JoJo Siwa – whose real name is Joelle Joanie – was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 19, 2003.
At just 9 years old, Siwa was introduced to the world when she competed on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, a spin-off of Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Moms. Siwa came in fifth place.
Siwa followed up her debut with a two-season stint on Dance Moms in 2015.
Siwa and her mom, Jessalyn, became staples on the show, with Jessalyn saying when the pair were introduced for season 2, “I would say it’s my mission in life to make JoJo a star.” For her part, Siwa was known for being unafraid to talk back to coach Abby Lee Miller.
Siwa told PEOPLE in 2016 of her relationship with Miller, “She’s tough, but I love her. She makes me cry a lot, but you kind of just have to grab some tissues and go back in.”
The show’s executive producer, Bryan Stinson, told Rolling Stone, “During shooting, the crew would gather in the control room to watch JoJo’s interviews live because they were so compelling.”
In 2015, Siwa took her newfound fan base and headed to YouTube, where she soon began to amass a large amount of followers. She currently has more than 12 million subscribers on YouTube.
In 2016, Siwa broke onto the music scene with her first single, “Boomerang.” The video has been viewed upwards of 900 million times on YouTube and went platinum in August 2017.
Bow Down to the Bow Queen
The star, known for her love of hair accessories, turned her iconic bows (originally made by her mom) into a business. In 2016, JoJo’s Bows started selling at Claire’s.
The bows were so coveted by young people everywhere that the BBC reported some schools were banning them for reasons spanning from being distracting to students being bullied for not being able to afford them.
Siwa told Today in 2019 that her bow is “more than a cute, fun hair accessory.” She said that, because she and her fans don’t stand for bullying, the bow is almost a signal for others. “When you see a kid or someone wearing a JoJo bow, you know that they’re a Siwanator, which means they are kind, they are nice, they are strong, they are powerful, they love everyone, they support everyone, they want to be your friend, they want to be everyone’s friend.”
Siwa told the outlet that there were 60 million bows sold that year.
A Big Deal
In 2017, Siwa joined the Nickelodeon family when she signed an “overall talent deal” with the network. Since then, not only has she scored her own TV specials and guest appearances, the network also helped her launch product deals.
Siwa has her own doll, a line of slime, a clothing line called JoJo’s Closet, a beverage called JoJo’s Juice and more. She has continued to sell products through Claire’s as well, though that hasn’t been without a few hiccups.
The star has had to respond to backlash from fans (and their parents) because of her products: In June 2019, her makeup line was recalled for containing asbestos and in January 2021, the star had to apologize for content included in her board game.
On top of seemingly endless merch, Siwa also guest-starred on shows like The Thundermans and School of Rock and has voiced herself in the Web series, The JoJo & BowBow Show Show. Siwa also voiced a character in The Angry Birds Movie 2.
Home Is Where the Candy Is
In 2019, Siwa and her family moved into a California mansion complete with a candy counter, mannequins wearing her iconic costumes and a room filled with her branded merchandise. Siwa showed off her colorful, over-the-top, candy-filled residence to fans on YouTube in January 2020.
Making New (Famous) Friends
In 2019, 15-year-old Siwa got to “babysit” Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West’s oldest daughter, North.
Siwa, of course, shared the experience with the world in a nearly 7-minute video. Kardashian West was actually there, watching from behind-the-scenes.
“I had so much fun getting to film with North and @kimkardashian. Seriously North is SO adorable and awesome, and Kim is one of the SWEETEST people ever!” the teen sensation shared on Instagram.
“My baby girl North had her dream of life come true! She got to spend the day with @itsjojosiwa #speechless #bff #Only5Once,” Kardashian West tweeted with a selfie of North and Siwa.
She’s Got Influence
In 2020, Siwa was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. Kim Kardashian West wrote an essay about the young mogul in which she called her, “a ray of sunshine in a world that seems scary right now.”
Kardashian West added, “She’s a great role model for children, and her optimism is more necessary now than ever. It’s no wonder my 7-year-old daughter North and millions of other children around the world adore her.”
Taking It On Tour
In 2018, Siwa announced the D.R.E.A.M. tour, a 70-city tour that began in May 2019 in Phoenix and was meant to run through June 2020. Unfortunately for JoJo and her Siwanatorz, the tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, Siwa was revealed as the T. Rex on The Masked Singer, telling the judges, “I actually paused my tour to do this. I was like, ‘Pause, I want to do this!’ “
In 2020, the 17-year-old shocked fans when she ditched her iconic side pony, accessories and colorful outfits on TikTok.
Siwa surprised her fans when she posted a viral TikTok lipsyncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” in January 2021.
“No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive,” Siwa sang while wearing a rainbow-covered bow.
Many fans began congratulating the Dance Moms alumna for coming out, especially after after she showed off a new T-shirt, reading “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever,” on Twitter. “My cousin got me a new shirt,” she simply wrote alongside the photo of her wearing the top.
Siwa then went on Instagram Live to chat with her fans and, in reponse to a fan who asked, “What label are you?” the star said: “I have thought about this, but the reason I’m not going to say this answer is because I don’t really know this answer. I think humans are awesome, I think humans are really incredible people. Right now, I’m super duper happy and I want to share everything with the world but I also want to keep things in my life private until they are ready to be public. Right now what matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love, that it’s okay. It’s awesome and the world is there for you. There are so many people that are there for you. I know everyone’s situation is different and it might be harder for some people and easier for some people to come out or be themselves but I think coming out has this stigma around it — that it’s this really, really scary thing, but it’s not anymore. There are so many accepting and loving people out there that it’s okay. Of course people are going to say it’s not normal, but nothing is normal. Literally not one thing about anybody is normal and it’s okay not to be normal, it’s okay to be a little different, it’s okay to be a little weird, strange, different. That’s something we should never, ever be afraid of. That’s something we should be proud of. … I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, that’s what matters.”
Show of Support
Abby Lee Miller shared a heartfelt Instagram post in support of her 17-year-old former Dance Moms student, writing alongside several throwback images of herself and Siwa, “I always knew the world would be a more colorful, positive, sparkly place with a kind, loving, dazzling triple threat like you in it – a shining example for the kids out there to live their BEST lives each and every day. “
“You put your heart on the platter! (If you know you know),” Miller added. “Love you kiddo!!! Keep making me proud 🌈.”
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