This week, JoJo Siwa rocked social media with a series of posts where she came out. The posts began on TikTok — of the two uploads neither explicitly labeled the former Dance Moms star as queer. She confirmed the widespread speculation of her coming out yesterday with a T-shirt that read "Best. Gay. Cousin." She's since retweeted a lot of support for her admission on Twitter. Saturday, she hosted a livestream on Instagram opening up about the experience and answering questions.
"For the last 48 hours, 72 hours, I have gotten the most endless amount of support," Siwa, who has released music and has a massive deal with Nickelodeon, said on the livestream. "I'm really happy. Now that the world gets to see this side of my life it makes me really really happy. I've been happy in this world for a minute now and now that I just get to share that with the world, it's just awesome."
Siwa has long been known for her bubbly and overall happy persona. That persona is a massive brand of over one billion dollars according to her — she signed a deal with Nickelodeon where the network handles her licensing which covers accessories, toys, bedding, and more. She also has appeared in music videos for other artists and sells out arenas on tour, dancing and performing her own music. All of this after rising to fame on two seasons of Dance Moms.
"In my career I've always been super, super happy," she said referencing the touring, products, and videos. "But like personally I have never, ever, ever, ever been this happy before and it feels really awesome and I've been really happy for a little bit now."
In the Instagram live, which is now available on her page, the 17-year-old mogul shied away from labeling herself in response to a comment.
"The reason that I'm not ready to say this answer is because I don't know this answer," she said. In the video she is wearing her hoodie she received after being named to the TIME 100 in 2020. With a feature written by Kim Kardashian-West, she was dubbed one of the world's most influential people of the year. "I think humans are awesome. I think humans are really incredible people." Later she said that while she's interested in sharing details, she wants to "keep things in my life private until they are ready to be shared with the public." She also said that she believes she's always been queer and was always open to falling in love with anyone.
Much has been made of Siwa's coming out. It's been dubbed a game changer and history-making because of her prominence, particularly for youth. While she's recently said that she's seen an influx of teenaged fans during quarantine, the bulk of her fan base has historically been quite young. Her coming out is likely to leave an indelible impact on peer acceptance and relatability.
"What matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love, that it's ok and that it's awesome and that the world is there for you," Siwa said in the livestream, in ways acknowledging this very point and what role her actions may serve for LGBTQ+ youth. "There are so many people that are there for you. And I know that everyone's situation is different and it might be harder for some people and it might be easier for some people to come out and be themselves but I think coming out has this stigma around it that it's this really, really, really scary thing but it's not any more. There's so many accepting and loving people out there and and it's ok."
While there certainly is a massive uptick of support online, and the stigmas around coming out certainly have been dramatically reduced (and will continue to be with figures like Siwa,) it is important to note that there is more at play for many LGBTQ+ youth. Support online, and even peer support, isn't the only thing that youth must consider when coming out. Not only are they frequently forced to face their own comfort, but what coming out may mean for their living situation depending on the attitudes of their families. Many organizations and support systems exist if they are disowned, but it is important to note that the coming out experience of a teen star that is the bread-winning face of a billion-dollar brand is not necessarily universal.
That said, her visibility could help to change attitudes and assist in pushing the world to a place where that is no longer a concern.
In the live stream, Siwa reported that her parents supported her after coming out. Her mom, in fact, said that she had suspected it for about two years before she was told. Her mother, Jessalynn Siwa, also appeared on Dance Moms.
In the full video JoJo batted away the idea that she broke up with Mark Bontempo, a TikTok star she dated in 2020, in order to come out.