This article series – A Tough Act to Follow (get it?) – is an exploration into the performative nature (and indeed, the “theatre”) of social media. Each feature will see me interviewing an Instagram influencer, social media personality, or somebody who utilises social media to advance their career, as we explore the construction of online identities. In particular, this series is interested in gender and sexual identity.
Following my last “tough act”, Jony Sios, is influencer, twerk dancer and music artist, Jojo Guadagnno. Jojo also works at Lisa Vanderpump’s newest restaurant, TomTom, and has been featured on ‘Vanderpump Rules’!
Jojo Guadagno, or Jojo Guadz, is sometimes called by his honorific title, “the Prince of Twerk”.
I believe I first came across Jojo when scrolling through Tumblr as a teen. Impressed by him indeed – I mean, how could my gender-critical, feminist ass not be inspired by a masculine guy unashamedly shaking his muscular ass?!
The above image has been uploaded to Jojo’s instagram multiple times, so I chose to use it as the first image because he obviously loves it.
I decided to message him about it. He said it’s his favourite photo because it shows off his fun side. He even has it as his phone wallpaper, as a reminder to always be happy!
“What’s that Whitney Said?” I asked. “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all!”
This interview lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes, making it my second longest interview ever (5 minutes short of my interview with the Zakar Twins, who I’ve also been a fan of for years) and my longest interview with an individual!
This is because Jojo is such a fun, passionate and easy-going guy. Nothing was off-limits – in fact, as you’ll see, he opened up about stuff I didn’t even ask him about!
He really opened up!
This is what I love about him – he is open, honest and, most importantly, himself.
Jojo’s coming-out story
Jojo’s grew up in a “very Italian” home. His parents are both first-generation Americans, and his dad was not the most accepting of gay people, which made it hard to come out.
Jojo said he wanted to wait until he was in a relationship before he came out. He made the relatable point that before your first real relationship, you tell yourself that you are not gay.
Jojo was in a closeted relationship in high school for two years. He told me candidly that being in the closet lead to some anger issues. His brother wanted to know what was wrong with him, and Jojo knew that it was time to tell him the truth, but was too scared to tell him directly.
So, he went for a walk and had their best friend, Karina, tell his brother. When he got back, his brother took a hold of him and told him that he loved him.
When he told his mum (or “mom”) that he was no longer “friends” with his secret boyfriend, she told him honestly that she and his dad had wondered if they were secretly dating.
Jojo then went into the living room, where there was a coming-out special on TV. He saw this as a sign, so he came out to his mom, who was supportive right from the beginning.
Jojo joked that his dad had a “heart attack” when he came out, but his protective mom told her husband, “if you think you’re gonna break up my family, you’re gonna be the one that’s thrown out of the family.”
Jojo said he “lucked out” when he came out, because he was dating a guy who was pretty notable on television, so people were more shocked that he was dating this guy, than the fact that he was dating a guy!
He said he “dumbed down” the fact he was coming out by making it extreme: “oh, and I’m moving to LA, see you later, goodbye, take care!”
Whilst living in LA, Jojo met Todrick Hall and starred in some of his videos. The first to be released was ‘Mickey Minaj’, which has almost 12 million views on Youtube and was reposted by notable celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest – and Nicki Minaj, herself!
Sadly, this high did not last for long.
Jojo was dumped and left homeless by his boyfriend, with $300 in his bank account and a job that paid $20-60 a week, depending on how many twerk classes he taught. The only help his parents and ex-boyfriend offered him was buying him a flight back home to New York.
Eventually, Jojo got a job at Fat Sal’s Deli in Hollywood, before getting a job as a go-go dancer at The Abbey. One night, he made $5200. His manager told him that it was rare for a guy to make that much, but this boy is a really hard (t)werker!
Jojo loved working at The Abbey because dancers are not treated “like meat”. Dancers are all auditioned, and many of them have danced for some pretty big artists.
He noted that go-go dancing at The Abbey is “elevated”. He truly felt like a dancer, and not just some guy “naked on stage, swinging my cock around.”
I asked Jojo about his parents’ reactions. He said that he would not have felt embarrassed if his mom had seen him dancing there, before admitting that his parents told him to start go-go dancing!
He explained that when his mom visited him in West Hollywood, he took her to The Abbey, and she told him to get a job there.
