The singer has opened up about the abuse she faced as a teenage star in the music industry, being railroaded into an extreme diet to look “as healthy as possible”.
Nearly two decades after her hit Leave (Get Out) launched her into stardom at just 13, JoJo has laid bare the realities of being a child star in the music industry.
In a candid new interview with Uproxx, the singer revealed that, at 18, she was told by her record label that she needed to be “as healthy as possible” – ironically, by sticking to a 500-calorie per day diet, about one-fifth of the recommended 2,400 daily calories for an active girl of the same age.
Now 29, JoJo said she became convinced her label wasn’t releasing any of her new music to punish her because of “the way that I looked”. She recalled: “I remember being sat down in the Blackground office, and the president of the label being like, ‘We just want you to look as healthy as possible’. I was like, ‘I’m actually the picture of health. I actually look like a healthy girl who eats and is active. And I don’t think this is about my health. I think that you want me to be really skinny’.”
“And he’s like, ‘No, I wouldn’t say that,’ blah blah blah,” she continued. “But I ended up getting put with a nutritionist that had me on a 500-calorie a day diet, and I was on these injections that make you have no appetite.” She continued: “I was like, ‘Let me see how skinny I can get, because maybe then they’ll put out an album. Maybe I’m just so disgusting that no one wants to see me in a video and they can’t even look at me’. That’s really what I thought.”
The exchange left her feeling “that how I was must have been not enough”, she said. And as a result, the then-teen star began a quest for validation, turning to drugs and alcohol. “So I started getting really fucked up, drinking, making out with strangers, looking for validation and attention and looking to feel pretty, looking to feel good, to feel worthy,” she said. “There were definitely nights that I stumbled out of clubs and that I blacked out. I was just completely reckless, did not care. I needed to be buzzed to feel okay. I would go to the edge, stand on my tiptoes on the edge and then come back.”
However, a tipping point came when her father, an addict, died in 2015, she said. “I would’ve ended up like my dad, just going to sleep one day and not waking up. Because life is hard.”
The singer had been released from her contract with Blackground Records in 2014 after an intense legal battle and went on to rerecord her earlier music and launch her own record label through a partnership with Warner Records. She is now preparing to drop her next album, Good To Know, this spring.
“This journey has been a journey of learning how to love myself,” she explained. “I feel really lucky, really, really grateful for the longevity that I have and for the resilience that I do have. But I work on it very day. I want to create a life for myself and I want to create a legacy.”
By having the courage to speak out, JoJo is ensuring her legacy as an advocate – like Taylor Swift and Lily Allen – against a music industry that sometimes exploits young women, as well as her legacy as a musician.