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Why JoJo Siwa Had Abby Lee Miller "References" Removed From The J Team

In an exclusive interview with E! News, JoJo Siwa spoke about her new Paramount+ musical film and the similarities between a key character and her former Dance Moms instructor.

By Corinne Heller, Spencer Lubitz Aug 26, 2021 6:05 PMTags
Watch: JoJo Siwa Assures "The J Team" Isn't a Dig at Abby Lee Miller

There's no dancing around the fact that a particular character in JoJo Siwa's upcoming TV musical film may bring to mind a notable figure from the pop star's past.

In The J Team, set to premiere on Paramount+ on Sept. 3, the 18-year-old Nickelodeon star plays a teenage dancer who has to deal with a strict—and sparkles-hating—new coach, Miss Poppy, played by Tisha Campbell. JoJo, who also serves as an executive producer of the movie, rose to fame as a child star on the Lifetime reality show Dance Moms, which saw her being taught by real-life dance instructor Abby Lee Miller, who is known for her tough tactics. JoJo told E! News exclusively that there was a conscious decision to separate Miss Poppy from Abby.

"There actually was a lot more, I guess I should say, Abby references," she revealed. "Like there's a moment in the movie where Miss Poppy's coach, when she was little, Mr. Melody, he said something like, 'I want no, no, no, no, no crying kids in Mr. Melody's class.' And once I got the script, I was like no, because this is not a dig at Abby at all, and I said, I get it, it's funny and it's a funny reference and everybody knows it. But there [were] a few references that were just a little too close to home."

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JoJo Siwa's Star-Studded Sweet 16 Birthday Party

On the Lifetime series, Abby occasionally upset her students with her blunt critiques. On a season five episode in 2015, she left JoJo in tears following a public confrontation with her and her mother, Jessalynn. The instructor told the child star, "I want no, no, no, no, no, no crying children. None."

JoJo continued, "Most dance coaches are like that, are like Miss Poppy. It's a real thing. And so, I think we were just telling a story. And if I never would have been on Dance Moms, no one would ever have thought, 'Oh, that's-'...I think the world is looking for me to be like, 'Yeah, no, that was a reference to Abby Lee.'"

Instagram / Abby Lee Miller

"I'm all about pleasing the viewer, obviously, and I want the viewer to be happy and whoever's watching the movie to like it," JoJo told E! News about The J Team. "And so, I get that it's funny. I do. And I think Abby also would get that it's funny and I don't think that it's mean or harmful. But obviously, she looked at me and said, 'I want no, no, no, no, no crying children.' And so, would it have been funny to have that in there? Yes. Was it necessary? No."

Abby has defended her teaching tactics. In 2020, she left Dance Moms and Lifetime after nine years, following a jail stint for bankruptcy fraud and a cancer battle. She continues working at the Abby Lee Dance Company.

Jesse Grant for Buca di Beppo

And there appear to be no hard feelings between her and JoJo despite any past on-set tension. In January, Abby voiced support for the star on Instagram after she came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. JoJo reposted Abby's tribute on her Instagram Story.

"The coolest thing that people call me is a gay icon," the teen told E! News. "I think that is so cool. My life has changed a lot since coming out. It's weird because it's like, the way that has changed is I'm happier, if that makes sense. Like, nothing with my career has really been like a significant change or crazy, but it's like, everything has."

After coming out, JoJo went public with her relationship with girlfriend Kylie Prew. But she isn't labeling her sexual orientation.

"My sexuality label? You could call it anything you want," JoJo told E! News. "Here's where I'm at. I'm in love with a girl. I've only ever been in love with one human, and it's this human. Does that make me a lesbian? Yeah. I've always been open to anything. Does that make me a pansexual? Yeah. I've only loved, and have been in love with one person. Does that make me demisexual? Yeah. Or found attraction to one person? Yes. Do I not know anything? Queer! Yes! Great!"

JoJo continued, "Have I had a boyfriend? Yes. Do I have a girlfriend now? Yes. Does that make me bisexual? Yes. Am I bisexual, though now? No. There's so many labels that you can put on it. I think, for me, happy is probably the best label."

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