Hayley Law was 18 when she first sang in front of anyone. She was a hostess at a Fairmont in her hometown of Vancouver, when the hotel’s lounge singer asked her to perform with him. “He was like, ‘You’re going to sing with me today.’ And I was like, ‘Nooo!’” Law tells StyleCaster. “We sang Rihanna’s ‘Stay,’ and that was the first time. Then I got addicted, and I was like, ‘I’m never stopping.’”
Though she always wanted to be a singer, Law never considered it a career. Aside from a talent show audition when she was in the ninth grade, the lounge performance was the first time anyone heard her sing. “I felt like I was too shy,” Law says. “But I sang a lot by myself and thought, ‘Aw man, if only I had the balls to do this in front of people, I could be good at it.’”
Now, she has a chance to sing in front of millions each week as Valerie Brown, Archie Andrews’s ex-girlfriend and one-third of Josie and the Pussycats (now known as Veronica and the Pussycats) on The CW’s Riverdale, a role she says has “changed my life in every way possible.” “I’m so grateful for that show,” Law says. Before Riverdale, Law wasn’t even thinking about acting. She was 21 and working at a waitress at a restaurant in, trying to make ends meet, when a friend, who was an actress at the time, told her about a commercial where she made $500 in a day, with $2,000 in residuals. “I was like, ‘Oh my god! I need $500,’” Law says.
Soon after, Law found an agent and started doing commercials of her own before working her way to TV. Then, after a McDonald’s commercial where only her forearm was visible and a failed audition as a receptionist on Arrow, Law received the call for Riverdale. At first, Law auditioned for Cheryl Blossom, Riverdale High’s red-headed, silver-tongued queen bee, before the creators saw her for Valerie. “I always thought, if I booked that, what Cheryl’s parents would look like,” Law says. “That would’ve been crazy cool. I would’ve dyed my ‘fro red and everything.” (Side note: Law has never told Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl, that she originally auditioned for her character. “She would just be like, ‘Well, I’m Cheryl.’ Because she’s the perfect Cheryl,” Law says.)
I’m really happy I can wear my natural hair on TV. Childhood Hayley would never ever, ever, ever believe that.
For Law, Riverdale was life-changing. She quit her job as a waitress on the way to her first fitting. “Ashleigh [Murray who plays Josie McCoy] was in the car with me and was like, ‘Just go do it!’ And I was like, ‘I’m scared!’” Law says. But Riverdale did more than provide Law with a stable income. It gave her exposure, which led to roles in Netflix’s Altered Carbon and 2018’s The New Romantic, as well as an album under her stage name, Hayleau. The show also gave Law the chance to wear her full ‘fro on screen—an opportunity Law doesn’t take for granted, given her complicated relationship with her natural hair. “I used to straighten my hair until I was out of high school. I’m lucky it’s not damaged to shit,” Law says. “I’m really happy I can wear it on TV. Childhood Hayley would never ever, ever, ever believe that—ever.”
Law started straightening her hair in elementary school after she wore her ‘fro for a day and was mocked by her classmates “Nobody was normal about it. Everybody pointed it out. Everybody said something about it,” Law says. “I was like, ‘I’m never doing this again.” It wasn’t until she was older and dating someone who called her ‘fro “gross” that Law realized the beauty of her her natural hair. But the final straw came when Law ran into her ex-boyfriend with her hair straightened, after weeks of wearing her natural hair during their relationship. “He was like, ‘Now that we’re broken up, you start to try and straighten your hair?’ And I was like, ‘What? Uh. No. I was never straightening it for you, bitch,’” Law says. “I love my hair natural. I don’t understand why he thinks I was trying to cover up something or cover up a mistake. Because it’s not a mistake.”
I feel like I gotta be that person for little Hayleys.
Now, Law wears her ‘fro with pride—not only for herself, but for fans who are still experimenting with their hair journey. “I didn’t know anyone with curly hair. I had never seen a ‘fro until I was 18, until like Foxxy Cleopatra,” Law says. “But in real life, I had never seen it ever. Not even my mom. My sister didn’t. So I feel like I gotta be that person for little Hayleys.”
And though Law has worn her hair natural in every role she’s been in, she still feels the effects of being an actor of color. “For me, I’ll be optioned as the smaller role or the support role. It’s hard because you get so many scripts like that and you’re like, ‘OK!’” Law says. “In this business, There aren’t a lot of people of color as leads. It’s changing a little bit, but we still have to be aware of it, because if we’re not, it won’t change.” Likewise, Law has also experienced the lack of complex characters for women. “I don’t want to be the girlfriend role either. Sometimes people are writing their fantasy and not what’s real,” Law says. “The girl who’s always chasing the guy, ‘You’re so wonderful. You can do it!’ That’s cool, but it’s not real life.”
There aren’t not a lot of people of color as leads. It’s changing a little bit, but we still have to be aware of it, because if we’re not, it won’t change.
While she hasn’t been working for long, Law has acted enough to know that what she’s being offered is unfair. “I don’t practice and work this hard to play a supporting role. I don’t practice and get my skills better to be in the background. Anybody can do that. Anybody can jump into a set and stand there,” Law says. “It sounds weird to say it’s unfair, but it’s just bullshit honestly.”
Still, Law isn’t ruling our every supporting role. She’s played several she’s proud of. A recent one was in last November’s The New Romantic, where Law played Nikki, the zinger best friend of a college student who dates a wealthy older man in hopes that her experience as a sugar baby will win her $50,000 in a journalism competition. “I’m more than a shoulder to cry on,” Law says.
I don’t want to be the girlfriend role
The film also stars Law’s Riverdale costar, Camila Mendes, who Law didn’t even know was in the movie until a week before shooting. “She told me she was going to film a movie in Ontario and I was going to film a movie in Ontario. I was in the car with my mom, and I was like, ‘I wonder what movie Cami is in?’” Law says. “I literally called her in the car and was like, ‘Are you going to do ‘The New Romantic’?’ She was like, ‘Yeah!’ We were like, ‘What the fuck?’ It was so random. Everyone was like, ‘Oh my God. You two work together.’ We were like, ‘We didn’t even know!’”
Since the trailer release, the film has seen some backlash, with many accusing it of glorifying sugar-baby relationships. Mendes responded to the backlash on Twitter: “You don’t even know how the story ends so why don’t you watch the film first and then tell me it’s ‘glorifying’ the life of sugar babies.” Law agrees. “I try and tell people that this is just one scenario. It could be a really great sugar daddy relationship, but that’s a different scenario or an abusive one, but that’s a different scenario. This one is this story,” Law says. “I don’t think it’s glorifying it. I hope those people watch the movie.”
Not every no is a fight.
Though the film is a romantic comedy, Law doesn’t disregard its emotional weight. She references one scene at the end where the main character cries while having nonconsensual sex with her sugar daddy. “So many girls in relationships of any kind, not even in a relationship like that, myself included, have been in situations where you’re like, ‘Oh. I don’t want to do this.’ And you just do it,” Law says. “Every single time I watch it, it makes me cry. Not every no is a fight. You know she doesn’t want to do it. But he thought everything was cool. I hope people watch it and realize you don’t have to be a dick to say no. She still said no.”
As for her favorite scene in the movie, Law references a monologue her character gave about Jennifer Lawrence’s 2014 photo leak and how the actress took back her power by “owning her scandal.” “What I took away from that is people go through things and they just own it,” Law said. “It’s already happened, so you gotta own the shit out of it, like Jennifer Lawrence owned the shit out of her scandal. So I’m going to own my scandal when I got one.”