Meet Boys World, the Girl Group Crushing Stereotypes and Empowering a New Generation
Allow Queenie Villaluz, Makhyli Simpson, Olivia Ruby, Elana Caceres, and Lillian Kay to serve as proof that Hannah Montana isn't the only one living the best of both worlds. Better known as Boys World, the girl group first came to life in April 2019 when record label KYN Entertainment reached out to each of them on Instagram to compliment their song covers and offer them a spot in the band. With no idea who their bandmates would be, the women boarded flights from across the country to LA and they haven't missed a beat since, putting out hits like "Something in the Water" and releasing their While You Were Out EP. In the words of Lizzie McGuire, this is what dreams are made of.
On Being Discovered
"I remember my mom was really shocked," Caceres told POPSUGAR. "She was scared, of course, and nervous because I was only 16 at the time. We were all young — some of us were even minors. But thankfully, we all have really, really great support systems and our families are really supportive, so they just let us follow the dream. Then we became close together, so this is like our family." In an interview with People in 2020, KYN Founder Sonny Takhar added, "There was a clear space in music for something a bit more fun and positive — a new girl group for a new generation of pop fans . . . We wanted raw talent, but natural chemistry and forming strong bonds between them were essential."
On Creating Their Sound
Fueled by Fruit Roll-Ups and the tenacity of the 1994-era Spice Girls, the group has spent the last two years building that chemistry and challenging stereotypes about girl groups. When writing their songs, they mesh their styles — Villaluz's love for Etta James and Ruby's appreciation for Billie Eilish — and share stories about their five different backgrounds and cultures. But at their shared house in LA, the girls spend most of their time hanging out like normal BFFs: watching movies, drinking boba, fighting over the best seat in the living room (the orange beanbag chair, obviously), and making hilarious TikTok videos. All five of them even got their ears pierced together at the same time!
Since debuting their first song cover in 2020, an a cappella rendition of *NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye," the band has gained over 2 million TikTok followers and released five singles, including "Girlfriends," their number one song to date. Like an anthem for friendship, the lyrics double down on the importance of having a group of best friends to lean on and the colorful video draws attention to their individuality. See: Ruby speaking Portuguese, Villaluz speaking Tagalog, and Simpson doing American Sign Language. By the same token, other songs like "Wingman" and "Something in the Water" put a self-confident spin on stereotypical themes like dating and relationships.
Because of COVID-19 safety restrictions, their songwriting process has been streamlined in the form of a shared Google Doc and pre-scheduled Zoom calls, where they take turns brainstorming new material with a songwriter and a sound engineer. But the real magic happens when they're in the recording studio. To get the vibe across, some girls kick their shoes off and others like to switch up the color of the lights to match the mood of each song. "If it's a crazy, in-your-face, rah-rah song, then it's a red light. If it's a sad ballad, we do a blue light, purple," Simpson said, adding that she filled her mouth with Skittles while recording an unreleased song to get the sound just right.
On Activism and Empowering Women
Beyond expressing their growth and lived experiences, Boys World works because of their shared passion for activism and empowering women. "We're diving into many different concepts that we've never dived into before, like mental health," Villaluz said. "I feel like that's important: to just try and talk about everything that's going on [in the world] . . . Girl anthem is our go-to, but there are always so many ideas out there." Like many women in their 20s, feminism, environmentalism, and social justice rank high on the list of causes they actively care about, but they know there's more work to be done. "We're young and we know that there are some causes that we don't know a lot about. But we feel like we're growing," Simpson said. "We're going to definitely do so much more."
"We want to be better than before."
On Oct. 14, the band delivered their second live performance at Girl Up's fourth annual Girl Hero Awards, celebrating young champions for gender equality. Nervous but excited, they put their countless hours of choreography lessons and vocal training to work. "I feel like we really improved, really worked hard," Kay said. "We want to be better than before."
At the end of our interview, two things are clear: their love for each other is enough to inspire a whole album and every single member of Boys World is hungry to follow in the footsteps of all the greatest girl groups before them. Will their next win come in the form of a debut album? A nationwide tour? A documentary about their rise to fame? Right now, they're "manifesting" it all, and we'll be first in line when tickets go on sale.
