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KYLE on Toxic Masculinity, How It Affects Women & The Advice He’d Give His Younger Self (Exclusive Q&A)

Originally from Ventura, California, Kyle Harvey, who goes by KYLE, is best known for his breakout song “iSpy,” which featured rapper Lil Yachty and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Soon after, he signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. More recently, KYLE starred in the Netflix original film The After Party, about an aspiring rapper who is just trying to land at a record label, and has begun his Lightspeed World Tour to promote his newest album. 

KYLE recently teamed up with AXE to address outdated male stereotypes and harmful labels through high school senior orientation workshops. Senior Orientation is part of the AXE Find Your Magic Initiative, which aims to break the cycle of toxic masculinity by providing guys with resources to live more freely. One of the first schools KYLE spoke at was his alma mater, Ventura High School, where Her Campus was able to ask KYLE some questions about his experiences with toxic masculinity, how that affects women in our society, how the entertainment industry has been impacted by such stereotypes and more. 

Her Campus: What does masculinity mean to you, and how did your own experiences as a young man influence how you thought about masculinity and what it means to be a man?

Kyle: When I think of somebody who is masculine, I think of confidence a lot, in that it’s a part of my own journey to being the most masculine version of myself. I think of masculinity as someone who is solid in their own morals; somebody who is unshaken by what others say about them. When I think of the men I’ve looked up to, it’s all people who were, you know, unbothered or unmoved by anything negative about the world. I use Goku as an example—obviously he was a fictional anime character who could fly—but he was also a solid, good individual, and no matter how much pressure he felt from outside people to either do the wrong thing or do something that wasn’t of his nature, he wouldn’t. He would always stay true to himself. I think that’s masculine. 

HC: How do you explain toxic masculinity in young people and how big of a threat do you feel toxic masculinity is to the health of young men and women?

K: There’s a lot of stereotypes about being a man that are pretty toxic to just everyday life and human nature. I think men needing to be looked at as these powerful, hyper-aggressive individuals who don’t take no for an answer type of thing is bad. I think it breeds us to be really confrontational. I think the stereotypes of needing to be that way are not only toxic to the kids growing up who don’t feel like that, and the dudes that grow up feeling loving and kind and sensitive and all those other things, but it’s also very toxic and dangerous to everybody else. The women in our society too, that have to deal with these young men who grow up to be these hyper-aggressive individuals because our culture taught them that being really swol and fighting people and stuff makes you a man when it really doesn’t. 

HC: How can you, or how have you, used your music to spread this message of inclusivity and what is your response to many of the rap songs that seem to promote toxicity?

K: I mean, I just try to use my music and everything about my platform to help better someone’s day. That’s why I do this, that’s why I am even a public figure, because I want to inspire kids that are watching me to be a positive influence in their community. Because I can’t do it for everybody. There’s going to be a lot of people who may look at me and not agree, but as long as I can inspire kids from a community to just really put their best foot forward with being a good person, being inclusive, being kind to others and being accepting of others, then it will spread from there. As for other rap songs that do preach a toxic message, like I said before, I can’t judge anybody else for doing what it is that they want to do because at the end of the day that could be their lifestyle, that could be the way they are choosing to express themselves. I just, to a degree, still want to help them too. Maybe they listen to one of my songs and get more inspired to make music that is a little more inclusive and preaches a slightly better message for kids to listen to and grow up on. You want music that your fans are going to love. You want music that people are going to be proud of 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s the kind of music you want to be making. 

HC: Do you think some industries such as music and sports suffer more from this toxic masculinity than others?

K: Yeah…I mean I think there’s definitely a lot. I think pretty much any industry involving men anywhere has some cases where some men have just grown up with the wrong [influences]. The thing is, when you have a good family and you have great influences in your life that can kind of steer you and give you good direction, you can better avoid becoming somebody that’s completely a victim of toxic masculinity. But I think every industry involving men has somebody in there that is a victim of being raised with this wrong concept of masculinity. 

HC: What are some ways that the music and film industries could promote diversity and inclusivity?

K: I think it’s really just about green lighting and giving more movies and scripts and pieces of art and media that talk about this subject. I think that there are probably directors out there and writers and producers and people who feel passionately about this and about addressing this subject, and I think that they, the entertainment business and like the television world, movie world, need to offer them more opportunities to do a good thing for the community. If we get budgets for scripts and movies that discuss real issues that are going on with young people, some of those young people are going to grow up not feeling alienated and they’re going to feel like the world relates to them. That’s a thing that a movie does. If you see a movie about something that has to do with what you’re going through, you feel like the world can relate to you and then you don’t feel as ashamed to have that problem. That’s what we need. 

HC: What influenced you to choose music as a career? Were you ever bullied or put down because of your choices?

K: Oh, for sure! Wanting to be a rapper or a singer, all you’re going to get when you’re younger are people telling you, like, prove it. You know what I mean? People telling you you’re wack, people trying to hate on you the entire time. But I don’t know what necessarily made me choose to be a singer—literally since I could form memories I’ve just been singing. I’ve been writing songs since I was like five years old, like that was always the plan. So to me, when people started making fun of me about it, it felt more like people weren’t just making fun of a choice I made—it felt like they were making fun of who I was born as. It wasn’t a choice for me to want to sing, but now that I loved singing, anytime I was doing it, somebody was making fun of me for it and it felt like, yeah, who I was as a person was being attacked. And yeah, that was hard. But eventually, it made me discover jealousy at a really early age and then it made me notice, wow, these people that are taking mad time to make fun of me or try to bring me down are really just hurt on the inside. It was crazy, it was like [makes blowing up sound] a mind explosion. 


Ein Beitrag geteilt von KYLE (@superduperkyle) am

HC: So you have this AXE Senior Orientation and you also have the Gap’s New Good campaign—how do you hope to spread good feelings and positivity through your music? And how do you feel about being a part of the Gap program as well?

K: I really love being a part of the Gap program, cause like I said too, similar to this AXE program, it was something that I could relate to, something I could talk about. I only really like doing things that are of my nature. I don’t like pretending I know about something when I don’t. So the Gap thing was really cool because, once again, it was a brand that I’ve known about for years doing something that has a really positive change. I just hope to, you know, use my music to continue to preach a good message and I really hope to continue to work with as many brands that are down to hop on this same mission with me and try to spread a good message. 

HC: If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self?

K: Man…Yo younger self, listen dude. You’re tight. Even though you don’t think you’re tight, even though you’re too shy to express how really dope you are, you are awesome. You’re an awesome individual. Talk to people more, you’re going to find out you’re funny. Open you’re voice more, you’re going to find out you can sing. Don’t be ashamed of what you’re actually into—and everybody likes Pokemon, not just you. But they’re just afraid to admit it. Be about it, be about yourself, because you’re awesome. 

Xandie Kuenning is the Career Editor at Her Campus and a graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor's in International Affairs and minors in Journalism and Psychology. She is an avid traveler with a goal to join the Travelers' Century Club. When not gallivanting around the world, she can be found reading about fairytales or Eurasian politics, baking up a storm, or watching dangerous amounts of Netflix. Follow her on Instagram @AKing1917 and on Twitter @XKuenning.
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