March 22, 2021 | 4:57pm EDT
JoJo Siwa, a 17-year-old multimillionaire, recently came out as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community after about a month of dating her girlfriend, though she had began dropping hints of her sexuality six months earlier.
But first, some background on the child star turned sparkly icon: Siwa’s net worth is estimated to be between an astounding $12 and $14 million dollars. She first found stardom as a young child on Dance Moms in 2015, though after leaving the show, her popularity grew after releasing songs like Boomerang. Siwa also has multiple clothing lines in Target and Walmart stores, and her iconic bows have continually been a popular purchase. She has been signed to a Nickelodeon contract since 2017. D.R.E.A.M. The Tour started in 2019, but it was cancelled in early 2020 because of COVID-19. The solution? Set up a full stage in the backyard and live stream a virtual tour, called WORLD WIDE LIVE!, of course!
Now, the timeline: on June 6th, 2020, Siwa posted a video on TikTok dancing on her backyard stage to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, an iconic queer anthem. This may have been an attempt to come out, as most comments at the time were along the lines of “let’s not suspect anything” and “let her live without labels” (therefore, of course, labeling her as straight, the default). It has not been confirmed if this was an attempt to come out, or if she was simply jamming to a song. In hindsight, though, it seems intentional to release such a video during Pride Month.
More than six months later, on Dec. 24, 2020, Siwa posted a video with someone who TikTok users affectionately refer to as a “Hey Mamas” lesbian, or a lesbian who has a top knot, an undercut, a Nike headband, a tight Nike sports bra and/or Adidas joggers, and who says the phrase "Hey Mamas." The two of them were wearing matching outfits (including the traditional Adidas joggers). While this was much less obvious, and not strictly a “coming out video”, the comments on this video were filled with queers with gaydars strong enough to realize that Siwa had been spending lots of time with a stereotypical lesbian.
January 20, 2021, the day when JoJo’s audience realized that what had only been possibilities might be true: JoJo posted a video with the same Gaga song from her summer TikTok, decked out in a bow and sweatshirt with rainbows on them. Famous friends like Colleen Ballinger, Hyram, and James Charles commented supportive messages, and as the video gained traction, almost every gay creator on TikTok welcomed Siwa to the community. The comments quickly filled with excitement over the quickly growing theory that she might be queer.
The next day, user @kentboyd_, an actor, writer, and dancer, posted a video on the @pridehousela account, a group of LA-based queers who live together and post queer content. The video included the pride house members and Siwa dancing together to Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” with the caption “Now your (sic) one of us!! @itsjojosiwa.” However, most of the comments on this video were people still speculating.
Later that day, Jan. 21, user @femmeflowers commented “sooo can we start saying ‘do you listen to jojo siwa?’ instead of girl in red?” on a TikTok theorizing about Siwa. Girl in Red is a gay Norwegian indie pop singer-songwriter, and TikTok users have made it trendy to indirectly ask creators if they are queer by asking if they listen to “Girl in Red.” JoJo Siwa herself commented “100% love that.” Screenshots of this quickly circulated around TikTok and Twitter, where users had almost immediately made Siwa coming out a trending topic. This was the first bit of confirmation from Siwa about her sexuality.
She then posted a picture of herself in a chevron, almost rainbow, jacket and rainbow bow with the caption: “You make me HAPPPPPPPYYYYYYY!!!” Similar to her January “Born This Way” TikTok, the comments were filled with congratulations from celebrities. Despite continuing to avoid labels, by dropping all of these hints it was becoming increasingly obvious that she was a member of the beloved alphabet mafia.
On Jan. 22, Garrett Clayton, Tanner in “Teen Beach Movie,” posted a TikTok of some pride house members and Siwa dancing together with the caption “Welcome to @pridehousela @itsjojosiwa” with a smiley face and heart emoji. This helped cement the fact that yes, she is indeed the gay we were hoping for.
Just a bit after that, Siwa posted a picture to her Twitter and Instagram story. It was the final bit of confirmation we needed - Siwa wearing a tee shirt that said “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.” from, of course, her cousin. This is the first time Siwa directly attached a label to herself! Siwa then proceeded to retweet, quote tweet, repost to her Instagram story, and like numerous comments across all platforms from her supporters.
On the 23rd, Siwa had an Instagram Live where she talked about how extremely happy she has become since coming out. "I always believed that my person was just going to be my person," she said. "And if that person happened to be a boy, great, and if that person happened to be a girl, great! Right now I'm super-duper happy, and I want to share everything with the world." She also specified that she doesn’t have any specific label for herself.
Since then, both Siwa and her girlfriend, Kylie, have posted cheesy photos across various social media platforms, and Siwa has even professed her love for her girlfriend on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Feb. 3.
So now we know: JoJo Siwa’s sparkles and rainbows represent more than just a loud fashion sense. But why does it matter? In a time when more and more people feel comfortable being their authentic selves, why is Siwa’s coming out so relevant?
It’s because of her audience: her brand is marketed towards young children. Representation in the media is always important, and there is still not enough. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of children who have admired JoJo are being exposed to the normalization of queerness.
Siwa did receive backlash, however. She was swatted by the paparazzi shortly after coming out, which is the act of sending the police to someone’s home, forcing them to leave their house. This is a potentially traumatizing event, and remember that Siwa is still a teenager, despite her fame. All of that commotion simply for some low-quality paparazzi photos.
Additionally, there have been a fair share of hate comments. However, Siwa knows how to rise above them. In response to a negative Instagram comment, JoJo responded with a simple, “Okay!” letting her audience know that the hate doesn’t bother her.
As JoJo Siwa continues to grow in net worth, queerness, and popularity, her authentic self will continue to shine through.