Siwa has also been featured with her mom in a Toyota campaign
around Nick's "Kids' Choice Awards," and appeared in marketing for
Universal theme parks and Milk.
We sat down with Siwa, and her dog BowBow, in her hotel room in
New York City ahead of the Ad Council Public Service Award Dinner
earlier this month (Siwa worked with the council for its bullying
prevention campaign). Playing with her teacup pup (who has also a
line of products) and looking like a typical 14-year-old in a
sweatshirt over a YouTube T-shirt—and no bow in her
hair—we discussed bullying, her online fame and the future of
the JoJo brand. Our conversation has been edited.
How did the
bow craze start?
I've been wearing bows for my whole, entire life—since I
was in preschool and obviously now and above and beyond. But the
story on how they really became what they are today, the JoJo bows,
Claire's took a big chance on me. My manager literally just called
Claire's and was like, "I need to speak with corporate," and
wiggled her way in. Then she got hold of this girl and asked her
the next time she was in California to let us know and she was
like, "Well, actually, I am flying out tomorrow." But then she said
her schedule is full so maybe we could do it the next time. And my
manager was like, "Actually, we'll just meet you in the lobby of
your hotel, where are you staying?"
At the time I was like, "Oh god, what is happening?" But I was
like, whatever, I'm just going to go with it. So we went with it,
we met her in the hotel lobby and you know, they were going to do a
bow test in 100 stores, then they moved it up to 300 stores, then
it moved up to 1,000 stores, and then it moved up to all their
stores which is like 3,500. So they took a really, really big
chance on me. And I am so grateful for them because without them it
wouldn't be what it is today.
There's meaning behind the bow. Where
did that originate?
I have something called "Siwanators," and if you're a Siwanator
you're strong, you're powerful, you stand up to the bullies. If
you're a Siwanator, you're nice. And the way you can tell if
someone is a Siwanator is if they have a JoJo bow in. So if you're
sitting at recess at school and someone is not being nice to you
but you see another kid who has a JoJo bow in, you can go hang out
with them and they'll be nice to you because they're a
Have you experienced
I have experienced a lot of online bullying because I am
That's where a lot of kids experience
That's what makes it so terrible. I say in "Boomerang" [her
single; Siwa is also a singer], "hide behind the screen, you're so
mean." It's literally about someone hiding behind their screen or
behind their phone saying, "You're fat, you're rude, you're ugly,
you're a brat, you're annoying, I hate you." And it's just
terrible. I have to go through it every day. And I found what works
for me is I can just delete and block, but I want to inspire other
people and let them know it's OK and you don't need to worry about
those comments because for every one comment that's rude there are
100 that are nice.
The JoJo brand goes beyond bows now.
You have products in Walmart and other retail stores.
7-Eleven is getting bows.
How involved are you in the process of
making JoJo-branded products?
Pretty much how it works is there's a style guide with pictures
of me, colors, fonts for wording, different prints, different
styles, different patterns—there's everything you can imagine
that can go on a shirt. And so what happens is, I did a big photo
shoot and so did Bow [her dog] and those are the approved pictures
that can go on stuff. So then I say, "Yeah, I love that," and then
they say, "OK, we're going to put this on a bike, this on a
T-shirt, this on a napkin. And then I see it online and am like,
'Ohh, new things." I love it.
Are there products you hope to see on
One of my personal favorites is JoJo underwear. Just to think
there are girls walking around...it's weird but funny. You have
Elsa and Anna, you have SpongeBob you have Ninja Turtles, and then
you have JoJo. It's so funny. There's a bike out in Australia and a
helmet that's unbelievable. The shoes that are coming out are
really cool. It's crazy how many JoJo things there are.
What do you think when you see your
face on this stuff?
It is crazy, crazy, crazy that this is my life. I know this is
what I've always wanted—I wanted to be Hannah
Montana—but it's crazy that this is my reality. I am a kid
from Nebraska, I followed my dreams and these are my dreams I'm
living now. It's just really cool I believed in myself, my family,
my friends they all believed in me and now look at what I'm
A lot of that started with YouTube. How
did you build your following?
