JoJo Siwa performing at Wolf Trap in Virginia. Picture: Washington Post

Washington - The concert opened with a fanatical countdown chant.

"Five, four, three, two . . . one!"

Legions of fans in oversize hair bows let out a collective high-pitched shriek. They leaped out of their parents' arms and the sweaty plastic seats of the Wolf Trap amphitheater, scrambling for a clearer view of the sparkling silhouette onstage: 16-year-old pop sensation JoJo Siwa.

Joelle Joanie Siwa is an enigma to most adults. At first glance, the former Dance Moms star looks like an escapee from the Candy Crush universe, whimsically dressed in a mishmash of neon sparkles, rhinestones and glitter. 

Her music is similarly shiny - a message of self-love, confidence and girl power over a manufactured electro-pop beat. But parents who've been through it will tell you: Once a child has sipped the JoJo juice, there's no going back. It opens the doors to a world of colorfully excessive merchandise, loud YouTube shenanigans and - perhaps her greatest parental selling point - G-rated, good-natured fun.

Her songs, with titles such as Boomerang, Kid in a Candy Store and High Top Shoes, sound juvenile - but then again so are her fans. The Siwanatorz, the official name for her fans, fall typically within the toddler and tween age range.

Yet she seems to have handled the ugly side of fame with surprising grace. She limits comments on her social media and disables them on her YouTube videos, stating that she doesn't want her young fan base to be exposed to "bad language" online.

"That's what makes her so inspiring to me," said Emily Cuthbert, 15, who has followed JoJo since her Dance Moms days. "I'm an unironic fan, and I think she's a great role model to these young girls."

Cuthbert's hair, which was tied into two bouncy space buns atop her head, was streaked with pink and teal. She wore a bright Hawaiian blue shirt, printed pineapple shorts and a fanny pack - a ridiculous outfit for a casual night out, but perfect for a JoJo Siwa concert.

"Do you think JoJo can see me?" asked a tutu-wearing toddler, pointing to the speck that is JoJo onstage. Her mother suggested they wave, and suddenly, serendipitously, JoJo belted out, "I love you guys!"

The toddler kept waving, mesmerized. The entire arena shook with a chorus of 1 000 piping voices: "I love you JoJo!"

The Wastington Post