JoJo Siwa Hasn’t Dropped Her Crown (or Bedazzled Hair Bow) Since Coming Out — Here’s What She’s Been Up To
by Sassafras Lowrey
Most of us first learned about the singer, dancer, and entertainer JoJo Siwa when she was a young child on the reality television show “Dance Moms.” As an artist and person JoJo has come a long way from her days dancing with a big hair bow for Miss Abbey Lee Miller! Last year JoJo shocked her fans and the world by publicly coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We covered the excitement around her coming out last year, but that announcement was just the beginning of JoJo’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and becoming a queer icon and role model.
Dancing with the Stars:
After coming out JoJo became a contestant on the reality television show Dancing with the Stars. Not only was she a fierce competitor, but she also gave groundbreaking performances by dancing with another woman! This was the first time a same sex pair have competed on the show. The show’s inclusion of a same sex team was because JoJo asked to dance with a woman while competing. JoJo’s dance partner for the season was Jenna Johnson who JoJo credits as being very influential in helping her to navigate forming an adult identity. During the competition JoJo and Jenna brought talent, creativity, and sensuality to the dance floor. Most memorable for many was on “Disney Night” of the competition JoJo dressed in drag as Prince Charming dancing to a classic Cinderella song, and then late in the competition dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” a nod to how JoJo first came out on social media. Every week JoJo turned up the heat on the competition and stayed true to her queer values and evolving sense of self. Ultimately the duo took second place in the competition.
Being An Icon
After her Dancing with the Stars performances, JoJo made an appearance on The Ellen Show, and then became the youngest person (at 18) to guest host the show. The different generations of gay icons chatted about JoJo’s career, Dancing with the Stars, and the response to her decision to come out. In the conversation Ellen asked JoJo how she felt about being a “gay icon.” JoJo responded ,“It’s wild to me…I think because I look at people who are called gay icons — like you, Lady Gaga, Freddie Mercury, my favorite people, and to be in that category at 18 is just insane. And it’s just because of who I am, it feels amazing.”
JoJo has grown and changed a lot in the last year — which makes sense for a young adult coming into her own identity and sense of self. From cutting off the signature ponytail and exploring herself, to staying true to her creative vision, JoJo is modeling a new kind of queer icon- someone that community members of all ages can admire regardless of if you have traditionally been a fan of her music.
JoJo is clearly finding herself, and her place in queer community and culture and it’s been exciting to watch as she queerly and creatively takes her place in the spotlight. From presenting at the GLAAD Media Awards to appearing on her friend’s podcasts having an uncensored conversation about dating, breakups, and more. When JoJo came out, she had a girlfriend (Kylie Prew) but the two called it off when JoJo was on Dancing with the Stars. They remained friends and more recently the two have gotten back together and JoJo has been very public about how happy she is in the relationship with her girlfriend.
Watching JoJo redefine growing up!
A prolific creator and entertainer, JoJo now has a new Facebook show, “JoJo Goes,” which is giving viewers a look at the world through JoJo’s eyes and serves as ”a glimpse behind the glitter into JoJo’s evolving adult life.” The show’s premise is that JoJo is exploring a new adult life and exploring developing an adult identity. In the first episode JoJo goes to her first Pride Parade! The episode focuses on JoJo taking to the streets for WEHO (West Hollywood)’s annual Pride Festival. In the episode, JoJo discusses that after coming out last year, something she’s always wanted to do is attend Pride. With typical JoJo flair, she doesn’t just attend Pride- she works with a team to design her own float! Bringing along her best (gay) friends, JoJo has the opportunity to be a “strong lesbian” surrounded by her friends as she sees the LGBTQ+ community coming together.
One of the most touching aspects of the episode is when JoJo meets other queer young adults. They talked about how seeing JoJo come out gave them the courage to come out to their families as queer, trans, and nonbinary! These moments are ones that are repeating across the country, and around the world. Seeing a celebrity grow up in the public eye, come out and get to fully be her queer self is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable. JoJo is undeniably a queer icon, but she’s also uplifting and inspiring other queer young adults. In the episode she responds to fan’s coming out story by saying, “I know it looks like I’m doing a lot because I’m public about it, but you are doing just as much for the world and never forget that. Never forget that.”
Obviously, despite some homophobic pushback in the media, JoJo’s coming out experience has been very privileged. Not everyone will have the same sort of positive coming out story. From having a loving and supportive family to being able to come out on her own terms and not just maintain but continue to build and expand her career, JoJo has maintained control of her personal and professional life at a young age. By all definitions JoJo’s coming out (like her life) has been exceptional. What makes JoJo a queer icon isn’t just that she came out- it’s what she’s done since then, and the way she’s pushed for inclusion. JoJo has talked openly about her privilege, and her goal of being visible to give hope to LGBTQ+ people coming from less accepting places. Just by being her queer self openly and authentically, JoJo is helping to shift the cultural understanding of LGBTQ+ young people and sparking important conversations about inclusivity. Regardless of if you grew up listening to JoJo’s music and buying her hair bows or have only recently discovered her, there’s no question that she’s a queer icon and I for one can’t wait to see what she creates next.
About the Author:
Sassafras Lowrey’s novels and nonfiction books have been honored by organizations ranging from the American Library Association to the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Sassafras has taught queer writing courses and workshops at LitReactor, the NYC Center For Fiction and at colleges, conferences, and LGBTQ youth centers across the country. www.SassafrasLowrey.com