JoJo talks jewellery essentials, tattoos and life lessons from Beyoncé

JoJo talks life lessons from Beyoncé, losing her lifetime collection of jewellery in an airport bathroom and what the future holds now that she’s said “I do”

Photography by Phil Knott, Story by Will Lavin

We meet JoJo at The Aster in Hollywood on a sun-drenched Monday afternoon. The sprawling Los Angeles private members club and boutique hotel oozes boundless warmth and sophistication. It’s the perfect location for the pop star’s Something About Rocks cover shoot. Adorned in jewellery by Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tabayer, Suzanne Kalan and Ananya, she glistens as the California rays ricochet off each piece.

JoJo knows what it’s like to shine. The 31-year-old US singer-songwriter (real name Joanna Noëlle Levesque) has been at the epicentre of pop culture ever since the release of her groundbreaking debut single, Leave (Get Out), in 2004. Released when she was just 13, it topped Billboard’s Pop Songs chart and at the time made her the youngest artist ever to do so. Her self-titled debut LP sold over three million copies worldwide, as did its 2006 follow-up, The High Road.  

As she headed into womanhood, JoJo adopted more of a soulful R&B sound, earning her comparisons to the likes of Brandy and Mariah Carey. Dubbed a “vocal phenom” and praised for her upper-register flourishes, the next 10 years saw the Massachusetts native showcase her impressive vocal range and prolific artistry through a series of mixtapes, EPs and sold-out tours. She dropped her third album, Mad Love, in 2016, followed by her fourth, Good To Know, in 2020. Her most recent project was last year’s Trying Not To Think About It EP. 

But the luminescent glow of her impressive career isn’t the only thing that’s been shining. On her birthday last December, JoJo got engaged to Dexter Darden, the American actor best known for his roles in The Binge and the Maze Runner film series. Popping the question at a private gathering in front of their respective families, Darden proposed with a dazzling diamond white and yellow gold ring. “I can’t stop looking at it,” JoJo explains. “I’m obsessed.” The engagement marks the start of a new chapter for JoJo who says she’s taking a small break from music, not just to plan her wedding but to enjoy some of her other passions, jewellery being one of them.

Jojo Rocks Summer 2022
JoJo wears Bulgari jewellery

What are some of your earliest jewellery memories? 

JoJo: Being a ‘90s kid, I remember my interactions with big costume jewellery and the Dynasty-era style that my nana would wear, like big gold bobbles and clip-ons. I remember clip-ons being something I thought were really cool. I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was a little bit older. 

How old were you when you got them pierced?

I think I was maybe 11. But I remember in particular getting my belly button pierced on a family vacation in a random town in New Hampshire with my aunt, because my mom wouldn’t let me do it. I tried to hide my belly button piercing from her for a long time. I think I got it done when I was 16 and she was pissed when she found out, but I really wanted a friggin’ belly ring.

Did she ground you?

She tried, but it was hard because I was pretty famous and I was being such an asshole.

What’s the first piece of jewellery you ever owned? 

It was a gold locket given to me by my nana on my dad’s side. And because my parents were divorced, my dad put a picture of he and I inside of it. That kind of speaks to my relationship with jewellery, which is that I love the sentimentality of pieces. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of pieces that have meant a lot to me because I’m an ADD girl and I don’t know where things are.  But those physical reminders of a loved one or a time, things like that, I just love. 

Jojo Rocks Summer 2022
JoJo wears Suzanne Kalan jewellery

Can you remember some of the pieces you’ve lost? 

I’ve acquired so many natural, beautiful turquoise rings from my travels to the American Southwest. I just love turquoise, plus it’s my birthstone being a Sagittarius. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I was washing my hands at the airport, I must have been tired, jet-lagged and in a rush, and I took off my rings to better wash my hands and left them there. This is actually what prompted me to get the turquoise tattoos I have because I was so sad to lose those pieces. I felt so powerful and royal wearing them. 

So your tattoos are a replacement for some of the jewellery you’ve lost? 

Yeah, because I can’t lose my tattoos. And the idea of a permanent accessory was something that was appealing to me. 

What is your favourite type of jewellery?

I’m a big fan of earrings. I have multiple ear piercings and tattoos in [my ears] as well. I just love the idea that you wake up and are already accessorised with the smaller earrings.

Do you have a preference when it comes to metal?

I would say white gold is what I’m feeling right now. I’ve rocked yellow gold pretty faithfully for a while and I just think I’m moving into a season where I’m liking white gold or silver more. I think it brings out my eyes and might be more complimentary to my undertones.

