I used to say Pitbull was the hardest working man in show business, but that’s only because Jojo Siwa was a seven-year-old girl when “Give Me Everything (feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer)” dropped in 2011. That’s not to say Jojo wasn’t already working hard when those guys got together to make magic in that room. How else would she become the youngest ever finalist on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition by 2013, give a Ted Talk about haters by 2016, sign an all-around deal with Nickelodeon by 2017, and sell over 80 million of her signature bows by 2020?
But all that struck me, an adult woman, as a now klassic momager forcing her daughter into child stardom situation, a reality of the biz that I abhor. But as Jojo gained a rasping sentience as she aged into teendom, I realized I was wrong. A long time viewer of her YouTube videos, it wasn’t until probably the time she babysat North West on camera in 2019 that I realized she had something the rest of us lack: actual charisma. I understand why she’s the most famous person in the world to those of us ages four to eight, but I didn’t know how she’d become a crossover star into her old age (eighteen). Her 2016 song “Boomerang” was the ultimate anti-Trump anthem, but it didn’t seem to catch on outside of wonkish circles and toddler playgroups.
We slogged through 2020 and made it through the year. While most of us regressed, Jojo turned eighteen. And in January 2021, she did something that no other child star at the height of their fame has ever done: she came out via TikTok.
Her relationship did not survive 2021, but she and now-ex Kylie Prew were visibly in love (see their two best moments here), and Jojo became a legitimately famous person. She battled it out with Paramount, and then got tapped to be in the first same-gender duo on season 30 of Dancing with the Stars, and the rest is history. Via dance, Jojo confronted LGBTQ+ hatred, child trafficking, the military-industrial complex, and Derek Hough. She did not win, even though she is amazing at dancing, but that stopped being the point. Cardi B knows who she is! That’s also not the point, but it still is remarkable.
And that’s why Jojo Siwa is Gawker’s Person of the Year. It was a tough race between Jojo, Elon Musk, and the first person to say a celebrity on the red carpet “understood the assignment,” but Jojo managed to pull ahead. I don’t know where Jojo’s headed next, besides on a two-year-delayed tour, but we know she always comes back… like a boomerang.