In a TikTok lip syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Gay Cousin” on it, JoJo Siwa, 17-year-old popstar and teen sensation came out to the world. If you don’t happen to have any preteen daughters or are over the age of 13, you may not know who JoJo Siwa is. Let’s provide some context–and demonstrate just how big of a deal Siwa’s coming out post was!
JoJo Siwa is a singer and dancer with a massive social media following. Her TikTok account is the 19th most popular account in the entire world–with 33.3 million followers–and she has 11 million Instagram followers. She rose to fame after appearing on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, a spinoff of the Lifetime series Dance Moms, and signed a multi-platform talent contract with Nickelodeon in 2017.
With her giant bows, brightly colored outfits, and bubbly personality, JoJo Siwa is the personification of glitter. A successful business woman, too, she has her own line of bows at Claire’s in addition to various other merchandise: dolls, apparel, toys, games, and home decor. Naturally, most of her apparel and goods are full of neon colors and sequins. To top it all off, Siwa has released three studio albums featuring topics ranging from dancing to cyber bullying, which we see in her song “Boomerang.”
It goes without saying that Siwa has an incredibly large social influence, but despite her larger-than-life presence in many young people’s lives she ran the risk of losing a large part of her fanbase or even her career by coming out as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Historically, cultural institutions have attempted to invalidate LGBTQ+ identities by deeming them “perverse”–especially to families with young children like many of Siwa’s followers. Therefore, it was not only extremely brave for Siwa to come out, but it was a big win for queer representation in the media.
It’s hard enough as it is to see positive and accurate images of LGBT+ individuals in the media, nevermind for children and pre-teen girls. Some young people may see a reflection of themselves in Siwa. And, even for those who don’t, Siwa has played an important role in normalizing queer relationships and identities.
A few days after coming out, Siwa shared a series of photos on Instagram featuring her girlfriend: “After being my best friend for over a year, January 8th 2021 I got to start calling this exceptional human my Girlfriend.” They recently celebrated Valentine’s Day together, with Siwa announcing that she’s “fallen in love” with her girlfriend.
Perhaps most importantly, JoJo Siwa has demonstrated that being unsure about your identity or labels is completely normal. She hasn’t identified with any specific labels about her sexuality, but has stated “the reason why I’m not ready to say is because I don’t really know this answer.” Even without labels, Siwa is happy and content with who she is, which is really all any of us need to know.
Grace Weinberg (she/they) is a senior at Simmons University pursuing degrees in English, Spanish, and Women’s and Gender Studies. When she’s not watching horror movies or reading Octavia Butler, you can find her roller skating. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her cat Binx.
Featured image from JoJo’s Instagram.