Jojo Siwa Misses The Point Again

mad dyke mag
8 min readApr 5, 2024

Seven girls under the age of 14, all in pale blue leotards, black shorts, and beige canvas dance shoes, stand in a line before Abby Lee Miller, Pittsburgh’s acclaimed c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶ a̶b̶u̶s̶e̶r̶ dance instructor. Most of the girls slouch awkwardly, turning inward on themselves, holding their arms across their chests or behind their backs. But eleven-year-old Joelle Joanie (Jojo) Siwa stands stick straight, hands on her hips, large white bow teetering atop her bleached blonde ponytail.

“Let’s get to the pyramid,” Miller, wearing an Abby Lee Miller Dance Company t-shirt and hoops the size of salad plates, announces ominously.

The pyramid is a way for Miller to rank the girls’ performances. An added layer of psychological torment that serves to pit the girls against each other, ensures they fear and revere Ms. Miller in a never-ending quest for her approval, and relies on the idea that public humiliation in front of their peers will be enough to make them improve their routines each week.

“We have Jojo, you were fifth in the competition,” Miller continues, revealing Jojo’s headshot as fifth place on the pyramid. “Sometimes you act like a five-year-old. Maybe five is your lucky number. Or your not-so-lucky number.”

Standing off to the side with the other stage moms, Jessalyn Siwa is about to burst. “She did a good job last week,” she blurts out. “She did a solo. You poured blood on her. You put a four-inch crown on her head. She did a good job.”

Jojo’s fifth on Miller’s pyramid because she was supposed to watch the movie Carrie, the inspiration for her blood-soaked solo, but she was too scared. As a result, Miller felt Jojo didn’t portray enough raw emotion in her performance. Her “possession” face wasn’t possessed enough.

“When you’re given an assignment, you do it,” Miller reiterates. She suggests that maybe Jojo’s not cut out for the Abby Lee Miller Dance Company and rips her headshot off the pyramid, causing Jojo to cry. “No, no, no crying children,” Miller says. “If you yell at me, I’m going to cry,” Jojo says defiantly. Miller kicks her out of the studio, and presumably off the team. Jessalyn follows her daughter outside, eventually convincing her to return and apologize to Miller so she can reclaim her position on the pyramid.

Nearly ten years, an overall deal with Nickelodeon, and an accessories line at JCPenney later, Jojo is now a household name — and an adult. She ditched her signature Baby Bop bows and lowered her ponytail half an inch. She came out as queer, posting photos of herself kissing her girlfriend at Disney World like a gay Ariana Grande. And alongside her mom Jessalyn, she founded her very own kid pop group, XOMG Pop!

Seven girls under the age of 14, Leigha Sanderson, Brooklynn Pitts, Kinley Cunningham, Bella Llerena, Dallas Skye, Kiya Barczyszyn, and Tamara Andreasyan (aka Tinie T), all drowning in rainbow rhinestones, sit in front of Jojo and Jessalyn for an interview with Young Hollywood. “It’s interesting, the timing of all of this, because I am now sort of transitioning into adulthood,” an 18-year-old Jojo says of forming XOMG Pop!, adding that the public witnessed her transition into adulthood “live on Dancing with the Stars…and it’s still happening.” She distinguishes formative phases of her life by which reality TV show she was on at the time.

But Jojo didn’t think XOMG Pop! came around at the perfect time because she was ready to take on bigger responsibilities, or because she was excited to be a mentor and role model for these young dancers who worshipped the ground she walked on. It was because the group helped mitigate any effects Jojo’s burgeoning independence was having on her mother.

“I feel like you personally, as a mom, you still have seven little girls,” Jojo reassures Jessalyn. “So it’s a little easier for me to grow up because you have them.” She says these things breezily, as if there is nothing even slightly strange about them. As if everyone knows what it’s like to feel as if your growth as an individual is personally offending your mom.

Jessalyn describes the feeling of forming XOMG Pop! as “doing it all over again,” referring to Jojo’s early days on Dance Moms — a period in her life she apparently reflects fondly on, and one she would go on to recreate with a new crop of eight to 14-year-olds. “I see a little Jojo in each of them.”

Sources close to production of Siwas Dance Pop Revolution, the reality show through which the “lucky” seven XOMG Pop! members were chosen, believed the group was intended to give Jessalyn something to focus on so Jojo could move onto the next, more “adult” phase of her career — and start using words like “effed” in her songs. “[It was like], ‘Let me give my mommy new little dolls to play with so I can stop wearing the bows and have a life,’” one source told Rolling Stone.

