The untold truth of Maddie Ziegler

Maddie Ziegler is best-known for reality series Dance Moms and her memorable appearances in several Sia music videos, but there's a lot more to her than just dancing. In 2017, at age 14, she added best-selling author to her already impressive resume. 

"I get how people can make assumptions based on what they see or hear or read — it's easy to do that," Ziegler wrote in The Maddie Diaries (via XOXO After Dark). "Which is why I thought it was a really good idea to write a book. I may be only 14, but there are so many things I love and care about, and so many other sides of who I am."

According to Yahoo, the Pittsburgh native started dancing when she was just 2 years old. She later scored a spot at the Abby Lee Dance Company, whose students (and their ultra-competitive mothers) became the focus of Lifetime's Dance Moms. The reality show proved to be a launching pad for her dancing career, but over the last few years, this cool, calm and collected kid has started to make a name for herself on her own. 

Of course, the road to stardom is never without the odd speed bump, but this girl refuses to let her setbacks slow her down. From the drama surrounding her Dance Moms exit to her plans for world domination, here's the untold truth of Maddie Ziegler.

She isn't a natural dancer

In her memoir, Maddie Ziegler admits that she's never been a naturally gifted dancer. Anyone who's seen her perform might find that hard to believe, but the teen insists that she's only as good as she is today because she wanted it so badly when she was younger. "I wasn't very good at [dancing] in the beginning, and I had to work really hard," she says in The Maddie Diaries (via XOXO After Dark). "It taught me an important lesson: Even if you're not good at something at first, don't give up. Someday you will look back and never believe how far you've come."

Ziegler might never have become a professional dancer at all if not for an unfortunate childhood injury. Around the age of 4, she broke her arm just before she was due to start horseback riding lessons. "Looking back, I'm really glad that happened — even though at the time I remember being really upset," she said. "I might have been a horseback rider instead of a dancer! Things definitely happen for a reason, and I believe in fate."

She doesn't miss Dance Moms

The show might have made her, but Maddie Ziegler doesn't exactly miss her time on Dance Moms. The reality series turned her and the rest of the cast into international celebrities, but Ziegler didn't really care about becoming a TV star. In fact, she's never even watched a full episode of Dance Moms. "The show was a really stressful time — I just didn't want to deal with all of the drama anymore," she told Seventeen. "I'm happy I've moved on. I get to step out and do my own thing and be myself." 

Ziegler did admit that she missed dancing with the girls, but she didn't mention her former coach, Abby Lee Miller. In fact, Miller's name didn't come up once in Ziegler's book, either, according to Radar Online. Her relationship with her former mentor has become so frosty that she often flat-out refuses to discuss her. "I don't really think I have anything to say about her," Ziegler told Entertainment Tonight.

In an interview with People, the dancer did acknowledge that Miller taught her a lot but said she's "moved on" from those days and is now in a much better place. "We did have some fun times," Ziegler said. "But I feel like now, I've never been happier in my life. I was stressed at 11-years-old, which shouldn't happen!"

Abby Lee Miller still takes credit for her success

As Maddie Ziegler's career took off, Abby Lee Miller's was sinking hard. In 2015, the outspoken coach was indicted on 20 counts of fraud for concealing $755,000 worth of Dance Moms income. She was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, reported Deadline.

Before turning herself over, Miller did an interview with The View's Jedediah Bila (via E! News), during which she bemoaned that she'd be deprived of a pool and a salad bar. Then the conversation turned towards Ziegler. "I look at what she has done, and the other jobs and the other opportunities besides Dance Moms — they all involve dancing," Miller said during the Abby Tells All special. "I don't think, had she not been at my studio, she would be where she is today," she said. "And I can confidently say that. I'm not gonna say that I 'made' anybody ... But I certainly added my two cents in."

Her life 'blew up' after the Chandelier video

Maddie Ziegler became a full-blown sensation in 2014, when she starred in the first of several Sia music videos. According to news.com.au, the eccentric Australian singer tweeted Ziegler, asking to collaborate, and (after Ziegler realized it wasn't a fake account) she agreed. That collaboration resulted in Ziegler's memorable routine in the video for "Chandelier," which has been viewed a staggering 1.8 billion times on YouTube to date. 

"Once I did 'Chandelier', everything changed for me," Ziegler told Mamamia. "I had already done Dance Moms so obviously there were people who already recognised me ... But after the Sia video came out things just became crazy. I mean, there were some big celebrities that all of a sudden knew my name."

Unfortunately, Ziegler's next collaboration with Sia didn't go down quite as well. She performed a routine with a scantily clad Shia LaBeouf in the controversial video for "Elastic Heart," which Sia anticipated might lead to "some 'Paedophilia!' cries" given the content. 

"All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring 'Sia' states," the singer explained (via the Independent). "I apologize to those who feel triggered by 'Elastic Heart,' my intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody."

Has Sia taken advantage of her?

One person who clearly wasn't upset with Sia over the "Elastic Heart" video was Maddie Ziegler herself. She's essentially become Sia's mini-me, often appearing alongside her dressed identically. "Sia and Maddie are literally best friends," Ziegler's mother, Melissa Gisoni, told Cosmopolitan. "They're family now."

According to Ziegler, Sia has never pushed her into doing anything she didn't want to do and often encourages her to take it easy. "Sia taught me this: If you don't want to be doing what you're doing, if you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed and the passion isn't there, then it's okay to walk away for a little while," she wrote in The Maddie Diaries (via XOXO After Dark). If she's so caring, then why has the singer been catching heat for working with Ziegler?

