JoJo revealed she was put on a 500-calorie daily diet when she was a teenage artist, and it’s not okay
Trigger warning: This story discusses disordered eating and substance abuse.
In the mid-aughts, JoJo quickly became one of the brightest young voices among the TRL set. In 2004, at 13 years old, she became the youngest ever artist to have a number one song, and she had a slew of successful hits from her first two albums. But a lengthy battle with her record label prevented her from continuing to release music for years. And in a new interview, she opened up about the restrictive diet she was placed on during those years—and how it impacted her mental and physical health.
In a video interview with Uproxx, JoJo shared that when she was 18, the president of her record label, Blackground Records, told her, “We just want you to look as healthy as possible.” At the time, she argued that she was “the picture of health,” saying, “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.” Still, she said, she was pressured to lose weight.
“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,” JoJo recalled.
As a result, she said she struggled with body image issues, and she believed that she needed to change her body to be successful.
"Let me see how skinny I can get, because maybe then they’ll put out an album," she said to Uproxx, recalling how she felt at the time. "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."
She is far (far, far) from the first woman in the music industry to speak about being cruelly pressured to lose weight. JoJo said she understands that she’s not alone in these issues and that she’s not angry that she was “looked at as a product.” Instead, she wants to speak up for other women in the industry.
"I am speaking for probably I would say every woman in this industry [where] your image and your weight is up for conversation and it's just uncomfortable. It's hard enough being a woman," she said. "I’m sure a lot of us develop extreme insecurities and disordered eating and really unhealthy thinking about ourselves. I felt that how I was must have been not enough, must have been dissatisfying."
The “Get Out” singer opened up about how these body image pressures led to her seeking “validation and attention” in other ways, as she wanted to “feel worthy.” Her struggles with self-image led to alcohol abuse problems. It wasn’t until her father, Joel, died in 2015 that she knew something needed to change.
"My dad was an addict and I refused to end up like that. I did not want to do that," she said. "I would’ve ended up like my dad, just going to sleep one day and not waking up."
JoJo has discussed the weight loss plan she was placed on by her label in the past, but this is the first time she’s opened up about how her body image led to her struggles with substance abuse and how they related to her dad’s death. We admire her for being so candid about what she’s gone through and want nothing but the best for her, both in her career and her personal life.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and needs help, use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find treatment near you or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please visit the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) for more information and support or text “NEDA” to 741-741.