JoJo Siwa's message for Australian dance mums - and their daughters

JoJo Siwa at Eastland meeting fans in Melbourne this week.
JoJo Siwa at Eastland meeting fans in Melbourne this week. Photo: Sam Tabone/WireImage

With more than one billion views on YouTube and seven million Instagram followers, JoJo Siwa is as famous as any of Hollywood's biggest names. But if you don't have a tween girl in your household, you may not have heard of the 15-year-old Nickelodeon singer, dancer and social media superstar.

For the uninitiated JoJo is also responsible for the enormous hair bow craze that swept the world over the past few years - selling 25 million bows last year alone.  Her huge fan base, known as Siwanatorz, is made up of primarily young girls (and more than a few of their mums) who first fell in love with JoJo as a 12-year-old on US reality show Dance Moms.

JoJo, who is in Australia on a promotional tour with Nickelodeon, says she feels great "responsibility" to make the most of her success and there  is one thing she would like girls who dream of following in her footsteps to know.  

"It is a lot of hard work but it is a lot of fun. So just go for it. Follow your dreams, follow your heart, listen to your parents – you got this!" she says.

And to the dance mums: "I would say to make sure that your kids are really enjoying what they are doing because it is worth it if they are, but if they aren't, it's not worth it".

JoJo, who started dancing when she was two, says she "always knew" she wanted a career in show business.

Her chance came in 2012 when she was cast in Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, a reality TV show in which 12 boys and girls competed for a scholarship at a prestigious dance academy.

One of the judges was Abby Lee Miller of Dance Moms fame. By 2015, JoJo was a regular on the hugely popular show, which followed the dance school instructor and her young troupe of dancers both at the studio and during dance competitions.

JoJo initially found fame daunting.

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"The first time I was ever … recognised was after my first TV show and I went out to a dance convention and people would just stare at me and they would pet my hair," she says.

"And I was like, 'Wait, is that what's it's like?' … but after that it just kind of became my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Another star of the series was JoJo's enormous hair bows, which her mother had made for her ever since she was a little girl.

A deal was soon struck with US accessories chain Claire's to stock a range of JoJo Siwa bows in its 3000 stores. The first shipment "sold out instantly", according to JoJo, who is proud of her bow "empire".

After two seasons of Dance Moms, JoJo left the show, branching out into singing, and released her first single, Boomerang, in 2016.

At last count, the video had clocked up almost 550 million views on YouTube and the song had been streamed over 9 million times on Spotify.

The song deals with a topic JoJo herself knows about – bullying.

"I created this song about anti-bullying and it has had so much success," she says, adding that it makes her "super happy" to make a difference in kids' lives.

"A lot of kids reach out to me. The amount of times kids have told me 'You have helped me through bullying [and] you saved my life'."

JoJo has released several more songs since Boomerang. The latest, High Top Shoes, is her first musical collaboration with Nickelodeon.  

She was heavily involved in creating the video, which she co-directed.​ JoJo also recently moved into acting, winning a role in the Nickelodeon original film, Blurt.

She hopes to continue to combine all the different facets of her career, including recording and editing her regular Vlogs, which she fits in around school work.

JoJo, who has been home schooled most of her life, doesn't think she missed out on anything by working from such a young age.

"I think if you are surrounded by the right people and you have the right friends and you have the right balance, it's the best lifestyle ever. It is so much fun. You get to meet so many cool people," she says.

JoJo says her friends are mostly part of her team (dancers, choreographers, hair and make-up artists, etc) or people who do the same type of work.

"A lot of my friends are YouTubers or Nickelodeon kids," she says. "My best friends are either 30 and over or five and younger."

JoJo also feels a responsibility to her family not to "mess it up", after she and her mother moved to California from Nebraska when she was 12 to pursue her career. Her father and brother only joined them permanently this year.

"I have a big responsibility. Everyone sacrificed everything for this," she says.

While in Australia, Siwa attended the TV Week Logie Awards and is performing a series of free performances and fashion parades on the Gold Coast, and in Melbourne and Sydney. Her final appearance is at Westfield Parramatta on July 7, followed by an exclusive in-cinema Q&A session and screening of Blurt.