JoJo's early fame had its dark side. Even before hitting it big, it was apparent that her schoolmates were jealous of her talent. "You could see very early on that the girls wanted to be like Joanna," said her first-grade teacher, Julia Haney. But when they couldn't, they got mean, especially once she made it on TV.
Adding to JoJo's childhood woes was her family's financial situation. Her mother Diana made a meager living as a cleaning lady, and the two shared a run-down, one-bedroom apartment. JoJo had to make do with reduced-price lunches, hand-me-down clothes, and shopping at Wal-Mart and Kmart.
In 2002, JoJo performed on TV's America's Most Talented Kids competition. She lost, describing the experience as "terrible," but some good came from it. An audience member, impressed with JoJo's performance, introduced her to producer Vincent Herbert. Herbert signed JoJo to a multi-album deal with Blackground Records.