Get to know all five members (and their zodiac signs) before they show up on all your favorite playlists ahead.
Boys World: Meet Queenie Mae Villaluz
Zodiac Sign: Taurus
Hometown: Manila, Philippines
Musical Inspirations: Kehlani, Kiana Ledé, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, and Etta James
Fun Fact: Villaluz loves listening to ASMR of people eating and she recently got into gaming thanks to Mobile Legends.
Before the Band: "[My mom] had this restaurant called Fresh Pizza and I would perform at her gigs," Villaluz said, citing Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E" and ABBA's "Dancing Queen" as two of her favorite songs to perform. Beyond music, she was also heavily involved in sports like volleyball and golf, talent shows, and school plays.
What It Means to Her to Be in the Band: "For me personally, I think this band has shown me how important a stable friendship is in your life," she said. "And I feel like I've underestimated communication and not holding grudges over people, especially in high school. We were all young, all dumb, and a lot of these people you're never going to be able to say 'hi' to again. So I'm just glad that I have these girls; they make me realize how important it is to have at least one solid friendship in your life. I know there's so many people out there who love being independent and alone, but just having that one friend who you know has your back, it's amazing to have and feel that."
Boys World: Meet Olivia Ruby
Zodiac Sign: Aquarius
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Musical Inspirations: Lorde, Billie Eilish, and Julia Michaels
Fun Fact: "I used to tweet as if I were a hat," Ruby said, adding that Simpson used to follow her even before they'd met. "I had a fan account and I was just a pink snapback, which translated into pink hair."
Before the Band: Ruby started her social media career as a YouTuber, posting daily vlogs, song covers, and video journal entries. "I was homeschooled during high school, so I just used that time to teach myself piano, guitar and ukulele, and how to write songs and edit," she said. Today, she has over 400,000 subscribers and uses her free time to post videos.
What It Means to Her to Be in the Band: "I kid you not, every time one person has cried about a weird situation, we all will cry," Villaluz said as Ruby started to tear up over the question. "Exactly, that's why I love being in this group," Ruby added appreciatively. "They're always here for me. They always have an open shoulder to cry on. I know that sounds cliché, but you can break down in this house and they'll be there for you."
Boys World: Meet Makhyli Simpson
Zodiac Sign: Aries
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Musical Inspirations: Michael Jackson
Fun Fact: Simpson loves magicians and browsing furniture stores.
Before the Band: Simpson started out doing theater school but didn't feel a connection to her classmates and decided to branch out beyond the online classroom. "My mom is the most go-getting woman I could ever imagine. She was working hard getting me auditions," she said, adding that her mom worked hard as a single parent and got her a performer's license so she could sing on the street. "I feel like I was kind of a normal kid but not at all at the same time. Being here, I feel the most normal I've ever felt."
What It Means to Her to Be in the Band: "I'm never bored. How could you dare get bored with these people?" she said. "This is kind of like our college but it's way better — less books, no professors."
Boys World: Meet Lillian Kay
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Hometown: Boise, ID
Musical Inspirations: Ariana Grande
Fun Fact: Kay always wears a rose quartz good luck charm around her neck.
Before the Band: "I kept my love for music a bit of a secret," Kay explained, adding that her parents were always very supportive despite her timidity. "I was very shy, was not popular in high school, and I would not let my parents hear [me sing]. I would just secretly write songs in my room and try to be quiet so that [my family] wouldn't hear."
What It Means to Her to Be in the Band: "Every day is a new reason to love this group," she said. "We have so much fun together. We're genuinely best friends."
Boys World: Meet Elana Caceres
Zodiac Sign: Leo
Hometown: Queens, NY
Musical Inspirations: Amy Winehouse
Fun Fact: Caceres sleeps with her ears covered at all times because of her arachnophobia.
Before the Band: Caceres, who was raised in a single-parent household, is grateful that her mom enrolled her in acting lessons when she was 10. From there, she did local commercials and later got involved in dance competitions. During high school, she did acting on the side and eventually started posting song covers on Instagram to boost her confidence in her singing abilities.
What It Means to Her to Be in the Band: "I love that I get to do what I'm passionate about with my best friends and sisters," she said. "I love them so much; they make me so happy. It just means everything. I want to inspire young girls and the world. And I just love [my friends]."