In the opening moments of the first episode of Siwas Dance Pop Revolution, Jojo, from atop a marble staircase in a mansion that looks like it belongs to the kid in Blank Check, has a warning for the girls. “You think you’re gonna be able to handle my mom? I thought the same thing when I was nine,” she says. “And look where I am now, so it may have worked.” Then Jessalyn, always glued to her daughter’s side, promises to make the group of excited girls at the bottom of the stairs “the next phenomenon.” And she planned on doing it the Abby Lee Miller way.

Sanderson, who was abruptly fired from the group in 2023, and her mother, Anjie, told Rolling Stone Jessalyn was “overtly cruel” to the girls of XOMG Pop!, calling them names and even going so far as to shame one of the dancers for having a disability. They allege Jojo helped “build a cutthroat environment” among the performers, “playing favorites and pitting members against each other.” The pop star’s personality when the cameras were down is described as being far different from her onscreen Mickey Mouse Club persona. And when the cameras went down for good, following Season 1 of Siwas Dance Pop Revolution (which was not picked up for a second season), the abusive behavior escalated.

“‘You’re sucking! Bring it up! The energy is low! You look sloppy! This isn’t good enough!” Jojo is accused of screaming through a headset at the members of XOMG POP! as they performed for thousands at the Mall of America in Minnesota. She subjected the girls to rehearsals lasting longer than ten hours. Exploited them for merch, brand deals, and social media content that the dancers were never financially compensated for. The mothers were so strapped for cash that at one point Bella’s mom started to clean Jessalyn’s house, “organizing Jojo’s closet and scrubbing toilets” for $20 an hour.

Within a year and a half, four of the seven original XOMG Pop! members (Barczyszyn, Cunningham, Sanderson, and Llerena) would leave the group without any public explanation from the Siwas. Sanderson was fired via text after her mother raised issues with the group. Then she watched from her home in Texas as the Siwas promoted merch with her face on it.

The show’s production company claims these allegations go against “everything JoJo Siwa stands for.” An attorney for the Siwas also denies the allegations (although they never addressed the Mall of America incident), calling them “100 percent provably false,” and claiming Sanderson’s mom, Anjie, was the abusive one. “[V]oluminous and irrefutable evidence would tell you all you need to know — that a disgruntled momager’s own abusive behavior caused for her daughter to be asked not to return to the group.”

From Jojo’s perspective, there’s nothing wrong with the way she and her mom handled the situation. In fact, she thinks they make a great team. “I think one thing that’s really worked out for us well is there actually is no line,” she told E! News. “There’s no, ‘This is when we’re working,’ and, ‘This is when you’re my mom.’ It’s kind of just, this is what it is and this is the situation.” She added that her mother never “coddled” her (as evidenced on Dance Moms), which she said, “I’m super, super grateful for because it’s made me who I am today.”

But who is she today? A 20-year-old millionaire who had to start a pop group to keep her mom busy enough so she could grow up. An anthropomorphized Carvel cake transforming into a villain from Zenon Girl of the 21st Century, showing up on red carpets in bedazzled body socks and a Great Value version of KISS makeup. Her I’m-an-adult-now rebellion is almost too on the nose for her — and she’s making sure everyone sees her transition now (in case you missed it on Dancing with the Stars). She posted over 70 times about her new single “Karma” before it was even released.

In “Karma,” Jojo sings about being a “bad girl” who did “some bad things.” But she’s not talking about psychologically and verbally abusing children, she’s talking about cheating on her girlfriend. So, I guess, Jojo just kind of sucks all around.

“She misses the point completely all the time,” internet queen Trisha Paytas said of the allegations against Jojo, also referencing the time she defended Colleen Ballinger after the YouTube star was accused of grooming young fans online. “She is a victim of, I think, child exploitation, for sure, it’s like she didn’t develop and she’s not fully aware, and that’s what I have to think, but she’s so unaware in these situations.”

Paytas then addressed the moms of current XOMG Pop! members who’ve come out in defense of the Siwas, saying that “clearly some moms are okay with their kids being yelled at,” Jesslyn being one of them. “Fake or not, I’m sorry, nobody’s gonna fake yell at my daughter on camera and make her cry,” Trisha said, “because Jojo cried so many times on that show and I don’t believe she was acting each time, and even if you are acting you’re still playing yourself and that’s so weirdly manipulative and abusive, for what? For fame? These kids are not gonna be Jojo. Even Jojo I feel bad for. I wouldn’t trade anything for her money or her fame because she obviously has issues.”

She said these allegations of “very monster behavior” don’t just “come out of nowhere,” adding that Jojo is “really disturbed” and shows like Siwas Dance Pop Revolution shouldn’t even exist. “None of it’s okay, this is not America’s Got Talent...they’re little girls. It’s just so not right. And Jojo gives me really bad vibes lately.”

It’s very sad what Abby Lee Miller and Jojo’s mom did to Jojo. And it’s very sad what she’s gone on to do to other children.

And I think we can all agree, the vibes are really bad lately.