This article was published on February 27th, 2021
When Jojo Siwa first lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” earlier last month, her fans began speculating about her sexuality. “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgender life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive,” she appeared to say in the TikTok video.
A few hours later, the 17-year-old put the speculations to rest by posting on Instagram in a T-shirt written: “Best.Gay.Cousin.Ever” She had finally come out. The announcement was met with immense excitement, with fans outpouring their support online.
It was a significant moment. Not just for herself but for her audience as well, which comprises kids and tweens. “Personally, I have never, ever, ever been this happy before, and it feels really awesome,” Jojo said during a live Instagram session. It was an undeniably brave move, one that even public figures of her calibre or age have not succeeded at doing. And so it came as a breath of fresh air for the popular pop star to share her sexuality with the world.
She first rose to fame on the American reality series Dance Moms before signing with Nickelodeon. The teenager then launched her music career, producing hit singles like ‘Boomerang,’ which has surpassed 900 million views.
Speaking of YouTube, Jojo boasts of a following of more than 12.2 million subscribers. She has close to 32 million followers on TikTok. She is indeed a kid’s entertainer. The young girls adore her so much that they don her signature hair bows which Forbes estimates to have hit $400 million in sales. So, yeah, Jojo is a big deal.
Her evident influence on kids and the younger generation makes her coming out announcement all the more significant, shining a spotlight on young LGBTQ people going through similar struggles. Queer therapists see this as a big step in enabling parents to become more welcoming to their queer kids.
Many children who come out of the closet are often rejected by their families leading to mental health issues including depression, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. A recent survey on LGBTQ youth mental health revealed that 29% of LGBTQ youth in the US had experienced homelessness, been kicked out or escaped from their homes. With Jojo coming out, this narrative could change, with most parents likely to have a different perspective on the LGBTQ teen experience.
The stigma of coming out
During her Instagram live session, Jojo chose to shine a light on the stigma associated with coming out. She made it clear to her fans that coming out is not a scary thing anymore, adding that it is “proud to be different.”
“I think a lot of people are afraid of being different, but that’s something we should never, ever be afraid of. That’s something we should be proud of, and we should celebrate,” she said. LGBTQ youth can also find inspiration in Jojo’s decision not to choose a specific label, which one can make later when he/she feels safe. What matters is that you are happy with yourself.
Her coming out could come at a cost with the possibility of losing fans, income or branding deals. Several followers, primarily parents, claimed their children are no longer going to watch any of her videos. Despite the backlash or lack thereof, Jojo is certainly not backpedalling on her decision.
The Dance Moms alum is seen as an embodiment of her character of being unapologetically herself. It is a sign of progress in the entertainment industry, where celebrities are afraid of coming out for fear of losing their audience or not getting work. Jojo’s coming out could signal an end to this issue and encourage more LGBTQ people to live their most authentic life.
For now, Jojo says she will continue to lead a private life, but one thing is for certain — she’s the ‘Happiest Human Alive’, according to her Instagram bio.