Jojo had wanted to be a stripper since he was 12-years-old. (Well, he wanted to be a doctor, but he wanted to pay for his education by working as a stripper).
He became a stripper when he was 18, at Hunkamania NYC, whilst studying and working at a summer camp, a fine-dining restaurant, and some other work. His parents were always cool with this – he was safe, having fun, and making money.
Discussing his years as a camp councillor, he said: “I used to be the best, we always had fun – I never twerked with them though!”
Jojo’s twerk career
When it comes to his career, Jojo is a very independent person.
“I’m gonna do this shit all on my own. Gonna make my future happen; I’m gonna make my life happen – with hard work. Work your ass off every single, and it pays off over time.”
He literally works his ass off…
After Jojo’s videos with Todrick garnered him attention, he decided to learn how to twerk.
He took twerk classes at Lexy Panterra’s LexTwerkOut, before eventually teaching her twerk class himself! He said this made him reach more of a “straight market”.
It was not until he started making his own content that his influencer career really took off.
When Jojo started twerking, there was only one notable male twerk dancer – Julian Serrano, aka Juju Mario. I recognised his name and have since realised that I first came across him years ago.
Jojo said that he was inspired by Juju (confusingly similar names, I know) to become a twerker.
He said that he and Juju have always respected each other, and neither have seen each other as a threat.
“Now, I feel like with TikTok, there’s so many male twerkers all of a sudden, and they don’t have no respect for people that have been doing it first,” he laughed. “It’s all good. I’m like, it’s cool, because just wait, ‘cause now I’m on TikTok, so y’all need to watch out… The Prince of Twerk is back, baby!”
Jojo moved back home to New York over lockdown and converted his parents’ basement into a “twerk studio dungeon”. As well as teaching twerk classes, he has been working on a new training programme, ‘Jojo’s Twerk Tapes’, that he will be releasing very soon!
This intense, four-month programme will consist of two 30-45-minute classes a week. Jojo said that by the end of it, you will have been taught all of the twerk moves that he could possibly teach you. He promises that he can teach anyone how to twerk!
Jojo admits that he is very different to what people expect. He puts this down to him being a “ratchet ass twerker”.
“People literally expect me to be dumb, slutty… typical circuit, like, gay boy… messy.”
In reality, prior to becoming an influencer, Jojo was in school for engineering, and he has a degree in mathematics!
“I’m a lot smarter than I come across, and I’m ambitious and I’m passionate. Those are my two new favourite verbs, or what are they, nouns, or adjectives? Adjectives!”
When I replied, “adjectives,” he hilariously responded, “I’m a Math major, not an English major, okay? Don’t come for me!”
Something that I love about Jojo is how he blurs the lines between masculinity and femininity. He is a masculine guy with a “feminine” hairstyle who is known for doing a “feminine” dance.
“I like the little bit of androgyny that I have,” Jojo explained. “The fact that I am a little bit feminine in the way that I dance, but I give you this masculine, ‘I’ll f*ck you up’ vibe.”
Jojo said he enjoys being masculine partially because he finds masculinity attractive: “I’ve always tried to be the type of guy that I want to end up with,” he explained. This is not just referring to masculinity but also other things that he likes to see in guys. “Why would I have expectations of a man that I can’t fulfil myself?”
Jojo also admitted that being masculine is good for his brand because of his popularity with “the cougars”!
“Being a twerker is already so ‘feminine’… I know the girls appreciate [me being masculine because] it helps them fantasise a little bit.”
Jojo explained that twerking does not have to be “feminine”.
“I think I twerk really well, and I think I do keep my [twerking] masculine… It’s very inspired by ‘Magic Mike’, the way I twerk, and I keep it sexy and masculine,” he told me, before asking, “So, who’s to say that twerking really is only for women, you know, why can’t it be for men, too? And you’re starting to see, with the new generation, a lot more boys are starting to twerk, and people are starting to get more in with it.”
Jojo later admitted to not liking how we feel the need to put gender on everything – from items of clothing to types of dance – and thinks that we should get over societal values that were created so long ago.
“All these labels that people created… How many hundreds of years ago? So, who really cares about those people’s opinions? Those are just labels that were just made up. None of these things actually are real, you know?”