Jojo Rocks Summer 2022
JoJo wears Pasquale Bruni earrings and Van Cleef & Arpels ring

Where would you say your jewellery taste comes from? 

My nana on my mom’s side was an incredibly fabulous woman. She was a real estate agent and she really presented herself so fabulously with colourful adornments, from her clothing to her jewellery. She loved to match and make a statement and that really left an impression on me. When I was younger I would look through her bits and would always want to play dress up with her things because she had such cool things and that definitely left a lasting impression on me. 

What are some of your favourite pieces you’ve seen on other people?

I absolutely love Erykah Badu’s stacking of jewellery and her rings. That was very inspirational when it came to acquiring my turquoise pieces. There was a lot of intention behind her jewellery wearing. It’s that intentional adornment and choosing of things that will support her in her life and in her art. It can be a reminder of our power or our heritage and inspirations. To see the evolution of her style, it still has some bohemian elements but it’s such a synthesis of inspiration with futurism.

Jojo Rocks Summer 2022
JoJo wears Tabayer pendant and hoop earrings

Do you have a piece that you keep on constantly?

My engagement ring. I sleep with it, I bathe with it, I rarely take it off, and that’s not just because of a sense of vitality but because I’m holding on for dear life not to lose it. It’s probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever worn. It’s a white and yellow gold ring with a beautiful oval cut diamond.

Have you always been a fan of diamonds?

I never knew how much I enjoyed them until I got engaged because now I’m constantly looking at it. I’m obsessed. I love it and I love that a diamond represents marriage because it’s unbreakable. You can put it through so much and it holds up, right? That resilience, that toughness is inspiring and is a good reminder that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

So you subscribe to the notion that diamonds are in fact a girl’s best friend?

Sustainable ones, yes. I think the modern woman cares about human beings and cares about where things are coming from and the human costs behind it. So, yes, sustainably sourced diamonds and lab-grown diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

Is there anything you’re eyeing up at the moment that you’d like to add to your collection?

I’m on the look out for a watch. I’ve held on to the one diamond and white gold watch that I’ve had for a really long time and it’s fantastic. It’s understated but it still has a little bit of bling which is a good sweet spot for me. But I would really love to get an Oyster Rolex Datejust. I’ve been learning a lot about watches over the past few years. I would really love an elevated every day watch that I can pass to future generations.

As someone who has been performing and touring for almost 20 years, what has been your favourite thing about being a musician?

The access to the world that it has given me. My heart really is in connecting with people, seeing parts of the world and seeing things that I could only have read about in books. It’s the coolest job ever. To call it a job doesn’t even feel right, even all these years later, because it is such a privilege.

JoJo wears Ananya jewellery and Cartier bracelet

What have been some of the most impactful encounters you’ve had with other artists?

I remember meeting Beyoncé at Solange’s birthday party when I was probably 17, and the fact that she was so kind and so present was very moving to me. She gave me a compliment on a cover that I did of [SWV’s] ‘Weak’ on my first album. I thought that was so beautiful. The way she made me feel, I remember thinking that I wanted to make other people feel that way if they had interactions with me, especially if it’s a younger artist, because she really gave me so much just by seeing me in that way. Because, of course, I look up to her. She is one of one.

Your most recent project was last year’s Trying Not To Think About It EP. Are you planning on releasing anything else in the near future?

I’m not going to rush to put out a new album. I’m really interested in taking my time to make what I believe will be my best project ever. I don’t think that can happen in a pressure cooker, or in three months. I want to unsubscribe from the anxiety of the constant content cycle and I want to make a great album.

What other interests do you have outside of music?

I love food. I love cooking and baking and chopping and the whole act of it all. I don’t like the cleaning up after, that’s why I cook for other people and then hopefully they clean up for me. But I really love nourishing myself and others, and going to the farmers market, seeing what’s seasonal and what would be fun to explore.

Do you have a signature dish?

I can’t say that I do. I just love making big healthy salads. A fall salad is probably my thing, with homemade dressing, lots of fresh greens like a dinosaur kale – some wild rice, some cranberries, grapes, celery, sweet potato and a nice maple syrup, vinegar, that type of thing. I’m such a fan of big salads. Not everybody loves a salad but I feel like I could make almost anybody love a salad.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning on living. There’s going to be a lot of writing, more travelling, planning a wedding and curating that special day, and thinking about how I want this to represent my next chapter.

Styling by Urbanie Lamas, Hair by Johnnie Sapong using Leonor Greyl, Make up by Shanell Sorrells and Nails by Nailroom

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