It's kind of funny how the whole YouTube thing started. When I
was 10—but even before that, I posted all my duck tape stuff
I made [like bows], my dance stretch tutorial when I was 5 years
old—but I was about 10 and my publicist was like, "I'm going
to make you a YouTube channel" and I was like, "OK." She gave me a
GoPro and said, "This is what you're going to do, you're going to
send me stuff and I'm going to edit it." And I was like, "I don't
know, OK, cool." We vlogged a little bit and I just kind of did it.
And then one of my friends was telling me all about YouTube and how
amazing it is and I was like, "Wow, that's something I seriously
want to get into." So then I went home, I learned about it, I mean
I have been watching it my whole life.
Do you watch a lot of YouTube? Do your
One-hundred percent. All the time. It's the new thing. It is
fun. It's fast. It's energetic. So yeah. Definitely. But then I
just did it as I felt like it. I never said, "I have to do this."
YouTube is 100 percent a job. but it's a fun job. And if I didn't
like it I would not do it. It was definitely really organic going
into it. It's not like I have a set script and I have to do this
every single day.
Are there other platforms you're
The two things I use the most are YouTube and Instagram. Then of
course Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Music.ly. Back to the YouTube
thing, I used to post one time a week, now I literally post nine.
One day I can come up with 50 content ideas and I'm like, "Boom, I
want to do this idea, this idea, this idea." I have a YouTube
notebook and I write them all down. Then other days I'm like, "I
have no clue what I want to do today." I rarely have days like
that. But it's so fun.
What do you watch on a regular basis?
What do you watch on YouTube?
I went through a phase where I watched a bunch of YouTubers who
do kind of the same stuff I do, who are in the same demographic. I
watched the videos a lot, and I still do, I still love them, they
are all my friends, it's just like a family, but I felt sometimes
like I would be copying them almost. And I want them to have their
thing and I want to have my thing so I had to step away and watch
something else. So now what I watch on YouTube is this YouTube page
called "What's Up Moms." I don't know why I watch it. It's a
YouTube channel for moms who have kids who want fun DIY stuff, but
there are some brilliant things on there.
Do you watch TV?
I do. I have a very slight obsession with "Grey's Anatomy."
Did you binge on Netflix? Are you fully
Fully caught up. I probably watched every episode three times.
"Grey's Anatomy" is by far, by a landslide, my favorite show.
What comes next for you?
It's hard to think what comes next because I try to do whatever
feels right in the moment. I don't really plan things. I can't tell
you what I'm going to do tomorrow, I can't tell you what I am doing
in a year, but I can tell you what I am doing in 10 years.
So, in 10 years I will be 24 years old. I will probably be going
on my first big, big tour. I would have just released a huge album,
in my brain it would have been wildly successful.
So music is the goal?
Music, definitely. As of now.
Where do you see your brand
I've thought about my future and everything that's to come, but
a lot of people are like, "What does high school JoJo look like?
What does senior JoJo look like?" And you know, it's just going to
kind of evolve as it happens. If one day I wake up and I go, "I
want to wear my hair down today," I will.
At what point do you stop wearing the
bow in your public appearances?
I think the bow will stick with me through my entire life. I
don't think I'll always wear a side ponytail and bow, but I do
think I'll l eventually buy a ring and it will have a diamond bow
on it and it will always forever and forever be in my life, because
it is me, it's who I am, it's what I love. It's not like I have a
contract that says I have to wear a bow every day. That's not a
thing. It's just going to evolve as I evolve. If one day I wake up
and go, "I just don't want to wear the bow today," I just wouldn't
wear it. I just have to do what's right for me and make the
transition right now.
Are there brands you gravitate
Anything with rainbow sequins. If it has rainbow sequins on it I
like it. That's not necessarily a brand…The places I shop
are Target, Justice, Walmart, Claire's, JCPenney, Forever 21,
H&M. I online shop. I don't like to go shopping.
Do you have a YouTube shirt
I do have a YouTube shirt on. Always. Forever. YouTube is my No.
1, my love.