University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

JoJo Si-What On Earth is Going On?

Ben Pope

ByBen Pope

May 14, 2024

“Karma’s a bitch, you should have known better” is not quite the chorus we would have expected to hear from a Jojo Siwa single just a few years ago. Rising to fame on the US reality show Dance Moms aged nine, Jojo Siwa has dominated social media and pop culture ever since. For better or for worse, her YouTube videos, pop singles, and signature bows have turned her into a social media phenomenon, accumulating over 30 million followers across her platforms and over 2 billion views.

So, why now, as she continues to rake in millions of dollars in merchandise and YouTube videos from her masses of pre-teen fans, would she choose to jeopardise her squeaky-clean image?

For those not entirely up to date in the world of Jojo Siwa, the star came out as gay in 2021, creating TikTok to queer pop anthem ‘Born This Way’. No longer concerned with appeasing the mass audiences of American children, Jojo slowly began to shed the child-like image she once publicly portrayed. Instead, we receive an older, wiser Jojo – a twenty something woman publicly navigating her way through sexuality and relationships. This has marked quite a change from her YouTube playdates with North West, just years prior.

While Siwa’s gradual coming of age has created murmurs of discussion and controversy on the internet over the past few years, it has undoubtedly reached its peak with the release of ‘Karma’ and a strange string of press interviews which shortly followed. The music video for ‘Karma’ pictures Siwa in a revealing jumpsuit, dancing in the sea and getting intimate with a series of different women on the beach. As a viewer, it is simultaneously shocking and intriguing – this is Jojo as we have never seen her before.

Teaser clips from the music video went viral on TikTok in the days approaching its release, with users criticising her questionable choreography, and interesting lyric choices.

Notably, the opening lines of the song “I was a bad girl, I did some bad things” led to some fans questioning how authentic the song actually was, considering much of her teenage years consisted of her filming Jojo Siwa-themed baking videos on YouTube, whilst wearing custom rainbow themed costumes. 

The star’s apparent rebrand appears to have also extended to her press interviews regarding the song. Referring to her updated look in a red carpet interview, Jojo claimed that she is the “first of her generation” to “make this dramatic of a switch” – a clip that went immediately viral on social media. 

Fans and the internet alike were stunned as she compared herself to the likes of Elvis when describing the resurgence of her music career. Alongside this, she claimed that with the new song, she had invented a new genre of pop –  coining the term “gay pop”.

With the likes of Elton John, George Michael and Lady Gaga amassing huge queer fan bases across multiple decades before the star was even born, Jojo appears to lack some self-awareness when referring to her personal impact on the music industry. 

She later retracted the claims, stating that she is neither the creator nor president of queer pop, but “would like to be considered the CEO” of it; some would argue that this is an equally bold statement.

The star seems to tread a fine line, where the audience isn’t quite sure whether she is or isn’t in on the joke. Is she an out-of-touch child star who truly believes that she is the next Elvis Presley, or is this new ‘bad-girl’ image just one elaborate stunt for publicity and attention? Whatever her intentions, she remains one of the hottest topics on the internet as of late, with Google searches for her name increasing by over 700% this month. 

Love her or hate her, it seems that Jojo Siwa is back with a new image, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Only the test of time will reveal whether this continues to elevate her career, or if she should have, in fact, “known better”. 

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