Singer JoJo recalls how she was put on a 500-calorie diet and given appetite-suppressing injections as a teen
The singer spent nearly a decade fighting against her label Blackground Records and was forced to put out free mixtapes while she awaited her freedom
Joanna Noëlle Levesque, known to most by her stage name "JoJo" began her career in 2004. Her first song, 'Leave (Get Out)', made her an overnight sensation because of the powerhouse vocals that seemed misplaced coming out of a 13-year-old.
The song made JoJo the youngest female solo artiste with a number one single in the US. Sadly, her initial success was short-lived after she became embroiled in a legal battle with her label, Blackground Records, that lasted over a decade during which time JoJo released a few mixtapes and covers, but not much else.
However, the sordid tale of her time with Blackground does not end with their alleged attempts to control and block her ability to release music.
"When I was 18, 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'," JoJo recalls in an interview with Uproxx.
Initially, the singer did not buy into what she was being told about her image. She responded to attempts to get her to change how she looked by saying, "I'm actually the picture of health. I look like a healthy girl who eats and is active, and I don't think that this is about my health. I think that you want me to be really skinny."
Eventually, JoJo was sent to a nutritionist who put her on a 500 calorie-a-day diet and appetite-suppressing injections. Soon, the body image issues kicked in.
However, it wasn't simply out of insecurity that the issues were born — the singer believed this was the only way she could continue making music. "Maybe I'm just so disgusting that no one wants to see me in a video and that they can't even look at me," she remembers thinking.
"I am speaking, I would say, for probably every woman in this industry that... your image and your weight is up for conversation... And it's just uncomfortable. It's hard enough being a woman," says JoJo.
The feeling of not being enough and needing validation, combined with issues with her label not releasing her music, and the loss of her father to addiction all led JoJo to turn to alcohol.
JoJo says she "was completely reckless" and "needed to be buzzed to feel OK." However, she did not let her demons win, as she overcame her addictions, vowing to not end up like her father.
JoJo finally broke free of the powers that be — who legally owned her voice up until that point — and finally came back to music with 'III' (pronounced tringle), an EP featuring three new singles.
This was followed by a tour, more EPs and singles, and a re-release of her debut and second albums now totally re-recorded with minor changes.
More recently, the singer put out a song titled 'Joanna' — a letter to her younger 14-year-old self that ends with the promise of new music. She made good on that promise, releasing the song 'Sabotage' featuring Chika.