Maddie Ziegler Talks Latest Sia Collaboration on 'Rainbow' Video & Why the Superstar is 'Amazing to Work With'
Maddie Ziegler is the rare child prodigy who can make the leap from reality TV on Dance Moms, to a renowned performer who regularly stars in Top 40 singers’ music videos. Her big break came in 2014 when Sia tweeted her to ask if she’d dance in the video for “Chandelier.” Both the song and video were critically acclaimed, the latter nominated for best music video at the 2015 Grammys.
Now known as Sia’s mini-me, she frequently collaborates with the singer -- while donning her signature bob -- from SNL performances to arena tours. But Ziegler’s also made a name for herself outside of dance, branching into the worlds of acting, YouTube and best-selling books. Continuing their collab streak, Ziegler is back as the main dancer in “Rainbow,” the song Sia wrote for My Little Pony: The Movie.
With the latest Ziegler and Sia team-up in the books, Billboard caught up with Ziegler to talk about the parallels between acting and dancing, makeup and what’s next for her:
What was the story you were trying to tell for the music video for “Rainbow”?
The story that I was telling in “Rainbow” was that in the beginning I was discouraged, because there was no rainbow, and I lost all of my magic, and I just kind of felt defeated. And then I finally see a spark, start to believe in myself, and I finally realize that everything is okay -- and if I keep believing in myself, then everything will work out perfect. ‘Cause that’s when the rainbow comes out, and I was super happy because I feel like all of my magic has come back. Basically, this is all about making your dreams come true, and having that passion and believing in yourself.
Did you ever watch My Little Pony before this project?
Yes. I don’t remember all of their names because I was so little, but My Little Pony has definitely been something in my family. … My sister watches it all of the time. … We used to have all of the My Little Ponies.
Were you hanging from a wire during the “Rainbow” shoot and did that present any challenges to your dancing?
I was hanging from a harness. … The first time I was in it, I was spinning and spinning, and I got super, super dizzy in rehearsals. But once it came to the filming day, it was so much fun. And it is a little uncomfortable -- it’s really tight so you don’t fall, but I did love doing it. And it was such a cool experience, and I would definitely do a harness again.
What is Sia’s directing style, especially since you’re starring in the movie Sister?
Sia has the best and creative mind, and she always knows what she’s talking about. What I love about her work, when she directs, is that it’s nothing like anyone else before, and she just has a clear vision of what she wants. She’s so amazing to work with just because she thinks of the coolest ideas. Her strategy is really incredible and new and cool, and I really enjoy getting to be with her because it’s so fun. And everyone on the set is in love with the way she acts because she’s just so sweet. She is fun, and she never makes the set [a] stressful environment. It’s always just a great time.
You’ve done voice work before for the movie Ballerina. Did you end up giving any advice to Sia, who voiced the My Little Pony character Songbird Serenade?
You know what’s actually super funny is, I was filming the music video, and I knew that her character was in the movie. And then I was talking to some of the people who are super involved in the movie. I was like, ‘who’s playing the voice of Sia’s character?’ And they’re like, ‘she is.’ And I was like, ‘no way!’ I’m like, ‘when’s she doing that?’ They’re like, ‘she already filmed it a long time ago.’ I didn’t even know that she was actually doing her own voice as her character, so I didn’t actually give her any tips. And of course she can do way better than I can.
You’ve also branched into acting. Since your work with Sia is so expressive, do you channel acting into your dancing, and do you see any overlap between the different art forms?
There is a lot of similarities and differences in acting and dancing. I do have to channel a lot of acting into my dance because you’re putting on a performance, and you’re putting on a story when you’re dancing. And so, I definitely bring that into that. And I feel like when I’m acting, I'm transforming myself on camera … the actions that I’m doing kind of turns into that. I feel like they’re super similar, in a way, and coming from being a dancer from the age of 2 and then breaking into acting, dance has definitely helped me transition into acting a lot.
On top of that, you're a beauty vlogger -- did the makeup involved with dancing lead you to that?
I was super into makeup at such a young age. I started doing my makeup when I was 6 years old. So, that’s why I really wanted to make a YouTube channel so that I could show people -- of course, just like my life and do some fun challenges -- but also show some little makeup looks. Every time I’m on set, I always talk to the makeup artists. I know everything about it, and they’re like, ‘how do you know so much about makeup?' My makeup artist Tonya [Brewer] -- it’s super funny because usually on set, I always do her makeup on the breaks, and she totally trusts me.
With all of the titles that you’ve accumulated -- actor, YouTuber, best-selling author, and, of course, dancer -- is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you want to try?
I’m going to be branching out with my clothing line, but I want to do makeup art really bad. That would be something I would love to work on in the future.