Hunter Valentine perform Feb. 7 at The Loving Touch in Ferndale. Photo: Leslie Van Stelten Photography

Rock Out

Hunter Valentine Frontwoman On Headline-Making Sexuality & Reality TV

By Jerome Stuart Nichols

As the queer lead singer of lesbian alt-rock group Hunter Valentine, Kiyomi McCloskey is a woman made for rock music. Strongly opinionated and never afraid of a camera - despite being outed on the cover of the Toronto Star - she's one fierce chick. But there's a lot more to this rock star on the rise.

Get an up close look at Kiyomi, Laura Petracca, Veronica Sanchez and touring member Aimee Bessada when Hunter Valentine comes to Ferndale in support of their latest album, "Collide & Conquer." With special guest My Pal Val, they headline Feb. 7 at The Loving Touch in Ferndale (doors open at 7 p.m.).

Though Hunter Valentine's beginnings only date back to 2004, McCloskey has never found a camera she didn't like. She's had an even harder time finding one that didn't like her. Unfortunately for a then-closeted 16-year-old Kiyomi, her camera-magnetism landed her on the cover of Canada's top newspaper in a lip-lock with one of her basketball teammates.

"It was a trip, man," McCloskey tells Between The Lines. "But I'm actually really happy that it went down that way. I didn't have to do that whole thing of sitting people down and being like, 'Listen, I'm so nervous, but I'm gay.' I had one front cover of a newspaper and it was done, everyone knew."

In the ensuing years, her relationship with the cameras hasn't let up at all. With the rest of her band mates, she recently stared in the third season of Showtime reality show "The Real L Word." She reveled in the experience.

"It's a very unique experience to open up your entire world to, first, the camera, and then the entire world," she says. "A lot of people sort of clam up and don't allow themselves to truly be themselves on camera, to make themselves truly vulnerable to the whole experience. If you can do that, it's actually sort of a liberating experience."

Liberating and match-making, as it turned out. The budding romance between McCloskey and fellow cast mate Lauren Bedford Russell became a major story line on the show.

Despite having a new partner - who recently revealed that she was living with multiple sclerosis - and that romantic band name, this Valentine's Day she's looking forward to a rare break.

"Here's the crazy thing about Valentine's Day: I will not be on tour, which is amazing," she says. "That's a plan in itself. But I'm sure I'll be wining and dining and running around New York City."

When she's not living la vie boheme in NYC, she's out on tour living the rock life. As with any great rock star, she's got a lot to say. Being one of the few women - not to mention queer women - in rock, she believes it's important to be a role model.

"I've never tried to deny who I am and what my sexuality is," she says. "I think it's important to stand up and be that role model for younger people within our community and within our country right now. It's an important time to stand up for equality and gay rights and gay marriage."

Never one for drama, McCloskey was quick to throw praise on another queer female musician who she thinks is doing it right. Beth Ditto, lead singer of rock band Gossip, is known for her fearless push for body acceptance, which McCloskey thinks is both necessary and thrilling.

"She's an amazing idol," McCloskey says. "I think it's really important that there are women out there with beautiful curves like her. I mean, she's gorgeous and she doesn't hide her body and she shows it off in a way that's very proud. I think that's very important, because what we see in pop culture is not that body type. It shows young girls that they should be proud of their bodies."

McCloskey finds aspiration - and inspiration - in Ditto and Gossip's continued success. With Obama's gay-affirming second inauguration, she's finding a similar aspiration. Of course, that little issue of nationality might get in the way but it never hurts to dream.

"That would be like a big dream," she says of performing at the president's inauguration. "First of all, half the band is Canadian, so I'm not sure it would be completely appropriate. But just to see those musicians at the inauguration with proud looks on their faces, it really gave people something to look forward to."

Hunter Valentine

7 p.m. Feb. 7

The Loving Touch

22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale

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