Coming Out Like a Boomerang
The Significance of JoJo Siwa Coming Out
Photo courtesy of JoJo Siwa (screenshot from YouTube 22/09/2018 https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ltd_CB9S4aE)
Okay, I’ll admit it, for a period of time I, like many before me, was weirdly interested in Dance Moms. I would watch YouTube clip after clip of dances, meltdowns, and catty behaviour from both teens and moms. It’s on Dance Moms that I first encountered JoJo Siwa. Loud, blonde, and adorned with a bow, JoJo was a breath of fresh (wild) air from the more restrained girls.
I didn’t always like her, I found her to be too loud at times, but I liked her spirit and self-assurance. She stood up to the bully and tyrant Abby Lee Miller and believed in herself. She was always confident that she would be a star. And, boy, was she correct.
JoJo competed on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition in 2013 where she was a top 5 finalist, before making her first appearance on Dance Moms in 2014, making the team in 2015. She released her first single ‘Boomerang’ in 2016, which as of 23/01/21 has almost 28.5 million streams on Spotify. Her accolades, which are almost too long to list, got her a spot in Time’s 2020 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. . She capitalised off of her signature style, selling bows, toys, fashion pieces and more, and now boasts an estimated net worth of $14 million, according to Celebrity Networth (https://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/singers/jojo-siwa-net-worth/) JoJo has also received great criticism over her childish, colourful dress sense, but it is this childlike fun nature that the millions of young fans are attracted to.
It is this young, influential fanbase, that makes her recent decision more poignant. On January 22nd, JoJo came out as gay. After posting a TikTok singing along to the iconic LGBTQ+ anthem ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga, she took to Twitter to share a photo of a t-shirt gifted by her cousin that has “BEST. GAY. COUSIN. EVER.” emblazoned on the front. It can be incredibly scary to come out, and one can only imagine how much that anxiety would be increased when you have a platform like JoJo’s.
The parents of her young fans have said they love that JoJo is a role model for children in a time where dressing and acting older and more sexual is prevalent from preteens to teens. But by coming out, JoJo could have faced huge backlash from homophobic parents who don’t want a gay person to be a role model. In my opinion, it was nothing beyond brave to come out as gay when you’re heralded as a role model for millions of children. Being gay isn't an inherently brave action - it is just who someone is -, but coming out because you want to, and deserve to, live authentically, even when it could put your personal safety, your career, and your public perception at risk is brave. JoJo risked fans turning against her, parents boycotting her business, networks and brands pulling out of relationships and public outcry. But JoJo did what was right for her, and I commend her on that.
But it means more than just bravery, JoJo is a role model for children. Her coming out allows her young fans to see someone happy, successful, and gay. Growing up bisexual, I hardly saw anyone like me in the media and it was an isolating experience feeling so different to people around me (little did I know how many of us there were!). But JoJo’s decision to come out publicly gives me hope. By seeing JoJo live her authentic life, being happy, with her message to rise above hatred and bullying, all while running a multi-million dollar business, I hope a young gay child out there feels less alone and feel like they have a future. And with how many fans JoJo has, I know she is making a difference to the world by coming out.
I applaud JoJo for living her life truthfully, and I wish her all the best for the rest of her life.