New teen heroine takes a bow on YouTube

Schoolgirl JoJo Siwa's video Boomerang has received more than 200 million views on YouTube.
Schoolgirl JoJo Siwa's video Boomerang has received more than 200 million views on YouTube.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Thirteen-year-old JoJo Siwa rolled up to school in a souped-up vintage car with a giant pink bow plastered on the grille.

Inside the car, with her blonde hair tightly pulled into a side ponytail and wrapped in a pastel yellow bow, she sang to her mother, "I don't really care about what they say", while a group of mean girls wearing not-so-pastel clothes sniggered from a bench.

The new teenage heroine of suburban America showed no fear. After winning a rowdy dance battle in her video Boomerang, which has received more than 200 million views on YouTube, JoJo places a purple bow on the lead mean girl. Everyone becomes best friends.

Unlike the red scrunchie Heather Chandler wore in Heathers (1999), which was a symbol of power, the bow worn by JoJo is a symbol of believing in yourself and being nice to others. JoJo just signed a multi-platform deal with Nickelodeon, which includes consumer products, original programming, social media, live events and music.

Since June, JoJo's Bows - made by HER Accessories, a licensee of JoJo's - have been among the top sellers at Claire's, the store popular among the middle-school set, according to Ms Hind Palmer, Claire's global brand marketing and public relations director.

In Britain, where JoJo's bows are even more successful than in the United States, the head teacher of a school in Bury banned them because they were distracting.

In a world where parents of children aged eight to 14 have long been concerned about hypersexualised clothing, early puberty and overly sophisticated media messages, JoJo is part of a growing group of girls documenting routine, age-appropriate behaviours and activities.

Many popular videos made by girls in the pre- and early teenage years live on nine connected YouTube channels. Seven Super Girls, the most successful of these channels, has more than six million subscribers and its videos have been viewed a combined 6.9 billion times. Each channel - others are called Seven Cool Tweens, Seven Awesome Kids and Seven Twinkling Tweens - is run with more efficiency than some professional media sites: Each girl is responsible for making a video on a specific day of the week.

The SAKs channels, as they are known, were started in 2008 by seven families in Britain who, in the early days of YouTube, wanted to make sure their children were making family-appropriate content.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'New teen heroine takes a bow on YouTube'. Print Edition | Subscribe