When pop singer and songwriter Joanna Noëlle Blagden Levesque, better known as JoJo, released her debut single, “Leave (Get Out),” in 2004 at age 13 in 2004, she became the youngest solo artist to have a number-one single in the United States. (Justin Bieber was 15.) At only age 12, she had signed a seven-album contract with Blackground Records. Her second album, The High Road, released when she was 15, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 in 2004. But after the album’s release, JoJo became a so-called “one-hit wonder” not because she didn’t have the talent or the charisma or the drive, but because she was locked into contract with a record company that she claimed ignored her after she submitted her third album. “I’ve recorded about three incarnations of this third album,” she told BuzzFeed in May 2013. “We’ve chosen the track listing, we’ve done multiple album photo shoots, chosen the cover, chosen the credits, everything.” Blackground failed to distribute her album, but JoJo could not move onto another company due to being bound to the label for seven albums total. In the summer of 2013, JoJo filed a lawsuit to be released from her former label, citing laws in both New York and California that specify that minors who sign contracts cannot be bound to these contracts after seven years, so that by law, her deal should have expired in 2011. The Los Angeles Times reported in January 2014 that she was free from her contract and had signed with Atlantic Records.
Now, 10 years after her first hit single hit the airwaves, the 24-year-old Massachusetts-born singer has just released a set of three singles, a “tringle” she calls it. “I smiled all day when I announced my ‘tringle.’ It was really exhilarating,” JoJo tells Yahoo Beauty. “I flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles in one day and did a performance. It was very surreal to see what I’ve been fighting for come to fruition. I know it’s the beginning of the next chapter. I also may have shed a tear or two — so many emotions!”
Before her ‘tringle’ release performance last Thursday, she did her own makeup, opting for dramatic winged eyeliner using Kat Von D Ink Liner ($19), smoky eyes using Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette ($58), strong brows filled by Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($21), and a nude swipe of Laura Mercier Paint Wash Liquid Lip Color ($28) on the lips. “I really didn’t think about my image until I was 18 or 16,” she says. “It wasn’t in the front of my mind. I was just a kid back then.” When her late teens hit, though, she wanted to look even older, so she tanned a lot. “I wanted a complexion I didn’t have,” she admits. In spite of her relatively late interest in makeup, she did embrace another form of body adornment: tattoos. On a visit to Los Angeles at age 17 with her mother, she was working with a makeup artist who was sporting some tattoos that inspired JoJo. “I snuck away with her,” JoJo tells Yahoo Beauty. “I was like, ‘Will you take me to get one?’” She got a treble clef on her ring finger to symbolize her first and truest love: music. “No man will come between me and my music,” she says. Her mother was furious, but once JoJo turned 18 and didn’t need an adult chaperone at the parlor, she got even more tattoos. “I like being in tattoo shops. I like being with artists, including tattoo artists,” JoJo says. Currently, her go-to shop is Prix Body Adornment in southern California.
After her trifecta of songs debuted last Friday, she became the number-one trending search on iTunes, with publications like Billboard, Time, the Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly heralding her victorious comeback and fans, many of whom grew up into adults during her 10 year hiatus, making #tringle a trending hashtag on Twitter. Her three songs are house music-influenced dance mix “When Love Hurts,” — which will be hitting radios soon — heart-wrenching ballad “Say Love,” and mid-tempo track “Save My Soul.” “It’s pretty wild to be ‘coming back’ at 24!” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “There’s a whole group of young kids who grew up listening to pop music and they don’t know who I am. I think it’s wonderful because they’re so in tune with social media.”
But being a female pop star in 2015 is a different circus than being a female pop star in 2005 — Taylor Swift has a girl gang of supermodels (and Lena Dunham), Rihanna is performing with Paul McCartney and making music videos that invite critical analysis from The Atlantic, and Beyoncé has publicly declared herself a feminist. JoJo isn’t letting all this intimidate her. “I know that Taylor Swift has the most beautiful squad of friends, but I have friends I grew up with,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. While there are no literal supermodels, the group includes a screenwriter, a makeup artist, and a business manager — enough girl power jobs to lead the plot of any Hollywood movie. JoJo also has her own female role models to inspire the next chapter of her life: Jane Fonda for her outspoken political stances, Meryl Streep for her graceful aging, and Whitney Houston for being “so poised and powerful and so much of a diva.” JoJo doesn’t consider herself a diva in the temperamental sense, but she is a diva in the musical sense and Beyoncé-defined sense: “a diva is a female version of a hustler.”
Legal protection for young musical artists is one issue that JoJo plans to advocate for. “I’m an outspoken person in general. I’m particularly passionate about protecting minors, and I don’t think anyone should be held to contract that they signed when they were 12,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “I felt trapped. We need better protection for children who are working in the [music] industry. I feel like [we] as artists need to come out and encourage aspiring artists starting in the industry.” While she doesn’t regret starting her professional recording career as a preteen, she understands all too well the perils of being famous at a young age. “Being famous at a young age and being validated by people you don’t know can mess with your mind,” she says. “Going back and having to really fight for the opportunity to live my dreams gave me a different perspective.” JoJo tells Yahoo Beauty that during her hiatus, even though she had released a few mixtapes (and an EP) and performed at some small shows, she stayed out of the paparazzi-driven limelight, which gave her the opportunity to develop as a whole person and not think about what others thought of her: “I could make my mistakes in peace — or actually, maybe they weren’t mistakes! I just lived my life.”