XOMG POP!? More like OMG STOP!

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A black and white photograph of three ballet dancers performing under a spotlight. They have their right arm raised and the other bent at their waist, and are leaning slightly to their left with their left leg extended to the side.
Is the experience worth the price? romanen via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

What is up with their treatment of these girls?

JoJo Siwa is one of the most prominent social figures from the last several years. She started as a dancer, first on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, then on Dance Moms. Her rise to fame took off in 2016 with her song “Boomerang” and then she became a Nickelodeon star.  

Siwa had several different ventures including JoJo Siwa: My World, The JoJo and BowBow Show Show, multiple other TV shows, and her 2021 movie The J Team. During that time, you couldn’t go into any major store without seeing some sort of JoJo Siwa merchandise. Siwa herself claims that the JoJo Siwa brand is worth over a billion dollars. 

JoJo’s mother Jessalyn was really the one to push JoJo into the spotlight. When JoJo was young, Jessalyn would wake her up in the night to get her to do her dance solos for her friends. She started bleaching JoJo’s hair blonde when she was two. She has stated that “JoJo Siwa wouldn’t be who she was without me.”  

Siwas Dance Pop Revolution (SDPR) is a reality style competition show where JoJo and Jessalyn attempt to build a supergroup of young singers and dancers called XOMG POP!. JoJo relates it to wanting to build a group similar to the Jackson Five in terms of ages of performers and fame.  

When SDPR was released in 2021, it didn’t take long for the audience to realize what it truly was: Jessalyn Siwa trying to prove that she could replicate what she did with JoJo and make new child stars. She states that since she had so much fun the first time, she wants to do it again.  

The group was originally comprised of six girls: Kinley Cunningham, Leigha Sanderson, Kiya Barczyszyn, Dallas Skye, Brooklynn Pitts, and Tinie T Andreasyan. A seventh, Bella Llerena, was added later.  

As of writing this article, the only remaining members are Skye, Pitts, Andreasyan, and a new member, Penelope LeMieux. Jessalyn has claimed that the XOMG POP! girls are almost like her daughters, and that’s how she views them. 

But not all that glitters is gold.  

On February 13, 2024, Rolling Stone came out with an article called “JoJo Siwa Promised Them Pop Stardom. They Say They Were ‘Thrown in the Trash.’” The article focused on Leigha Sanderson and her mother Anjie Sanderson, reportedly because they were the only former members of XOMG POP! to not sign a non-disclosure agreement. 

Leigha was born with spina bifida, a birth defect where the spine and spinal cord are unable to form correctly. When she was invited onto SDPR, it was like a dream come true. For the next two years, it was anything but a dream. 

The Sandersons allege that almost everything was paid out of their own pocket, including food and transportation. In an Instagram live, Anjie says that her contract said the food and transportation would be paid for.  

They were never paid for social media content or music videos. Even though the recording contract claimed the performers would receive $10,000, Anjie and Leigha only got $4,000.  

Even though they had a content house, the girls and their mothers weren’t allowed to stay in the house. Instead, the Sandersons slept on inflatable mattresses in the dance studio of another member of the group. It came to a point where two of the mothers, including Anjie, worked for Jessalyn Siwa doing tasks like scrubbing toilets in JoJo’s home. 

The girls were allegedly pitted against each other, creating a competitive environment. They were offered money if their daughters’ TikTok got the most views. 

Even though Leigha had known health issues, Jessalyn allegedly dismissed them. Only three weeks after Leigha had spinal surgery, when she was only cleared for light activity, Jessalyn still had her rehearse for a video shoot. Right before that surgery, Leigha began bleeding out of her bellybutton during a rehearsal, and Jessalyn just told her to use a maxi pad to stop the bleeding.  

JoJo herself has even stated that her mother doesn’t care if she’s tired and will critique her on things like how she looks and sounds. She was never allowed to be hurt because Jessalyn would just tell her that she was fine. 

JoJo Siwa herself acted strangely familiar to her former Dance Moms teacher Abby Lee Miller. According to the Rolling Stone article, JoJo yelled at their children “You’re sucking, bring it up, the energy is low, you look sloppy. This isn’t good enough,” through the girls’ headsets during a performance. If she believes the girls are performing poorly, she will tell them and make them start again.  

In an Instagram live, Leigha claimed that each girl had to perform their routines one at a time and then the others had to critique their performance. Leigha believes that the statements were not constructive, they were mean. On Dance Moms, right before JoJo was invited to be a permanent member of the team, Abby had each girl write down positive and negative things about JoJo.  

Leigha has said that the girls were made to do stamina training by JoJo and they had to wear sweatshirts and sweatpants and perform with the heat turned up as high as possible over and over again. She claims that the girls nearly passed out, and that it was especially dangerous for her because of the medication she was on.  

In the Instagram live, Leigha and Anjie say that another member of the group was almost fired because she was struggling to breathe during a rehearsal because of the air at the location they were in.  

The first girl to leave was Kiya Barczyszyn, who was fired in fall 2022. Anjie stated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything that Kiya and her mother were informed by the Siwas’ lawyer that they were no longer members of the group. The other girls were told at home by their parents, and according to Anjie, JoJo framed it to the girls as Kiya just not being in the group anymore.  

The Sandersons were fired from the group in May of 2023, but in July of 2023 her image was still used in merchandise even though the Sandersons never saw any money from the merchandise. 

It appears that Jessalyn and JoJo are still trying to make XOMG POP! into the next big thing, but many of the promises made like tours, movies, and brand deals just haven’t happened, and don’t appear to be happening.  

Most of the mothers still in the group told Rolling Stone that XOMG POP! has been a positive experience for them and their kids, and those that have left the group declined to comment, but Anjie states that they all signed NDAs.  

It’s unclear what will happen next with XOMG POP!. The Siwas haven’t made any sort of statement or comments about the Sandersons or the Rolling Stone article.  

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