Hayley Williams

Attending a Paramore concert is a truly unforgettable experience, and not just because Hayley Williams has the voice of an angel (which, by the way, she does). What makes a Paramore concert so unique is the atmosphere – the feeling that you’re right where you belong. In addition to rocking your socks off, the band takes time throughout the show to sit down with the audience and just talk. They share the usual things, of course, such as how grateful they are to be on stage, but it also goes deeper than that. It’s a time for them to talk about how they’re doing, and to share a message of hope: we’re in this together.

I feel that it’s important to note that Hayley Williams is not a one-woman band; the other members, currently Taylor York and Zac Farro, are involved in forming this experience as well. But off-stage, Williams is primarily the face of Paramore and she uses this platform for good. Especially in recent years, Williams has been extremely open about her personal struggles with mental health. This past May, she wrote an essay for PAPER Magazine about exactly that. Williams wrote, “I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I didn't laugh... for a long time.” She has also shared that she, privately, quit the band for a while in 2015 because of her mental health. It took getting back into songwriting – with help from bandmate Taylor York, who has also been candid about his own mental health struggles – for her to begin getting back on track.

The Grammy award-winning artist has been equally honest about her healing process in the months since. She has tweeted about her personal experiences with therapy, expressing its value both for herself and for those who struggle in general. Paramore has an incredibly broad fanbase of all ages and backgrounds, and this sentiment is a powerful message for each and every one of them. Williams doesn’t just share her personal problems with her fans, she also provides suggestions, and hope, for those in similar positions. Just this past month, she tweeted about World Suicide Prevention Day, describing some of the challenges she has faced on her journey to a happier and healthier life. She ends with a message of hope: “if you feel darkness, i hope you’ll wait for joy. it will come again and it is worth it.”

In addition to mental health as a general topic, Williams is also passionate about self-expression, especially through hair. In 2016, along with her stylist Brian O’Conner, she launched a hair dye brand called Good Dye Young in the hopes of building “an all-inclusive culture that inspires creativity and empowers everyone’s journey through self-discovery.” Williams is known for her “beautifully obnoxious” hair, which has changed consistently over the years, often representing the state of her mental health. At the peak of her mental health struggles, she bleached her hair white, in need of a blank slate. Now, as the tour for Paramore’s latest album, After Laughter, comes to a close, she is trying something new: her “natural” color. More than just self-expression, it is her opportunity for self-acceptance.

In her PAPER essay, she concludes by sharing her motivation to write it in the first place: “[e]xpression is survival.” Whether on stage, on social media, or through hair dye, Hayley Williams shows us that we are never alone. She reminds us, even in our darkest moments, to look for the light. More importantly, she shows us where to look when that light is hard to find.