NIKITA BYRNES | NEWS
Joelle Joanie “JoJo” Siwa made headlines in America in late August 2021 with her announcement that she would be the first on the fan-favourite American dancing competition, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), to have a same-sex dance partner.
Siwa, who is now eighteen-years-old, began her public career auditioning in competitions to be a part of Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Moms, ultimately appearing on two seasons of the hit show in 2014 and 2015. In early 2016 at only thirteen-years-old, Siwa had released two hit singles which were remarkably popular. What Siwa is likely most well-known for, however, are her hair accessories. In 2016, Siwa also collaborated with American accessory and jewellery company, Claire’s, to release a line of over-sized colourful and bejewelled hair bows. The bows were inspired by those that Siwa publicly wore herself and which had become part of her brand.
Alongside her singing career, Siwa is known for her YouTube channel, Its JoJo Siwa. Siwa currently has 12.3 million YouTube subscribers, 10.9 million Instagram followers, and 36.3 million TikTok fans, an indicator of her success with younger age groups. She caused international fanfare online in January 2021 with her Instagram story post that she was part of the LGBTQ+ community, in a picture wearing a “Best Gay Cousin Ever” t-shirt. She officially came out during a joint interview with her girlfriend, Kylie Pew, but has said she does not want to label her sexuality.
The suggestion for Siwa’s same-sex partner was apparently provided by DWTS’s producers, to which Siwa replied in an interview with USA Today: “Why not show the message even stronger that you can love whomever you want to love?” Many have approved the move, including the show’s executive producer and host, Tyra Banks, of America’s Next Top Model fame, and LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation Glaad’s head of talent, Anthony Allen Ramos. Ramos commented in a statement: “[this] is a real opportunity here for people to celebrate the same-sex pairing and root for JoJo and all LGBTQ young people.”
2021 marks DWTS’s momentous 30th season. Same-sex couples have competed on international versions of the show, including the British version upon which America’s DWTS is based, Strictly Come Dancing, but this will be the first time it has occurred on American screens.