Note: The following story contains spoilers from “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” Season 2 finale.
Despite making it to the final episode of “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test,” JoJo Siwa doesn’t regret withdrawing from the Fox survivalist series before being crowned a victor.
“In the moment, nothing in me regretted a thing,” Siwa told TheWrap of leaving the intense eight-day experience in the snowy New Zealand mountains. “It just felt right for me to just walk … It was a hard moment because I am not a quitter, but I was like, ‘this is the right move for me to make.’”
Siwa, who was this season’s youngest celebrity participant, was among the five recruits who reached the last day of “Special Forces” training, which involved a capture and interrogation simulation. Siwa — alongside “Bachelor” alum Nick Viall and Tyler Cameron, “Vanderpump Rules” star Tom Sandoval and Olympic speed skater Erin Jackson — was hooded, bound and placed in stress positions in a freezing cell, and was forced to listen to distressing sounds as they awaited interrogation — an exercise that pushed the former “Dance Moms” star over the edge.
“During the stress positions, I was super in my head about the future of my life,” Siwa said. “I was going through the last six days, seven days, thinking about everything — thinking about how I wanted to change my life, thinking about how I wanted to live when I go home, thinking about who I wanted to call, who I missed and what I wanted to do.”
Siwa said overthinking “got the best of [her]” and recalled thinking, “If I’m going to change things, I gotta start literally right now,” leading her to ask to speak to the simulation’s umpire.
“For some reason, in my head, I was like, ‘If I say I want to speak to the umpire, that meant I could call my mom right then and there,’” she said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be another two or three hours til I got to the hotel [and could call her.]”
After the “Special Forces” experience prompted her to realize she was prioritizing her career over her personal life, Siwa’s first step in shifting her priorities was canceling an upcoming recording session after leaving the show to visit her mother, who she wasn’t slated to see for another several weeks.
“I was like … ‘I just want to live for a second,’” Siwa said. “Actually, I had a big, big learning curve on this whole putting my personal life first thing just few weeks ago,” she said, explaining that she returned home early from a trip to see Cameron in Jupiter, Fla., to perform alongside collaborator G Flip.
“I actually started breaking down and started crying to my mom and I was like, ‘This is exactly what I said I wasn’t going to do’ — I was having fun with my friends and I left to come work,” she said. “Then the performance ended up being so much fun and I’m so happy I did it.”
Months after finishing “Special Forces,” Siwa is confident she’s found a “better rhythm” to prioritizing work and personal life, noting “I’ve definitely had better instincts now of spending more time with my family, being there more for my friends, doing more things that are outside of work [and] making work more fun.”
The culmination of “Special Forces” continued to leave its participants literally in the dark about their movements and what came next — an element Siwa points out as the hardest part of the whole experience.
“The unknown for me was always the part that I hated,” Siwa said. “You never knew how long you were going to be sitting there for; you never never knew how long the car ride was going to be; you never knew how long the interrogation was going to be.”
Looking back on her time on “Special Forces,” the performer said she held herself to “way too high of a standard” as she was initially insistent she must it to the end of the experience.
“When I first went in, I told … everyone before we went — because there was crew at the hotel with us — ‘if I quit, do not speak to me when I get back,’” Siwa said. “Luckily though, when I went back to the hotel, everybody did talk to me, and they were okay with it.”
By the third or fourth day of the experience, however, Siwa realized determination could only go so far as recruits faced menacing physical and psychological distress, pointing to participant Kelly Rizzo, so Siwa said was “probably the truest testament” being pushed to one’s limit.
“Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” Season 2 is streaming on Hulu.