Joelle Joanie “JoJo” Siwa, 17, is one of today’s most popular internet sensations. JoJo first made her media debut on the second season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition in 2013. Though she made it into the top five finalists for the season, JoJo was eliminated in week nine. This setback in her career was only temporary, as she soon began making appearances on Dance Moms in 2014 as she auditioned for Abby Lee Miller’s ALDC (Abby Lee Dance Company) competition team. JoJo was selected for the team in 2015, leading her to participate in two seasons of the reality show.
In 2016, JoJo left Dance Moms due to a contract she secured with Nickelodeon, where she began to make appearances on different programs such as The Thundermans. JoJo also released her first two singles, “Boomerang” and “I Can Make U Dance,” in 2016. The “Boomerang” music video has been viewed over 900 million times and led the teen to be named Breakout Artist of the Year by Vivid Seats in 2018. With her foot in the door to the world of musical fame, JoJo went on her first major concert tour in 2019, touring a total of 52 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Outside of her music, JoJo has a successful line of fashion-accessories, mainly her signature bows. She also has bedroom decor, cosmetics, several children’s books and even a doll made to resemble her. These products are mostly marketed toward children, who make up the majority of her audience.
Over time, JoJo has also become a prominent presence on TikTok. She was in a relationship with another TikTok star, Mark Bontempo, from August until November of 2020. In January, JoJo rocked the internet by coming out as part of the LGBTQ+ community. She announced this through a TikTok of her singing along to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga on Jan. 20. The video is currently at 41.5 million views. Following her TikTok post, JoJo talked about her sexuality on Instagram Live, which she streamed on Jan. 22. Answering one fan’s question, JoJo said that she was not yet ready to put a label on her sexuality as “I don’t really know this answer… I think humans are incredible people.”
On Feb. 3, JoJo appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she announced that she was in a happy relationship with “the most amazing, wonderful, perfect, most beautiful girlfriend in the whole world,” who she later identified in posts on Instagram and TikTok. On The Tonight Show, it was also said that JoJo’s girlfriend is the one who encouraged her to come out.
JoJo’s announcement sent tidal waves of emotions through the internet. While she was mostly met with acceptance and encouragement, there are still those that have been discriminatory. Some parents across the U.S. and Canada have been seen selling their children’s JoJo Siwa memorabilia or even JoJo Siwa concert tickets. These actions are obviously atrocious, especially when there are children who do not understand the reason for their parents actions. In one act of hateful behavior, JoJo’s house was “swatted,” meaning that someone called a SWAT team to her home on false pretenses.
Despite the hate being thrown at the star, she is still receiving support. Nickelodeon posted a picture of JoJo on their Instagram with the caption “Never been more proud” to indicate their support of the teen. Support has also come from many different sources, some claiming that JoJo serves as a person for younger LGBTQ+ teens and children to look up to. This is something that has been lacking in the past. While there has been an increase of LGBTQ+ representation in the media, it is mostly targeted toward older teens and adults. JoJo now offers something for the younger generation that other generations did not have, representation for a minority group and the knowledge that although there may be those who resist someone coming out, there will always be support.
By Maggie Barnhill, Contributing Writer