of the Made It Out podcast, “I didn’t know how to be in a relationship. So, he would call and I’d be like ‘We just hung out, what’s he calling for?’ and my friends are like, ‘It’s your boyfriend, what do you mean’ and I was like, ‘Oh I see.’ You have to be available emotionally.”

Frankly, if she was being honest, she thought the whole love thing was being blown out of proportion.

“When people talked about being in love, I did not get it,” Tilley admitted to E! News in a February interview. “I was like y’all are being a little dramatic about the whole thing.”

Then she met Hayley Kiyoko.

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“I was like, Oh, I finally get the hype,” Tilley explained of the musician she’s been dating since 2018. “I finally understood what it meant to experience that with someone.” Because the “For the Girls” singer is particularly adept at conveying her emotions.

“She’s just the most special human,” the Scrubbing In podcaster raved to E!, referencing how Kiyoko spoke about being healed by their six-year romance. “Honestly, I’ve never been one to be able to express my feelings. And she just says the sweetest things in passing.”

Tilley, meanwhile, couldn’t have been more closed off when she first encountered the Los Angeles native, 33, at the April 2018 release party for her debut studio album Expectations. “I wore a shirt that said ‘no time for romance,'” Tilley recounted in an April Instagram post, marking their sixth anniversary. “Hayley ignored it.”

As it turns out, when you find the right person, you make time. “With Hayley,” the reality alum recounted on Made It Out, “it was like, ‘When is she going to text me?'”

By August 2018, there was no doubt Tilley was, to borrow a piece of Bachelor parlance, falling in love. Recalling how they bonded “so quickly,” Tilley marveled in her April post, “It really is a cosmic mystery how someone can be a stranger in one moment and quickly become the most important person in the next.”

But that didn’t mean she was prepared to fully open up to her fanbase.

Revealing that she was dating again following her 2017 split from Graham, Tilley told People, “My last relationship was pretty public and out there and I’ve kind of got to the point where I’m like, ‘Am I able to keep anything to myself?’ So in this process of dating and going through that again I’ve been trying to keep it more low-key … it’s been tricky, it’s a tough world out there, the dating world.”

Tougher still when she factored in the thoughts and feelings of the ABC series’ more conservative fans.

“Hayley and I had a lot of conversations about being public and being private,” Tilley recounted during her appearance on the Make It Out podcast. “She was like, ‘I am so proud and I have worked so hard to be proud of who I am that I don’t want to feel like I’m back in the closet.’ And I’m like, ‘I also don’t want you to feel like that, but if you can kind of see my perspective—I’m navigating being a public person and having a public platform being from The Bachelor, it is really hard.'”

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko

And though Louisiana-bred Tilley was coming to terms with the fact that she was attracted to both men and women (“It would be like, ‘Oh I have a girl crush,'” she noted in a 2023 Instagram Q&A, “but isn’t that just a crush on a woman?”), she still feared her new romance would be met with a thorny reception.

“Most of my followers are conservative, and it’s going to be shocking to them that this person that they viewed as a ‘role model’ is now dating a woman,” she explained on Make It Out. “Like, it’s gonna be a weird backlash.”

So she and Kiyoko struck up a compromise they could both cheers to.

“I made a promise,” she explained. “I was like, ‘I never want you to feel hidden’ so it will always be that it’s private in the terms of it’s not on social media, but if we were out and someone came up and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your podcast,’ I would be like, ‘Oh, this is my girlfriend, Hayley.'”

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko

The list of those in the know about the duo’s love story included Taylor Swift, the 14-time Grammy winner tapping Kiyoko to perform during her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour.

With Tilley flying out for the July date in Boston, “I think that was the first person who knew outside of my friends and family,” the podcaster revealed on a May 2022 episode of Scrubbing In. “I thought that was a really cool thing, because obviously Taylor Swift stan forever.”

Her close pal and Scrubbing In cohost Tanya Rad also remembers the early days of the pair’s romance all too well.

“I think for so many years, she was just like, ‘I don’t think I have that chip in me to love. I don’t think I’m going to ever feel that,'” the radio host, 36, explained to E! News in February. “And when she met Hayley and seeing that spark in her eye and seeing that side of her, she totally morphed into this wonderful partner. And seeing the way that they both honor and love each other and are patient with each other in different ways, it’s just really, really beautiful.”

The sort of beauty you want to share with the world.

So after years of only using the alias 95p—a reference to the fact that she was 95 percent sure she would marry her mystery partner—Tilley felt confident enough in her choice to do a hard launch.

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko, Instagram

Hours after Kiyoko dropped her May 2022 “For the Girls” music video, a full-on Bachelor parody that saw real-life girlfriend Tilley score the singer’s proverbial final rose, the two shared their years-long journey in complementary Instagram posts.

“Obviously we knew the video was happening and that was going to at least cause talk and speculation,” Tilley explained on Scrubbing In of their strategy. “And in my mind I thought, ‘How do we do this reveal in the video and then not actually reveal our relationship?’ It only made sense to do it together.”