He then applied this to twerking directly:
“So, when it comes to twerking, I think twerking is a masculine dance style, it’s a feminine dance style… it can be whatever you want it to be, and it’s all in the way you carry yourself, and it’s all in the way you feel when you’re doing it. Twerking is just a dance style and a way to express yourself and have fun – and I think that’s what everything in life should be, everything you do. Nothing should come with a label; nothing should come with a gender. It’s all made up… Really, who cares what somebody else is doing?”
Sadly, not everybody is so progressive when it comes to gender. Jojo has received an insane amount of abuse – much of it homophobic – over his years as a twerker.
He said that his biggest conflict “is with straight men – obviously”.
He has received lots of compliments from straight men, though. Some have even told him that he out-twerked the girls!
Sadly, this is far from the norm for Jojo.
A few years ago, Lexy Panterra shared videos of Jojo on her Youtube channel. The comments are pretty awful.
Jojo said of these fragile men:
“They want to just attack me and bring me down… I’m living my life for me… I’m not living my life to make you happy… If you don’t like what I do, I’m sorry, but you need to go mind your own business and worry about your career and what you’re working on and worry about yourselves and your relationships. I’m very happy with what I do. You guys attacking me is not gonna change anything; I’m gonna continue to enjoy what I’m doing… And you coming at me is not gonna change shit; I’m gonna continue twerking… See you on Youtube!”
Jojo joked that these guys are insecure because they have never slept with a girl that can move the way that he does, so he makes them feel some type of way inside.
“Sorry that your girl doesn’t do it for you, and you know that I can!”
Jojo even receives some hateful comments from gay guys.
“The gays are so mean to the gays,” he said. He thinks there is a lot of jealousy and competition in the gay community.
He said that, instead of competing with other people, people should spend more time competing with themselves – and bettering their own lives.
Jojo said that lots of gay guys have told him that he does not have an ass and cannot twerk.
“I may not be able to twerk, and I may not have an ass, but I must be doing something right ‘cause people love it, so whatever.”
I asked Jojo about a hilarious, cathartic video that he posted a few months ago. Sadly, Instagram deleted it, so he decided to bless me with a re-enactment:
“I love when people come up to me and call me ‘gay’. Like, no f*cking shit I’m gay – and the sky is f*cking blue, too. Any other facts you wanna point out? You f*cking idiot. Like, no sh*t. And yeah, just because I’m gay don’t mean I won’t f*ck yo ass up, so watch the f*ck how you talk to me… That’s what I said… I’m done with people calling me f*cking gay like it’s an insult… How about I call you ‘boy’?”
As well as hateful comments and messages, Jojo receives plenty of sexually explicit and inappropriate ones. This will be, in part, because of what he does – people think that because he sexualises himself that they have the right to sexualise him, too.
Jojo said that the reason he closed his Cameo account is because of the “dirty” requests he received.
He also said that lots of guys try to guess his preferred sexual positions, but:
“None of y’all know what the f*ck I’m like in bed. You can imagine what I’m like in bed, but you don’t know what I’m like in bed. And I’ll tell you, it’s 50 times better than anything you can ever fantasise!”
This is one of my favourite things about Jojo – he is unashamedly sex positive.
Jojo said he never wanted to be an influencer. He aspires to go into the arts – as a music artist or an actor – which is why he does not have the best social media presence.
Indeed, he does not post as much as most influencers. Social media is more a way for him to showcase his talent and build his career.
Jojo has been making music for about three years, but his experiences with producers have been very negative. He even had a producer put their name on one of his songs. So, over lockdown, he has learned how to produce his own music.
He said he hates how producers try to take control over artists’ music. His sassy Italian New Yorker side then came out: “It’s not your song. You do your own f*cking song then. The f*ck? My song!”
Jojo then offered some advice for aspiring music artists:
“Learn how to do it yourself. If you do it yourself, you don’t owe nobody shit. That’s how I live my life… It is more difficult, but once you learn how to do it, it’s easier.”
He said that he sings “rap, twerk music” and told me to just imagine “an Italian boy from New York rapping about twerking – there you go.”
He aspires to release his first album on all music platforms by June, so keep your eyes peeled – and get your ears (and butts) ready!
Whilst he will be releasing this album independently, he is open to working with a label if he gets a good deal: “I’m all about the deal. If there’s a good deal – you got a pay check; I got a talent!”
Jojo also hopes to take his ass on tour someday. I can only imagine what kind of crazy exxxtravangza this would be!
