I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always been a JoJo Siwa fan.
The 17-year-old dancer, singer and YouTube personality was an enigma to me — what’s the deal with all the rhinestones and her sparkly bows?
Honestly, there is a lot of negativity and criticism surrounding Siwa’s persona, especially from those who are near her age group.
Younger audiences, on the other hand, happily decorate their backpacks, water bottles and accessories with everything JoJo Siwa. And this is not surprising, as Siwa’s brand specifically caters to those who are young enough to appreciate stores like Justice and Claire’s.
The Nebraska native’s career began when she was just nine years old; she was featured on the second season of “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” a show judged by the infamous Abby Lee Miller. Young dancers would band together with their mothers to compete for a $100,000 prize.
Though Siwa received fifth place, her sassy personality was a shining light during her off-screen interviews. According to Insider, “The crew would gather in the control room to watch JoJo’s interviews live because they were so compelling.” Siwa’s knack for being on camera propelled her on her path to stardom.
After Siwa’s “Dance Moms” season ended, she created a YouTube channel, which now has over 11 million subscribers. In addition to her YouTube fame, Siwa has also produced a few singles, and she has hosted her very own Nickelodeon web show, “JoJo and Bow Bow Show Show,” which features an animated version of Siwa and her dog Bow Bow.
But to those who aren’t in the age group of Siwa’s intended audience, the origin of all her success may seem baffling. Before doing my own research, I really didn’t understand what made her so popular — and why seemingly all of the kids I babysat had an entire DIY slime kit inspired by the superstar.
The more I learned about Siwa, the more I realized just how much backlash she receives. Whether the hate is coming from adults or children, there never fails to be at least one spiteful comment on her YouTube videos or TikToks.
“I’m not one to hate on people but ur 16 take the bow out,” said a TikTok user in reference to one of Siwa’s many decorative hairpieces.
“Your 17, so act 17,” said another.
It seems as though the YouTube star cannot catch a break, no matter how many times she addresses her haters’ mean comments.
“They’re making fun of me because I’m dressing like a toddler and I look young, and, like, I will say it is a personal thing,” said Siwa in an interview, when asked about how she responds to negativity. “I do like to dress like that, and I don’t care. I’m wearing leggings with rainbow stars on them and I just spilled mac and cheese all over my white shirt. I am a child.”
Recently, Siwa made a collaboration video with YouTube makeup sensation James Charles, in which Charles wiped the sparkles from Siwa’s face and revamped her signature ponytail. His makeover of the superstar certainly revealed an older, more sophisticated looking Siwa.
And while Siwa agreed that Charles’ makeover looked fantastic, it simply was not her style. “I will say, it’s very pretty and you did a wonderful job on the hair and on the makeup,” she said. “Obviously, it’s not me. I mean, you know how I showed up here in sparkles and bright pink and neon and rainbow, but it is really pretty and you did an incredible job.”
Siwa has no problem admitting to her childishness, which only seems to further aggravate her haters. But why, despite her radiant self-confidence, do people continue to so aggressively hate on this girl?
According to the Psych IRLYouTube channel, Donna explains that the distaste for Siwa comes from deep-rooted apprehension for those who deviate from the norm. Siwa is the prime example of this, as her youthful style and her spunky high-pony place her in the “other” category when it comes to the way a typical teenage girl is known to act.
When Donna asked her Instagram followers their ideas of the standard American teenage girl, many of the answers she received didn’t exactly entail owning a bedazzled piano or a collection of over 800 bows.
“As you can see, JoJo Siwa does not fit into any of these categories, which is why she gets some of the criticism that she gets— just because she doesn’t fit in,” explains Donna.
And while “be yourself” is such a commonly used mantra when it comes to raising confident children, society is so quick to shoot down someone who models this to the utmost degree. The sad truth is that teenage girls will inevitably receive backlash no matter how they behave — even if they seem to be acting mature for their age.
This is the case for Danielle Peskowitz Bregoli, also known as Bhad Bhabie, a 17-year-old made famous by her viral appearance on Dr. Phil when she was fifteen. Like Siwa, Peskowitz has made quite the name for herself on social media, and has even released an album featuring many famous rappers.
Though the two girls are the same age, their personas seem to directly oppose one another — and yet critics are constantly pushing for them to act more like each other.
While Peskowitz’s targeted audience is not suitable for younger children, Siwa makes an excellent role model for preteen girls who are learning to embrace their individuality.
Maybe you think Siwa’s bows are a little overbearing, or perhaps you’re sick of hearing your little cousin sing “Boomerang.” But you have to hand it to her — Siwa has become wildly successful just for being unique. Instead of hating on her, I think we could all learn a thing or two from her youthful spirit and her ability to remain true to herself.