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EXCLUSIVE: Everything you've ever wanted to know about Hayley LeBlanc

She grew up on YouTube, but now Hayley LeBlanc is ready to run the world—in her very own way.

Peep our Girls' Life exclusive cover story below...

Things Hayley Noelle LeBlanc hearts, in no specific order: Takeout from Shake Shack or Chipotle, followed by little caramel chocolates. Blue-green rings and earrings. Cold-weather cuddles from her (sometimes) snuggly pups Winnie, Piper and GG. A skateboarding sesh (even though she says she isn't very good). Horror movie marathons (her pick = Lights Out). 

It wasn't too long ago that you wouldn't have to do much sleuthing to learn about what Hayley's loving...or what movie she watched after school...or who she FaceTimed last...or what she had for dinner.

In fact, all you'd need to do was go on YouTube at 7 p.m. every single day.

For nearly a decade, the LeBlancs' YouTube channel Bratayley (a mashup of brat + Hayley, created in her tantrum-throwing toddler days) broadcast the daily dramas, routines, hilarious moments and occasional disagreements that made up Hayley's childhood.

The family channel quickly became a fan favorite—and Hayley became a breakout social star. ("I'm Never Going at the Park AGAIN!", a 2012 video in which 3-year-old Hayley steps in a puddle and innocently demands to go home, has more than 67 million views.) 

But in late 2019, the LeBlancs made the decision to stop vlogging to their 7 million subscribers, unofficially-yet-officially bringing Bratayley to a close.

And it's in that space, with the cameras off and no more pressure to document her days, that Hayley's grown from a sassy, sarcastic elementary schooler to a funny, self-aware, quirky and independent 12-year-old. And we're here for it.

Hello, Hayley
So who exactly *is* Hayley LeBlanc? Behind the signature sleek eyeliner (and the fact that she's likely the most well-known 12-year-old in the world), there's an almost-teenager who is thoughtful, charismatic and so much more than a (former) YouTuber.

First, there's her role as Harmony McAdams in Brat TV's beloved dramedy series Chicken Girls. Hayley recently took over the show's lead when her big sister (and mega star) Jules moved on to new projects (although her character, Rhyme, still pops up once in a while). Now filming its eighth season, Chicken Girls has racked up more than 220 million views on YouTube.

Related: QUIZ! Which Chicken Girls character are you?

And then there's Hayley's new girl group, Run the World, a dream collab that popped up during the pandemic with fellow influencers Jessalyn Grace, Corinne Joy and Kheris Rogers (the girls recorded their empowering quarantine bop "Rainbow" from home before the four of them had even met in person). Now? They're all BFFs and released a self-titled EP last November. "We vibe together so well," Hayley says of the squad.

All that, while doing normal middle school stuff with her crew (think: hilarious group texts, silly sleepovers, TikTok dances and prank calls) and creating a vibe that's uniquely her own.

Owning it
It's midday in Los Angeles when we catch up with Hayley on Zoom. She's dressed in a black T-shirt, her semi-straightened hair recently dyed a bit darker than her natural chestnut. 

"People have always told me I'm weird in a good way," she shares. And it's become clear she's OK with owning that distinction—her Instagram feed is a hodgepodge of aesthetics, shifting from girly glam to fashion-forward to laid-back comfy.

Truth is, Hayley used to care (a lot) what people think. "I'd be like, 'Oh my gosh, I need to run to my closet and find 15 new outfits because someone didn't like what I was wearing," she admits. "But not anymore." 

These days, Hayley is marching to the beat of her own stylish drum.

"There came a point a little while ago when I thought, wouldn't it be an amazing idea for go make some friends of my own? And find my personality. Even how I'd like to do my hair and makeup," she says. "So now if I really like an outfit, I wear it. Or if I like a picture, I post it. I don't feel as worried about what other people will say." 

She's also stepping into her own spotlight after years of trying to be just like Jules, who's three years and nine months older than Hayley.

In 2018, the LeBlancs relocated from Annapolis, Md. to Los Angeles so Jules could pursue singing and acting. During that time, Hayley often found herself trying to grow up while in the glow of her sister's fame. "I used to try to be Jules. It was weird," Hayley admits, laughing. "I would, like, watch her every move, watch what she was doing with her friends."

Hayley has since learned that she doesn't need her sister's light to feel special. "It's amazing to have someone like her to rely on," Hayley says of Jules. "But you don't need another person to validate you." 

While Hayley is defining herself apart from Jules, their relationship remains rock-solid—and closer than ever. "Jules encourages me to be confident in who I am," Hayley shares. "If you aren't, how other people feel about you can really affect you. It's important to just keep going, no matter what anyone says."

Rolling with it
Hayley may be comfier in the spotlight now, but Bratayley fans know that, through the years, there were times Hayley wasn't all about the attention. 

The first time a teenage fan asked for her autograph, Hayley was just six, at the mall with her mom: "I was so confused that they were coming up to me. I was a child!" she recalls.

As their fan base grew to astronomical proportions (a Bratayley meet-and-greet at Disneyland attracted such a large crowd, they were asked to leave the park. "I remember my sister saying, 'I think this is how Justin Bieber feels,'" shares Hayley), there were moments it all became overwhelming.

"I'm outgoing with my friends but, when you first meet me, I'm really shy," Hayley says. She's gotten more comfortable with fans approaching her, but she also knows what may be in store for her teenage years, if Jules' huge following is any indication.

"It's nerve-wracking, like, what am I going to have to deal with?" Hayley says of all the eyeballs watching and people commenting on her sister's every move (including her very public first breakups and makeups).

But Hayley's many fans (she's got 3 million followers on Instagram alone) have also pushed her to grow. "I've learned I can stay very open," she states. "If you're a good person, you don't have to be afraid of being called out for something or worried about anything you've done in the past. I was nervous at first, but now I'm just, like, roll with it." 

It's that confidence that makes you wish Hayley could be in your bestie crew, like, rn. Still, Hayley admits she's figuring it all out, just like you. "I tell my friends, you don't have to post if you don't want to, even if everyone else is doing a trend. It's your feed, be creative and do what you want with it," she says. 

Just be you
Before we end our Zoom chat, we toss Hayley a throwback to classic Bratayley with a question of the day: What's next? 

Besides her dream of starring in the upcoming remake of Home Alone (which, to be honest, would be the logical next step on her path to world domination), Hayley's hopes are remarkably grounded.

"First, high school," she declares, "then I want to go to college. My dream would be Yale." Though Hayley loves acting, she thinks she'd pursue a major in film: "I'd want to work behind the camera mostly—writing and directing short films." 

And, of course, she'll continue to own who she is—flaws, contradictions, quirks and all—and hopes she can encourage other girls to do the same.

"Someone once told me that I give people space to be themselves, and that made me feel so special," she says. "You don't need anyone's permission to be who you are. Don't let people judge. No one else can tell you how to be you." 

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our February/March 2021 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

Photographed by Sean Scheidt. Styled by Lo VonRumpf. Hair and makeup by Maurie Davidson.

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by Katherine Hammer | 3/4/2021
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