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I'll be honest, I did not know who Jojo Siwa was until my 16-year-old sister sent me a meme of her photoshopped with Lady Gaga's face -- spooky. But the 15-year-old YouTuber and former Dance Moms star is a massive internet celebrity, with over eight million subscribers and almost as many Instagram followers. She even has doll you can buy at Target!
Siwa's videos are #relatablecontent like dance lessons, mukbangs and hair tutorials. She also has a full-fledged music career, complete with music videos where she stars as a cowgirl -- Lady Gaga is shaking. But once I was aware of her existence, I assumed she was entirely the province of teenagers and small children. Reader, I was wrong.
Siwa was in New York City this week for an AOL BUILD interview, chatting about her new single, "D.R.E.A.M." The audience was mostly kids and their parents with two very special exceptions: drag queens Izzy Uncut and Poppy, who were there in drag as Siwa. During the Q&A, the queens asked her about being a gay icon. According to Izzy, Siwa -- with perfectly media-trained poise, explained that she feels comfortable around everyone and wants everyone to feel comfortable around her, and that she loves and supports people for who they are, with no exclusions.
"I got into her from YouTube and then went back and watched her on Dance Moms," says Izzy, who adds she can't watch Siwa's videos as much as other influencers because "she's clearly targeting a 6-13 year-old demographic and it's a lot." But the queen is fascinated by Siwa's success. "She's fully in on the joke and laughing all the way to the bank." Sounds like a gay icon to me.
"Jojo Siwa is one of the rare instances of a young girl in the media who is controlling her own image," adds Poppy. "She knows what people want and she gives it to them. She is a target for a lot of online bullying but takes it all in stride and profits off of it by making 'anti-bullying' her thing. It's absolutely ingenious. She takes the negative things in her life and spins it into something positive."
"She's literally a drag queen," says Izzy. "She's doing is a flawless drag-adjacent performance. At only 15 years-old she's curated this absurd personality for the cameras, and people are forced to pay attention" Siwa was teased and ostracized by the other dancers on Dance Moms, but turned her 15 minutes of fame into a multi-million dollar empire. "This girl is the Kim Kardashian of children's celebrities, someone who is famous for being famous and navigating that journey with ease."
Siwa has turned being a meme into a global brand, and "to me, that's iconic," declares Poppy. Plus, "if you're verbally abused by Abby Lee Miller and snap back, you're automatically a gay icon in my eyes."
While this was Izzy's first time doing drag as Siwa ("I generally steer clear of celebrity impressions.") it won't be the last. "When I saw she'd be there, I knew this was the moment to just be a fool and make this a reality. Now I have a new number in the works and will be taking the side pony to my local bar gigs."