The performer first shot to fame at just 13 with her 2004 hit debut single, Leave (Get Out). However, Jojo believes her label’s subsequent hold on releasing her music was a decision based on her appearance, she revealed in a new interview with Uproxx.
“When I was 18,” she goes on to claim, “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.’”
And while the performer believed she was already healthy, she agreed to the ultra-restrictive diet because, as the now 29-year-old notes, “I really wanted to put something out and I was trying anything … and I thought that maybe it was the way that I looked.”
“I ended up being 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 and I was like, ‘Let me see how skinny I can get because maybe then they’ll put out an album,’” she said.
“Maybe I’m just so disgusting that no one wants to see me in a video and no one wants to look at me.”
Looking back on that period, the pop star believes it underscores wider issues many of her peers face in the music and entertainment industry.
“I’m sure a lot of us develop extreme insecurities and disordered eating and really unhealthy thinking about ourselves,” she said. “I felt that how I was must have been not enough. Must have been dissatisfying.”
JoJo also opens up in the interview about her own battles with drinking as a result of those pressures.
“I started getting really f***ed up, drinking, making out with strangers, looking for validation and attention and looking to feel pretty, looking to feel good, to feel worthy,” pointing out that she would blackout from drinking.
Addiction is something Jojo is no stranger to. In 2015, her father, who faced his own struggles with substance abuse, passed away. The performer notes that the passing of her father was a turning point in her own life. “I would’ve ended up like my dad, just going to sleep one day and not waking up.”
Since then, the artist has made strides to gain control over her own image and career, including the end to a contentious seven-year contract – she is now affiliated with Warner Music – her 2020 Grammy for Best R&B Song in collaboration with PJ Morto on Say So, and the forthcoming release of her album, Good to Know, later this spring.
“This journey has been a journey about learning how to love myself,” she said. “I feel really grateful for the longevity that I have and for the resilience that I do have, but I work on it every day because I want to create a life for myself and I want to create a legacy.”