Influencer Jojo Siwa responds to allegations of blackface in her latest music video but refuses to apologise

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Saturday 27 June 2020 18:30
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(Getty/Youtube/Jojo Siwa)

Jojo Siwa, the queen of a bold print, high pony and giant bow, has responded to the controversy over her latest music video... and it hasn't gone down well.

In case you're not familiar, Siwa is a 17-year-old social media personality. She rose to fame thanks to her appearance on Lifetime reality TV show Dance Moms in 2015.

She subsequently made a name for herself thanks to her release of tween-pop music and and her hugely popular YouTube videos.

Her main channel, where she posts videos such as "Reacting to TikToks about me" and "I covered my entire body in glitter!!" has 11.4 million subscribers, most of whom are presumably her age or younger.

She's been largely able to escape controversy, but when she posted her latest music video, things took a turn.

The song and accompanying video, entitled "NONSTOP", were posted last week on 19 June. This coincided with Juneteenth – an annual anniversary in the US which celebrates the official end of slavery.

This in itself struck fans as insensitive, especially considering the current climate, which Siwa is aware of having upoaded a Black Lives Matter post to her Instagram a few days before.

On top of this, people began to call her out for what they perceived as the use of blackface in the video.

The video features a number of young dancers on a set which resembles a circus. Many of them were dressed as typical circus performing animals.

But people spotted that one particular dancer, who is white, was sporting brown face make-up substantially darker than her skin tone.

She was dressed as a monkey.

As the criticism flooded in, Siwa was accused of deleting comments relating to the racial insensitivity of this bizarre choice.

Yesterday, she posted a selfie on Instagram, along with a long caption in which she appears to dismiss anyone calling her out, writing:

People are bossing me around, telling me who to follow, what to post, what to like, what to say, what to do, everything. It’s not about what you do on social media it’s about what you do in real life. I said it best when I was 12 'Hide behind the screen cause their just so mean. but we don’t play it like that, we don’t even fight back' [...] People went to my DOGS instagram. my DOG. to hate on me. iconic!

Many people assumed she was referring to the criticism around the alleged blackface, and her explanation did not go down well.

However, in a subsequent post, she clarified that the aforementioned comments had nothing to do with the backlash she received.

She acknowledged that she had blocked people because she was "tired of seeing the personal hate on me", and added that "some people will do anything for attention".

She went on to dismiss the accusations, saying:

We’re talking about kids dressing up as circus animals! No one in my video is wearing blackface. It’s awful that anyone’s mind would even go there.

Kids dressing in animal costumes, having their faces painted to look like animals, acting the part. There were zebras, tigers, dogs, clowns, mermaids, everything.

I’ve addressed Black Lives Matter issues previously on my social media, I will say it again for the ones in the back, Black Lives Matter, today, tomorrow, yesterday and forever. I’m on the right side of history here.

Stop trying to make this about something it isn’t.

While people mostly believed that Siwa didn't intend to use blackface in her video, the reality is that a number of Black people were offended, and she seemed to be minimising their feelings and experiences, focussing instead on what her "intentions" were.

She even replied to criticism on Twitter, stating that she "didn't do anything that needs an apology".

Jojo Siwa is only 17, and one could argue she can't be expected to be as aware of racist microaggressions and implications as we expect adults to be.

But given the size of her platform and the level of influence she has, now may be a good time to start educating herself.

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