Jojo Siwa jpg

JoJo Siwa will perform March 17 at Mechanics Bank Arena.

JoJo Siwa knows why her biggest fans are pre-teen and tween girls. She's one of them, or, now that she's 16, she just used to be.

"I think for them, I'm relatable," she said of her appeal to the young girls in a recent phone interview. "I'm also a kid. I'm going through what they're going through. I'm all about wanting people to have fun in life. I think they really like that."

"Really like that" is something of an understatement.

Her video of "Boomerang" now has more than 800 million views on YouTube, where her two channels have more than 13 million followers. And, in the last two years, she's gone from TV to playing arenas around the country, including a stop June 12 at Mechanics Bank Arena.

That's a pretty good jump for the pop star who was watching TV in her Omaha home a few years ago when she saw an ad looking for contestants for the second season of the Lifetime series "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition."

"I was like 'OK, I want to do that," Siwa said. "So I did it, I sent a tape. It was six months later, but I got cast."

Landing that spot on the show got Siwa and her mom, Jessalynn, to Los Angeles, the beginning of a journey that has turned JoJo into a pop star from, of all places, Nebraska.

That, she said, makes her different than other young pop stars who have gone from TV to music.

"I think there is something (about being from Nebraska)," she said. "It's very different, I had to work hard for what I wanted. The opportunity is not there in Nebraska. In California, you can have an agent, you can get some help. In Nebraska, you have to do all the work. That is part of what makes you who you are."

The Nickelodeon connection is key to understanding how Siwa got from Lifetime TV to arena stages.

After the dance show, on which she was the youngest competitor, she and Jessalynn landed a spot on another Lifetime program, "Dance Moms." There JoJo, a natural before the camera, became one of the show's stars.

"That's the thing about 'Dance Moms,' it was a reality TV show," she said. "It was what I loved to do. I love to dance, I love being on TV. It was so much fun. There was nothing fake about it. It was me, all the time we were making 'Dance Moms."

After two seasons, the Siwas left "Dance Moms." JoJo was already a YouTube star with her music videos and ready for something new.

"There's a lot of events that have happened in the last five years of my life," she said. "When I was 13, I decided it was time to move on. Nickelodeon wanted to sign me to something they'd never done before.

"It started with consumer products and that went really well. I already had 'Boomerang' out. I started doing more music, TV shows and movies. I think the tour came to be because the music was such a success."

Siwa is also a fashion trend maker for the younger set. Her line of clothing and accessories are all over Walmart and Target. And she's generated the sale of millions of her trademark hair bows.

"I have been wearing bows literally since I was born," she said. "When I was little I was called JoJo with the bobo. What the JoJo bow has done is beyond my wildest dreams. Every little girl likes bows ... At the shows. I look out and every single one has a bow; moms do, too, and the dads."

Those live shows, Siwa said, are directly aimed at the young audience.

"It's dancing, it is singing," she said. "There are so many props, some very cool moments. It's a full-blown concert for 7-year-olds."

As a triple threat — singer, dancer and actress — Siwa demurs when asked what is her greatest strength.

"I don't like to answer that but if I had to say something, I will say making other people happy," said Siwa, who is relentlessly upbeat and positive.

That figures into the advice she has for her young fans: "I want to just tell them no matter what's going on in life, do what you love to do and to have fun — never forget to have fun."

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