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Unpacking JoJo Siwa’s Rebrand: From Dance Moms to her “Bad Girl” Era

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

Child stars who grow up, decide to change their aesthetics and target an older audience, often find themselves at the center of scrutiny. 

Take pop-culture icon, Miley Cyrus, for instance, and reflect on the massive backlash she received in her “Bangerz” era. 

According to JoJo Siwa, a past child star on the hit reality show Dance Moms, she wants to have her “Bangerz” moment. With the release of her single “Karma” last month, JoJo Siwa has found herself in a whirlwind of online discourse. 

Why has jojo siwa’s rebrand been so controverisal?

Siwa did a complete 180 flip with her career, and it started visually. Her rainbow clothes paired with pastel sequins and bows turned into a black body suit (still covered in sequins) paired with face makeup comparable to that of Gene Simmons from the rock band “KISS.”

After Dance Moms, Siwa pursued a music career with the target demographic of young children. She embarked on D.R.E.A.M the tour supported by Nickelodeon from 2019 to 2022, and performed songs such as “Boomerang” and “Kid in a Candy Store.” She has produced thousands of merchandise products, including her once-signature bows, that are available at major retailers including Walmart and Target.

The image she’s built completely changed upon her announcement of her next projects being for individuals over 18 years of age. Parents of Siwa fans may have been dismayed at the sudden switch of the singer’s influence.

However, if it was targeted towards the older members of Gen-z, then why did Siwa find herself amidst controversy?

the original karma

Another potential explanation for the backlash, aside from relentless haters, is that Siwa’s song is not self-written as it was proclaimed to be

The song was written and recorded by singer-songwriter Brit Smith in 2012 but was scrapped from Smith’s debut. The song was then pitched to Miley Cyrus, but not picked up by her team. Siwa decided to record and release the song in 2024 to channel a 2010s music vibe in her new music.

This practice is not uncommon in the music industry. What struck a chord in a majority of people was how Siwa discussed the song insinuating that she wrote it. People even participated in efforts to get Brit Smith’s version of Karma charting above Siwa’s version.

“creating” gay pop

In an interview with Billboard, Siwa claimed she wanted to create a new genre of music called “gay pop.” Many felt she was undermining her predecessors and current LGBTQ+ artists who are creating art within the music industry. The following playlist includes songs from queer artists that fall into the pre-existing genre of “gay pop.”

She has since acknowledged that gay pop has existed prior to her release of “Karma.” The wording of her original statement was problematic, however, she clarified in an interview with Sirius XM that she believes “gay pop” should be a literal genre on the billboard charts which would give gay pop artists “a bigger home” in the music industry.


The backlash and discourse around Siwa have been so vast that even mainstream media has joined the discussion.

On Saturday, May 4, 2024 SNL aired the “Weekend Update” skit featuring Colin Jost and Chloe Fineman, as JoJo Siwa, which satirized Siwa’s new “rebrand and “bad girl” attitude. 


A line Siwa sings in Karma is “I should’ve known better” but knowing better in these instances is not that simple. A past child star trying to discover themself while facing criticism from anyone with access to social media seems like a recipe for disaster. There’s no telling yet which direction Siwa will take her career in after this backlash, but hopefully, it’s a direction that puts an end to this online drama.

Brooke is a Senior English Major at Hofstra University. She loves writing poetry, attending concerts and browsing bookstores for new romance reads.