In a recent appearance on the Howie Mandel Does Stuff podcast, JoJo Siwa seemed to defend Colleen Ballinger, better known as her YouTube character Miranda Sings.
Ballinger has been facing allegations from a slew of former fans who say she was inappropriate with them in private group chats and onstage. Adam McIntyre, who accused Ballinger of using him as an “unpaid intern” when he was only 13, first brought attention to the allegations in 2020.
On the Sept. 12 episode of the podcast, Mandel asked former Dance-Moms-star-turned-YouTuber Siwa if she was still friends with Ballinger, who canceled the rest of her 2023 tour and has gone silent since her widely mocked ukulele apology.
“This is the first time I’ve talked about this so I want to make sure I say my exact piece the way I want to say,” Siwa responded. “The internet can take a lie and go so far with it, so far that it’s to the point where you just can’t do anything about it.”
Siwa said she has known Ballinger for around eight years — since Siwa was 12 years old. Siwa estimated that she and Ballinger have filmed around 100 videos together and, in a tweet from 2018, seemingly dubbed the overlap of their fans the “joleen fandom.”
“I know Colleen very, very, very well,” she continued. “I think the work that Colleen has done for the internet is incredible. I think her creativity is incredible … I think it’s very hard to be a character where people are also looking at you as you’re a real human behind that character.”
One of the more publicized allegations against Ballinger is that she sent multiple private photos of YouTuber Trisha Paytas to a group chat of fans. According to one of the former fans who claimed to have been in those group chats, Ballinger would also take content from Paytas’s paywalled OnlyFans and host “viewing parties.”
Paytas publicly denounced Ballinger over the claims in July and said she was never going to speak to her again.
Siwa, on the other hand, argued that Ballinger could not have anticipated how her comedy would be perceived years later.
“I think being a comedian is very hard because you were able to do those things years ago that were OK,” Siwa said. “Now that we’ve grown and we’ve matured, we’ve realized they’re not OK.”
Ballinger was 21 years old when she started the character of Miranda Sings, and 23 years old when she started putting on live shows.
In a 2016 video featuring Ballinger and Siwa that recently resurfaced amid the allegations, Ballinger is 29 years old and telling Siwa, 13, that she shouldn’t “dress porn.” At one point, when Siwa does the splits, Ballinger asks her, “Did that hurt your tookie?” When Siwa asks what that means, Ballinger gestures to her crotch.
“For ‘real grooming,’ it’s a very sensitive thing,” Siwa told Mandel. “I think the problem is the internet was able to capitalize off of [Ballinger’s] cancellation. And they still are, and they still are continuing to, and it’s not OK because a lot of it is based off of lies.”
But some are arguing that Siwa’s involvement with Ballinger from a young age could make her a victim of manipulation too. In a Reddit thread discussing the podcast interview, one user theorized that Siwa, who is 20, might not be able to see what her friend who was 16 years older was doing. Another suggested that her formative years being on a reality TV show with her mom may also have played a role in how she grew up viewing adults.
Siwa has not publicly said that she personally identifies as a victim of Ballinger’s.
“She became somebody that I looked up to. She became somebody I idolized,” Siwa said about Ballinger. “She became somebody that I was like, ‘Wow, this person is a hard worker, she is a genius, she’s a very strong YouTuber,’ and I idolized that.”
Siwa faced backlash recently for continuing to work with another YouTuber facing allegations of grooming, James Charles. The two have been making videos together since 2020 and did one as recently as June. On Aug. 7, Siwa was photographed at Charles’s launch party for his new makeup line.
One Reddit user in the “Colleen Ballinger Snark” subreddit broke down a number of instances where Siwa grew up in front of the camera, surrounded by other YouTube creators who were at least a decade older than she was.
Aside from Ballinger and Charles, there was also Shane Dawson, who was 15 years older than Siwa and who effectively stopped making videos in 2020 after clips of him in blackface and jokes he made about pedophilia and bestiality came out; and Rachel Ballinger, Colleen’s sister, who is 12 years older and who made a joke in a 2019 podcast episode about being able to cuddle Siwa when she turned 18.
Since the Mandel interview dropped Tuesday morning, Siwa has not commented on the response to her defending Ballinger.
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