With her gaudy hair bows and puerile behavior, Siwa is an easy celebrity to root against. (Illustration by Luca Bowles, Kingston University)

Who is JoJo Siwa, and Why Does She Dance Like That?

The 15-year-old phenom owes her celebrity as much to her haters as she does her fans.

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The 15-year-old phenom owes her celebrity as much to her haters as she does her fans.

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the newest teenage icon, JoJo Siwa, whose iconic hair bows and spastic dance moves have inspired equal parts hatred and infatuation across the web. Whether you first took note of the trending star because she was caught beefing with Justin Bieber, or because you saw her dancing arrhythmically on “The Tonight Show,” it’s high time you learned the tale of Siwa.

Siwa, an Omaha, Nebraska, native, started out on the infamous Lifetime show “Dance Moms,” which has produced a number of other teen stars, including Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler, Chloe Lukasiak and Kalani Hilliker, to name a few. Siwa remained a part of the crew until the second half of Season 6, during which she signed a contract with Nickelodeon.

At the same time, Siwa started her YouTube channel, which now boasts 8.8 million subscribers. There, she posts various types of videos, ranging from colorful collaborations with other influencers to her many viral music videos. That’s right, she’s a music-maker too.

More than her music, style or dance moves though, Siwa has become famous for the amount of ire she stirs in her followers. Certain people have a knack for rubbing others the wrong way, and Siwa seems to have made a career out of her ability to do just that. She is polite enough, and avoids most outright antagonism, but her persona, with its over-the-top bubbliness and overgrown Barbie doll aesthetic, has become the internet’s most recent favorite thing to hate.

Siwa is aware of what her detractors have to say about her, whether they’re roasting her height, appearance, mannerisms or abilities. Many of these hate videos are compilations of her speaking voice, as she is known to speak quickly and loudly, a key component of her eccentric personality.

Critics also point to her childish appearance as cause for excoriation, because she dresses like an elementary-aged princess instead of a 15-year-old girl. Her blinged-out outfits, bedazzled with glitter, rhinestones and the like, have come to be something of punching bag for anyone who takes offense with her brand.

Her outfits, falsetto and persona all pale in comparison, however, to her most reviled accessory: her hair bows. Indeed, JoJo Siwa is not JoJo Siwa without an ostentatious knot of fabric adorning her flaxen hair. It doesn’t help, either, that her bows only draw attention to her hairstyle, which is rivaled in its juvenileness only by her childish clothing.

She sports a tight side ponytail, a garish construction that exudes a pre-pubescent femininity. What’s more, the updo makes her hairline appear to be physically receding on one side because of how much the ponytail pulls her hair. So amidst the choruses of chortling, a few critics have actually expressed genuine concern over the future of her follicles.

However, there are many loyal Siwanatorz (Siwa’s fanbase name) who have come to her defense, claiming that she’s not doing any harm by being a happy teenager. She brings joy and excitement with her wherever she goes, and her attitude seems infectious and fun. “The people hating on you are pathetic,” one Twitter user wrote in her defense. “The fact that they dedicate so much time to hate on you for literally no reason is just pathetic. And like Colleen [Ballinger] said they got nothing on you. You are kind, smart, funny, beautiful, successful, strong.”

When exploring why Siwa has become such an object of derision, many point out that her fame stemmed has largely stemmed from the bratty behavior she expressed on “Dance Moms.” Of all the complaints lodged against Siwa, this is the most convincing. The internet loves encouraging bad behavior, and its habit of doing so has led to the rise of problematic celebrities like Danielle Bregoli and Jake Paul.

Indeed, as one Quora user wrote, “I do not think that JoJo deserves fame and I think that it is time for more talented musicians to enter the music industry successfully but for now, teens everywhere in the US are going to look up to the 5 foot 9 inch toddler with a major bow obsession.”

Regardless, it’s no secret that Siwa is on her way to fame. Love her or hate, you’re watching her, and those views are building her empire. Siwa’s time in the spotlight doesn’t seem like it will be ending anytime soon, so either stop watching or enjoy the show.

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