Sia (last name Furler) doesn't court fame. In fact, the singer goes out of her way to conceal her identity. By using Ziegler as her public face, some argue she's exposing the teen to the kind of pitfalls she herself is actively trying to avoid. "With Furler concealed and Maddie in the spotlight, it seemed that the superstar was deploying a child in a way that she herself refuses to be," The Guardian's Bonnie Malkin said in her review of a Sia concert in Sydney. "Where Furler was hidden, Maddie was exposed."

She wants to marry Zac Efron

When asked by BuzzFeed in 2017 who her celebrity crush was, Maddie Ziegler didn't have to think hard about her answer. "I have the biggest crush on Zac Efron and I've had it since I was five years old," she said. "I will always love him until the day I die. I wish I could marry him, but he's slightly too old for me." She told Teen Vogue that she fell hard for Efron after seeing him in High School Musical. "To this day I'm obsessed with him."

According to Ziegler, Efron was also indirectly involved in an embarrassing moment for her at the Teen Choice Awards. It was the dancer's first time attending the event, and when Efron came out on stage, Ziegler's mother stood up and yelled "take your shirt off" at the Baywatch star. "I literally sunk in my chair and I was like, 'I do not know her,'" Ziegler told The Harry Show. "All my friends were around too, so it was super awkward." 

She'll always be an Efron fangirl, but if you follow Ziegler on Instagram, you'll know that she's been loved up with Australian boyfriend Jack Kelly for more than a year now. The couple (who Abby Lee Miller claims to have introduced) packed on the PDA in a July 2018 trip to New Zealand, and not for the first time.

She's a YouTube star

YouTube users have watched her billions of times in music videos, but Maddie Ziegler's own channel is also pretty successful. Her more than 2.7 million subscribers get to see sides of her beyond her award winning dancing. Running the channel can be a challenge sometimes, but Ziegler loves the creative control that YouTube affords. "I film and edit all of my videos myself, she told Seventeen. "It's more personal that way. It's a lot of work, but it's important to me because I want to put out cool content."

She's become particularly well-known for her beauty vlogs, specializing in makeup tips and tutorials. "I was super into makeup at such a young age," she told Billboard, revealing that she started doing her own makeup at age 6. "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."

Ziegler also vlogs about fashion and has even launched her own clothing line. She's fast becoming a little icon in her own right, but the YouTuber's biggest inspiration when it comes to fashion is Disney kid turned Hollywood star, Zendaya. "She has so many amazing looks and it's different every time," Ziegler told BuzzFeed. "Sometimes she decides to go more on the tomboy route or sometimes she decides to make it super girly and glamorous."

She's knocking on Hollywood's door

Maddie Ziegler's desire to act is no secret, and the teen is already making inroads in Hollywood. She voiced a dancer named Camille in the 2016 animated feature Leap! (an Americanized version of Ballerina) and made her on-screen debut in 2017's The Book of Henry. Though the film was poorly reviewed — The Atlantic dubbed it "a warped nightmare of a movie" — Ziegler was "so proud" of it. 

Director Colin Trevorrow was also pleased with her interpretation of a character he described as "in an emotional prison." Trevorrow told People, "Only Maddie would've been able to emote through her body, and emote through her art, in the way that she does in the end of this movie." He added, "The whole climax of the movie really is structured around her dance and she does a beautiful job." 

Ziegler told Billboard that she's actually been working on her acting chops for years. "You're putting on a performance, and you're putting on a story when you're dancing," she said. "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."

She's setting new squad goals

Over the past few years, Maddie Ziegler has struck up a close friendship with British actress Millie Bobby Brown. The Stranger Things star was actually a fan of Ziegler way before they met, as she revealed while talking to her bestie for Interview magazine. Brown recalled how she got tickets to a So You Think You Can Dance live show (Ziegler was a judge on Season 13,) hoping she would get the chance to meet the Dance Moms star.

"The whole show I was looking at you like, 'Please let her look at me,'" Brown said. "And then they told me that I could go backstage and meet you, and I'm literally, like, taking deep breaths, like, 'Oh my goodness,' and then you were a normal human being. ... Then you followed me on Twitter — and I had a meltdown — and the rest is history, really." 

The adorable duo became a trio in 2017, when America's Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal joined the squad. Hand-in-hand, the three presented an award at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, and according to VanderWaal, they now talk to each other every single day. The topics of conversation are usually more normal than you might expect. "People, I think they assume we're talking about singing and dancing and acting and Stranger Things, but all of that literally never comes up," VanderWaal told USA Today. "We talk about watching Life of Kylie last night, you know?"

She wants to 'change the world'

Maddie Ziegler has come a long way since she first appeared on Dance Moms at just 8 years old, but her journey has only just begun. Speaking with Yahoo! in May 2018, she said she feels like her generation is "really taking over."

"I think [Generation Z] already has changed the world a little bit," she said. "I think we must continue doing what we believe in, like charities, marches, and things like that. I think us being able to [speak out] on topics right now, like gun violence, those things are really important."

Becoming a role model for kids has been her greatest personal accomplishment to date. "A couple of years ago, I never would have thought that I would have a voice or be able to be an inspiration to a lot of kids," she said. "I think adults don't understand that we're just trying to get our message through." She got the chance to spread that message when she was invited to attend WE Day 2018 in California, joining A-listers such as Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell for an event that celebrates and promotes youth-led change.

Social action aside, Ziegler is fully focused on making a name for herself in Hollywood. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she'll be appearing in Sia's directorial debut, Sister, in the near future. Here's hoping the enigmatic pair can recreate their music video magic on the big screen!