If you have not been keeping track, with the addition of the 15 noted contestants who will be showing off their moves for the 30th season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” there have been 351 celebrity contestants. The new cast hits the floor starting at 8 p.m. Sept. 20 on ABC.
This milestone season will be marked through theme nights that have not been done before and the return of the tango. Another big moment features a familiar face as judge Lynn Goodman returns to the show.
But, one of the most noteworthy changes features contestant JoJo Siwa, the young pop star and dancer who in January came out as LGBTQ through a series of posts on TikTok and Instagram. Instead of competing with a professional male dancer as her partner, she will be teamed with female professional dancer Jenna Johnson.
Siwa is excited about being such a big change for the long-running reality competition show.
“I think it’s cool. It breaks a wall that’s never been broken down before. And it’s normal for a girl to dance with a guy, and I think that that’s really cool. But I think that it’s really special that not only now do I get to share with the world that you love who you want to love, but also you get to dance with who you want to dance with,” Siwa says. “I think it’s really special.
“There’s a lot of barriers that we’re going to have to break through. Who leads? How do you dress? What shoes do you wear? It’s all something that I’m looking forward to, and doing something that’s never been done before.”
One of the biggest joys Siwa is getting out of this pairing is the impact it will have on people of the LGBTQ community. She wants anyone who feels different to see that the world is changing.
“Dancing with the Stars” host and executive producer, Tyra Banks, describes what Siwa is doing as a history-making event. And, it’s not just that it is important because of the LGBTQ community but because the 18-year-old Siwa is so young. Banks sees this as a message to all young people who are dealing with big questions in their own lives.
Siwa has a massive following that started with the two seasons she was on “Dance Moms” and continued through the release of her singles “Boomerang” and “Kid in the Candy Store.” She was on Time magazine’s 2020 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Between TV, Internet and her touring show (that brings her to Bakersfield in January), Siwa already had a way to connect with a large audience. That’s one reason presenting her message was not the initial reason Siwa agreed to be part of the 30th season cast. She responded that she would be part of the show even before reading the invitation email.
It was when she finally got around to reading the entire email that Siwa knew how different her appearance on the show would be.
“In the email it said ‘Would JoJo like to be partnered with a girl or with a boy?’ And without hesitation, immediately I was like ‘It would be so incredible and mean so much to me, and I think mean so much to a lot of people around the world if I partnered with another female’,” Siwa says. “And so right away it wasn’t a question. There’s a lot of pressure, and there’s a lot that my partner and I are going to have to figure out, obviously.
“But I think it’s going to be so fun. I want to make it okay for the people who come after me.”
The appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” is important to Siwa but also she is trying to focus on just having a good time. She brings a competitive edge to the program having been part of eliminations shows “The Masked Singer” and “Celebrity Family Feud.”
The lesson she learned doing competition shows is even with a deep desire to win, the key is to enjoy the process.
“At the end of it, I like to look back on every project that I’ve done and only remember the fun times and not the time when I’m nervous or stressed,” Siwa says. “So I try to tell myself to not be.”
Siwa has taken the spotlight but there are 14 other celebrity contestants looking to win the competition. The 30th season participants also include: country singer Jimmie Allen; TV actor Brian Austin Green (“Beverly Hills, 90210”); Spice Girl Melanie C; reality star Christine Chiu (“Bling Empire”); TV and film actress Melora Hardin (“The Bold Type”); influencer Olivia Jade; Matt James (“The Bachelor”); talk show co-host of “The Talk” Amanda Kloots; actor Martin Kove (“Cobra Kai”); Olympic gymnast Suni Lee; WWE superstar The Miz (“Miz & Mrs.”); “The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Kenya Moore; Peloton star instructor Cody Rigsby; and NBA basketball star Iman Shumpert.