I told him he must come to our swanky, snazzy and super gay city of Manchestah! If both Jinkx Monsoon and Drake love it, I’m sure this gay Italian boy from New York will.
Jojo’s celebrity relationships
Whilst Jojo is working on his own music, he has starred in music videos for several of his friends, including the supremely talented Todrick Hall!
Jojo spoke very positively of Todrick, who he partially credits to launching his career.
The two have remained friends, and Jojo hopes to see him when he moves back to LA. I’d love to talk more about Todrick, but I think he needs an article of his own. Maybe I’ll interview him one day!
Jojo is also friends with Internet celebrity, YouTuber, singer, and actress, Lele Pons, who currently has over 40 million followers on Instagram!
Jojo has been working as a server at Lisa Vanderpump’s newest restaurant, TomTom, for a few years. He even made a few appearances on the most recent season of ‘Vanderpump Rules’!
He hopes to make a few appearances next season and maybe even star in his own reality television show one day.
Honestly, this guy needs his own TV show. I’m not even a big fan of reality television, but Jojo is one of the most hilarious, fabulous, hilariously fabulous, and fabulously hilarious people, that I have ever come across.
I totally have a “friend crush” on this guy – he’s just so much fun!
Jojo said that, before the pandemic, Lisa would eat at the restaurant almost every single day.
When I asked if she is good to work for, he said that he loves her “so f*cking much” – both she and her husband, Ken, are lovely.
Lisa once even asked him to ballroom dance with her in the middle of the restaurant. He told her that this is not his style of dancing – like, at all – but she convinced him to do it.
“It’s like ‘Dancing with the Stars’,” she said.
Jojo told her that she’s good and should go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’.
When I told Jojo that I miss seeing Lisa on the ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ (RHOBH), he told me that he got into a fight with Lisa Reina on Twitter after she labelled Vanderpump “transphobic”.
Jojo also told me that Reina sent a group message to queer influencers about how they need to band together to stop Vanderpump.
“Don’t come for my girl, LVP… That’s my girl!” he said. “I got her back; she got back. I’m Italian; I’m very loyal. I’m family-oriented, so if you come for my family, I’m coming for you.”
This prompted me to tell Jojo that I used to think he was Latino, but it soon became quite clear that he’s Italian!
“I’m such a Guido from New York,” he laughed.
Whilst Jojo is from New York and is soon moving back to Los Angeles, he is currently living with drag queen Rhea Litré in Las Vegas. He refers to Rhea as his “drag mother”.
He’s actually friends with lots of drag queens. Here he is with Detox, Raja Gemini (Sutan Amrull), and Litré.
Oh, and that yellow thing creeping behind the tree is actually Willem!
When I asked him how he knows Litré, he said, “believe it or not, it’s actually kinda crazy!”
I told him that everything he has said in the interview is crazy, so I’ll believe it!
Jojo said that when he first started twerking, he wanted to show some love to a gay artist by twerking to their music.
He came across Litre’s cover of Teena Marie’s ‘Lovergirl’ – an incredible cover, which I later realised I already have saved on Spotify – and decided to twerk to it.
About three years later, when he was homeless, he befriended Litré, who helped him get a job at The Abbey. Jojo offered to dance at Litré’s parties. Litré loved that Jojo would go for it even if there were only three people in the bar.
Litré’s love for Jojo lead to her asking him to be her “drag son”, even though he does not do drag.
But whilst he does not do drag, he does blur the lines between masculinity and femininity, and this is one of the reasons why I wanted him as one of my “tough acts”.
Further, Jojo is a very “tough” guy – not just physically (I mean, look at him) but also mentally and emotionally. He has gone through a lot, but he’s never stopped fighting (or “hustling,” as this Italian boy from New York says).
There is a chance that I will only be featuring one more person in this series. If that is the case, I am so glad to have Jojo as my penultimate “tough act” – because, in all honestly, I would not want to follow this King (I mean Prince)!
Keep your eyes peeled on Jojo’s social media for updates about his new training programme, his debut album, and more.
Jojo will soon be launching his website – jojoguadz.com – where he will be selling fitness tapes and merchandise!
So, there is lots to look forward to. Jojo has been (t)werking really hard during this pandemic, so go give this gay Italian boy from New York some social media amore.