Just as they’d done pretty much everything during the previous four years.

“Hayley and I were never secret,” Tilley stressed. “Like, we were very much ourselves, we held hands in public, we kissed….If I was with Hayley, I introduced her, ‘This is my girlfriend, Hayley.’ I never was like, ‘This is my friend’ or ‘This is my best friend.’ I really made an effort to make sure there was that distinction between private and secret.”

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko, Instagram

Yet, much like a newly minted Bachelor couple delights in simply existing in public, “I feel really good,” Tilley told E! News weeks after their hard launch. “It’s such a weird thing because we’ve been together for four years and we’ve been living openly. Everyone who’s around us knows, but it just hasn’t been on social media.”

And though the idea of letting her 1.1 million Insta followers into her romantic life felt terrifying, “I realized this is so much bigger than me and my relationship and my personal experience,” Tilley continued, “because if it helped anyone feel comfortable or brave to be comfortable with who they fall in love with, then that’s way bigger than me and my fears and what I was scared of.”

As for her 95 percent certainty that Kiyoko was her happily ever after, she added, “I feel pretty good about the number being higher.”

Becca Tilley, Hayley Kiyoko, Instagram

Make that pretty much damn near 100, though Tilley told E! they’re in no sort of rush to fill out the paperwork.

Asked about the prospect of one day rocking her own sparkling Neil Lane diamond, she said, “I’m good right now.”

Though she and Kiyoko have hashed out the details, “just making sure we’re on the same page so that one of us isn’t like, let’s do a grand situation and another person’s like, I want something more intimate,” Tilley explained. “But I definitely think maybe traveling somewhere, like a destination situation, inviting close friends and family and keeping it smaller.”

Intimate, yet, fully open is their preferred vibe.

“Hayley has really made me feel brave,” Tilley said on Scrubbing In of her willingness to provide fans a glimpse at their romance, “and she was always like, ‘People are going to love you. People love you and they want to see you happy.'”

The outpouring of supportive comments after their 2022 reveal left her both surprised and delighted. Though, as she noted, coming out about her relationship wasn’t about simply coming out.

“It’s not like, ‘This is my label. This is my sexuality,'” said Tilley. “It’s more like, ‘Hey, I’m in love and I’m excited to share it with you all.'”

So pour yourself a glass of champagne and take in every drop of the six-year romance that proves a record release party is the perfect place to fall in love.

Scoring that First Impression Rose

“We took this picture after 5 minutes,” singer Hayley Kiyoko posted on Instagram of meeting now-girlfriend Becca Tilley at the April 2018 release party for her debut studio album Expectations. “Her shirt said ‘no time for romance’…..it’s been 4 years. I guess she had some time.”

The new couple posed together at NYLON’s Annual Young Hollywood Party in May 2018, just weeks after meeting. Though they didn’t post joint snaps on Instagram for years, “Hayley and I were never secret,” Bachelor alum Tilley stressed on her Scrubbing In podcast. “Like, we were very much ourselves, we held hands in public, we kissed.”

Coming Out Party

“Nothing new,” Tilley wrote on Instagram June 1, 2022, days after they hard-launched their romance with Kiyoko’s Bachelor-themed “For the Girls” music video.

Back Where It All Began

When Kiyoko released her second studio album Panorama in July 2022, her girlfriend was there to sing her praises. “I am so excited for everyone to finally get to listen and get lost in this beautiful world you created in this album!” she wrote on Instagram. “You are incredible & I love you so much!”

The singer delivered a similar chorus, telling E! News at the time, “I’m so grateful to have Becca in my life. She has been an incredible partner and support system and cheerleader and honestly makes me laugh during a lot of stressful times.”

Jinkies, guys! The pair nailed their first Insta official couples’ costume, stepping out as Velma and Daphne from Scooby Doo, Where Are You!

When Taylor Swift added another Grammy to her collection at the 2023 awards show, Tilley and Kiyoko helped her make the whole place shimmer at her after party. “And by the way, we went out last night,” Kiyoko shared on Instagram.

 

They don’t know how it gets better than this. Six months after partying with Swift post-Grammys, Kiyoko and Tilley took their love story to the L.A. leg of her Eras Tour on Aug. 4, 2023.

“I think that being with someone who is so sure of themselves, as a partner makes you want to be like that because it made me go… Do I need to make myself smaller or make myself less than who I am to make sure [people are] happy?” Tilley (in their 2023 Wicked-themed Halloween costumes) said during a May 2024 appearance on the Made It Out podcast. “I don’t want to have to do that anymore. I want to have people around me that love every part of me. I don’t want to have to lessen myself for other people and she doesn’t do that and I’ve always loved that about her.”

Recognizing Kiyoko’s April 3 birthday as “the VERY first step to us finding each other,” Tilley wrote in a heartfelt 2024 tribute, “I love your passion… for life, for your work, for food, for the people you love. I love how much you care for people and always root for the people who need it most. I love how you want to tell me about and show me everything that inspires you and makes you laugh.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/
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