Seasoned, savvy, but nowhere near jaded.
By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY
NEW YORK -- Like a lot of pop divas, 15-year-old JoJo -- who has a huge hit with the single "Too Little Too Late" -- travels with an entourage, and this day is no different.
But unlike a lot of pop divas, this entourage is relatively small -- no bodyguards, no army of makeup artists and stylists, and no hangers on. Instead, it's just a publicist, a friend, and one VIP -- JoJo's mother.
Though JoJo's celebrity is growing by the day, she and her family are trying their best to make sure the teenager doesn't get snared by fame's headlights, like a lot of young starlets. An only child, she lives with her parents outside of Boston, and usually travels with a teenage friend in tow, along with her mom, to keep her company when she's on the road for work.
JoJo made her debut on the pop scene two years ago, when she was just 13 -- making waves with a booming soulful voice that recalled Christina Aguilera. Though the album wasn't a top-seller, it was a moderate success, and helped jump-start JoJo's acting career (she costarred with Robin Williams in this year's family comedy "RV").
JoJo's workload should only increase with the release of her second album, "The High Road," out this month. Though it shows a more mature side, JoJo insists she hasn't grown up that much -- and she's still looking forward to her sweet 16 party.
Q. Was it overwhelming making your first album at 12?
A. Looking back on it, I know that I didn't feel overwhelmed when I was recording it; it was so much fun to me, I was just so excited through the whole thing. Everything was new to me, everything was just great and beautiful, and I didn't see some of the behind-the-scenes things that now I see, because I do know a little bit more about this industry.
Q. How often do you have to worry about material choice and the tone of your music, given that you are just 15?
A. Yeah, we walk a fine line. It's hard because you don't want to be hokey, you don't want to be corny and sing about rainbows and butterflies, because that's not real to me. They're beautiful but that's just not real life. But also, dancing up in the club is not real life for me either, so you have to find a happy medium, and things that are appropriate. I would have to say that some of these songs on the album kind of do push that line with song titles ... (but) when I sing a song it doesn't come from like an overtly sexual place, that's just not who I am. It's not what I try and represent, so I think that people will interpret the songs that they want to, from their own experiences, and that's fine. That's what music is about.
Q. Does that play a role into the clothes you wear?
A. I do take it into consideration. The fact of the matter is, I'm not a stick figure. I have curves -- I'm 15 years old. I'm growing! There's nothing I can do about it! So even if I wore a T-shirt, I can't help it. I don't want to dress in sacks. I think that I do find a happy medium in what I get to wear. If I show a little bit of plunging neckline, I'm not going to do a really really short skirt or some booty-shorts, that's just not me. I want to find a place that's comfortable for me, and I also don't feel comfortable walking around in nothing and I don't think I will be that way when I'm legal. I just don't think that you'll see this crazy turnaround from me when I'm 18 and I'll be like ... JoJo, "Girls Gone Wild!"
Q. There's so much attention on younger stars in the tabloids. How have you avoided that?
A. I hear so many stories. I mean, people just don't know. There are a lot of girls who you would think are great role models who are younger than 18 or some are under 21. They are still young, but they are in these clubs and they are doing things that you just don't expect. But with me, my mom is so close to me, and she's not one of those mothers who would just let things slide. She's there with me all the time. I don't go to a lot of parties, I'm not out late. She makes sure that I get sleep and that my school is done.
Q. A lot of former child stars lament about not having had a childhood. Do you feel shortchanged out of your teenage years?
A. I don't feel grown. I have so much more to learn, I think every year you learn something new. I'm not the same person that I was when I was 13, and I won't be the same person when I'm 18, even two months from now, when I turn 16, I'll probably be a little different, so no, I don't feel like I really missed out on much. I have the majority of my friends outside the industry, and a majority of them are 18 and under, so I feel like I am very much in touch with my youth, so it's not going anywhere.
Q. There's a lot of attention on girls' sweet 16 celebrations these days. What kind do you want?
A. I don't know. I definitely want it to include a car. I just want to be with my friends and family, have music and food ... and just people that I love to be with. And my birthday is in December, so hopefully somewhere that's not snowing ... maybe somewhere warm like Miami.
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