Everything you need to know about JoJo Siwa’s rise to queer icon status

The social media superstar rocked the world when she came out as queer in January

JoJo Siwa is out, proud and happy. The 17-year-old multi-hyphenate YouTuber, actress and singer came out as queer in January, announcing a new relationship and delivering the news in her signature shade of rainbow glitter.

Now, in a wide-ranging People magazine cover story for the April 19 issue, Siwa expanded on what her coming out means.

“I’ve never gotten this much support from the world,” she told People. “I think this is the first time that I’ve felt so personally happy.

“Performing has always made me super happy,” she added. “But for the first time, personally, I am like, whoa, happiness. I am so proud to be me.”

But if you aren’t one of her millions of followers—or are more than two decades old—you may not know much about the global superstar turned LGBTQ2S+ icon, or the power she wields in glitter and rainbows over kids around the world. 

Here’s what you need to know about Siwa and why her coming out is such a big deal. 

Who is JoJo Siwa?

Joelle Joanie “Jojo” Siwa is a dancer, singer, actress, YouTuber, TikToker, entrepreneur, brand ambassador and a lot more. 

Siwa was one of the breakout successes from the popular reality TV Dance Moms franchise. She appeared on the flagship show for two seasons alongside her mom Jessalynn, before leaving to take a contract with Nickelodeon. From there she appeared in several Nickelodeon shows, started recording music and ascended to internet stardom.

By 2020, Siwa was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, having accrued over 12 million YouTube subscribers and over 33.4 million TikTok followers—close to the total population of Canada. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@itsjojosiwa/video/6932223577949244677?source=h5_m&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6891730160531080709

She’s dropped albums, a line of hair bows in partnership with Claire’s, a wave of merch including a literal mini Jeep and her own shampoo. She even has a movie set to come out this summer. Siwa was on the Masked Singer, and she just released her 11th clothing line through Target—all this before she turns 18 this May. 

In a write-up for the 2020 Time list, Kim Kardashian West—yes, that Kim K.—called Siwa a “ray of sunshine in a world that seems scary right now.”

“As a parent, you want your kids to admire positive figures,” Kardashian West wrote. 

 

“There’s no one more positive than JoJo. You just can’t help but smile when you see her rainbow ponytail. She’s a great role model for children, and her optimism is more necessary now than ever.”

Because, of course, Siwa also babysat Kardashian West’s eldest daughter, North. 

How did JoJo Siwa come out?

Siwa’s fans were first tipped off to her queerness when she shared a video lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” in January. Shortly after, she shared images of herself in a T-shirt bearing the phrase “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.” and declared her love for new girlfriend, Kylie. 

In an Instagram video on Jan. 23, Siwa described sharing her story with the world as “awesome.”

“I’m just so happy, and it’s just so amazing,” she said. “And I want people to know that there is so much love in the world.”

At the time, she said she wasn’t ready to label her sexuality beyond dating another girl because she wasn’t sure what label fit. And in early February, like any good baby gay, she shared super adorable one-month anniversary celebratory posts to social media. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@itsjojosiwa/video/6926956576033000709

In the People article, Siwa expanded on what coming out has meant to her and her struggle with labels. 

“I still don’t know what I am. It’s like, I want to figure it out. And I have this joke. Her name is Kylie. And so I say that I’m Ky-sexual,” she told People. “But like, I don’t know, bisexual, pansexual, queer, lesbian, gay, straight. I always just say gay because it just kind of covers it or queer because I think the keyword is cool.

“I like queer,” she added. “Technically I would say that I am pansexual because that’s how I have always been my whole life is just like, my human is my human.”

We stan a pansexual queen. 

How have people reacted and what does this mean?

After she came out in January, celebrities from Elton John to Meghan Trainor celebrated her announcement. 

As an internationally famous star whose market is largely young kids, Siwa coming out is a big deal. For early millennials like me, it’s equivalent to if Miley Cyrus had come out in the mid-aughts while filming Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert or if Kristen Stewart did at the height of the Twilight” craze.

Needless to say,  people have taken notice. 

Increasingly, fictional characters in series aimed at kids are starting to better reflect LGBTQ2S+ diversity. Shows like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Steven Universe paved the way for young queer kids to see themselves in media. But for a real-life entertainer of Siwa’s reach and mainstream influence to come out and proudly show off her girlfriend on TikTok is huge. 

Siwa’s songs have long advocated for self-love, with lyrics like, “Whoever you are, whatever you are / Whatever you do / You’re the number one you.” A queer JoJo Siwa means a queer icon delivering those messages of loving yourself to kids around the world, and that’s pretty dang cool.

Not only did Siwa come out loudly and proudly, she came out at the height of her power and popularity—and particularly at the height of her popularity with young kids. (The girl had toilet seats with her face on them, for goodness’ sake.)

And now, longtime Siwa fans and internet lesbians alike are fawning over her and Kylie’s relationship.

What’s next for JoJo Siwa and her fans?

Siwa said she experienced targeted harassment and hate following her coming out and she “couldn’t sleep for three days.” Her house was “swatted” shortly following the disclosure. (Swatting refers to a third party falsely calling in a threat to police, resulting in them rushing a location and forcing inhabitants to come outside.)

In a video shared to her personal videographer’s social media, Siwa said paparazzi were waiting outside after the police arrived.

“I think because I recently came out to the internet, the media is obviously very excited, which I love, and I love the support,” she said. “However, you could’ve just hung outside my house and I would’ve eventually come outside my house.”

But Siwa has said her disclosure won’t slow or stop her ongoing messages of love, acceptance and positivity. If anything, they’ve become even more applicable. 

“My thing is, I don’t want people to watch my videos or buy my merchandise if they aren’t going to support not only me, but the LGBTQ community,” she told People.

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

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