And there’s nothing you can do about it!
( @itsjojosiwa / Instagram )
A little sassy, a little dramatic, JoJo Siwa is the LGBTQ+ icon of our rainbow-tinted dreams. We know her, we love her, but there’s something that not many realize about her: she embodies camp.
Camp, what you may recall as the theme of the 2019 Met Gala, in broad terms is an aesthetic style that recognizes something as appealing because of its outlandishness and ridiculousness. According to Aesthetics For Birds, camp is “all about excess and exaggeration. It’s often theatrical and performative. It’s fueled by a sincere and enthusiastic love of the extreme.”
As much as camp is an aesthetic, it’s equally a state of being. Thus, JoJo Siwa is camp — and ever since seeing a TikTok about it, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Writer and political activist Susan Sontag is credited with being the reason why Camp has grown to be a widespread concept. In her 1964 essay Notes on Camp, she listed several definitions and explanations for camp (totally worth the read). To Sontag, Camp “revels in artifice, stylization, theatricalization, irony, playfulness, and exaggeration rather than content.”
Though often confused, camp is not synonymous with kitschy. Kitschy often has a negative connotation and is purposefully and superficially ironic. Camp is genuine.
One of Susan Sontag’s many definitions of Camp is that “Camp is the glorification of character.” Camp embraces a person who is acting as themselves at every moment.
JoJo Siwa, with her cotton candy-hues, larger-than-life bows, gelled hair slicked into a side pony, and glittery, sequined ensembles, undeniably leans into her character. Without her over-exaggerated expression of character, there would be no JoJo.
Sontag also explains that “In naive, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naive.” That's JoJo!
As outlandish as JoJo Siwa can be viewed, we all know that she’s serious about what she’s doing. She’s genuine about herself and her character. Hell, I wish I were as confident and comfortable with myself as she is (and I’m working on that every day). People sometimes fail to notice Siwa’s seriousness and see her as too exaggerated to be real/genuine, but, in a way, that’s kind of the point! Her seriousness feels like an inside joke. This shows just how Siwa is Camp at its purest and most naive form.
And lastly, in modern times, camp culture has been perpetuated and popularized by the Black community and the LGBTQ+ community, of which JoJo Siwa is now a part of! To critical theory professor Allan Pero, “there is no ‘camp’ without ‘queer’.”
OK, now that we’ve gone through why JoJo Siwa is camp, let’s break down the intersection of her look and the high fashion sector.
Fashion is the perfect medium to deliver camp. Fashion (especially high fashion) is all about expression, individualism, and identity. Much like camp, fashion relies on irony, exaggeration and idiosyncrasy to be successful. Fashion houses like Schiaparelli, Mugler, and Moschino perfectly capture camp in all its glory.
The same people who put high fashion on a pedestal simultaneously reject JoJo Siwa for the ways she expresses herself. They don’t understand the astounding intersection between the two: camp.
Camp is the unifying feature! One would never think that Lady Gaga’s pale pink feather moment from the A Star Is Born premiere and JoJo Siwa’s Elton John-inspired sequined baseball jersey have anything directly in common, but the beauty of it is that they do. Camp transcends genre, place, and time!!!
At the end of the day, people can say what they want about JoJo Siwa but, in all honesty, she probably won't give a shit (and that’s fan behavior anyway 🙄). Camp is unapologetic and so is JoJo!
Madison Rosenfield is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. When she's not going down internet rabbit holes at 2 AM, she can usually be found curating the perfect Spotify playlist, celebrating her Jewish heritage, crafting, watching coming-of-age films, or taking action in support of causes she cares about. You can find her at @madisonrosenfield on Instagram or @madisonleahh on Twitter to get a deeper look at her passions and perspectives.