Teen queen Maddie Ziegler dances to her own beat
If you thought there was a template for gaining fame as a member of young Hollywood in 2017, Maddie Ziegler will change your mind.
Instead of rising through the ranks by having a famous parent or getting big on Instagram, Maddie came to fame through dance.
She’s been gaining steady momentum thanks to her starring roles in Sia’s music videos as well as her appearances on “Dance Moms.” Maddie’s been Sia’s unofficial dance rep since age 11 – but it wasn’t her first time taking center stage and won’t be the last.
Now 14, Maddie has been gaining fans since she first appeared in “Dance Moms” at age eight, and she’s adding writing and acting to her résumé. She’s a rising star who’s not afraid of working hard — and unlike many girls her age, she admits she sometimes forgets to post on Instagram for days at a time.
With one book on the New York Times’ Best Seller list and another on the way, plus the release of her biggest movie yet, “The Book of Henry,” it’s clear that Maddie Ziegler isn’t going anywhere.
So you’ve been branching out from dancing, and you’ve been doing a bunch of different stuff, is there a celebrity that you want your career to be like in a few years? Is there someone’s career you’re kind of modeling yours off of?
There are so many people, Jennifer Lawrence – love her. Her career is somewhere I’d aspire to be. Even Sia. I hope to become as successful as her, but I love how she doesn’t get the paparazzi all the time.
Yeah, it’s actually kind of interesting because Sia came into the mainstream later in her life, whereas you have become famous at such a young age, so it’s kind of a funny pairing with you two.
Yeah for sure. She always tells me, “you’ve been in the industry more than I have,” and I’m like, “Sia!”
Yeah, that’s crazy.
I mean, she’s been in the industry for a long time, [but] she recently got really popular.
Totally. Do you ever worry about peaking early because your career launched with a huge bang at a young age?
Yeah. I mean, like you were saying, my whole career has been moving really fast. So yeah, I do sometimes think it’s moving a little fast, but I always have to stay grounded and just remember I’m a girl from Pittsburgh. Now my life is going crazy, I’m in LA. I just need to remember to take it slow.
So you’re in LA – are most of your friends in the industry or do you hang out with “regular” teenagers?
It’s a little of both. I’ve actually made so many friends from the industry now, it’s just where I can have someone to relate to, who feels the same way I do. But then I still have regular friends that go to a public school, I still love them so much.
Sounds like a good balance. A lot of media outlets like to harp on young stars and say they’re like “going wild” when they leave the house in a short skirt or something ridiculous, have you ever had any moments like that?
Yeah. If I wear one thing, that maybe they don’t like, they’ll be like, “Oh, she’s inappropriate, she’s too old for her age. How are her parents letting her wear this?” But the thing is I dress so conservatively, I mean I just never dress older than I look. So it’s interesting. It’s like people always just need something to talk about.
Yeah totally, and it’s funny because I know when I was your age I was trying to look older too, so many teenage girls do that. So it’s as if just because you’re in the spotlight they make a big deal.
Right, and I feel like a lot of girls now, they all look up to girls on Instagram. I think even girls my age, maybe even younger, they try to look like [and] they try to be someone they’re not, and try to fit in with the trends or whatever.
Yeah totally. Do you feel like Instagram plays a big role in that?
Yeah, for sure, especially with all of the [makeup] videos and everything. I used to be obsessed with them, I used to go out with a full face of makeup and fake eyelashes, just to go shopping with my friends, and I feel like a lot of girls do that now. I see so many girls getting eyelash extensions and I’m just like, “You’re only 14.” I know girls the same age as me and they look 17.
I wonder if that’s an LA thing or if it’s happening all across the country.
I think it’s definitely an LA thing, but I think it will probably become a thing for everyone, it’s crazy.
Yeah definitely. So how did you transition from dancing to acting?
I still dance all the time, but I feel like dancing helped me a lot because you have to act when you dance in a way, so I think it really helped me with the transition and made it slightly easier. But it’s definitely so different in a way. Dancing, you’re always moving. And when you’re acting, you’re a character. When you’re dancing you have to perform for thousands of people in an audience, but when you’re acting you’re in front of a camera it’s just way more smaller and personal, more than performing in a way.
Do you find it hard to be so still for acting roles since you’re used to moving around and putting on a show?
Oh yeah, I’m the type of person who can’t stay still for one minute at a time. I have to keep moving just because I’m a dancer and I need music. Like, if I hear music I just wanna dance and stuff, so I guess that type of thing.
You also recently wrote a book, how long did it take you to write it?
Well I started it last year, it’s been a long time though, but I really enjoyed it. When I was bored and I had nothing to do I would go upstairs in my room and just open up a notebook and grab a pencil and just write, usually three chapters, and I just had so much fun doing that.
Did you ever imagine you would write a best-selling book at your age?
Uhhh no! Not like ever. For six weeks now I’ve found out I’ve been on the bestseller list, and it’s just like, “That’s so wrong, how? I’m only 14.”
Now back to Instagram, what is the politics of following other celebrities? Do you find that you follow each other when you work together? Or is it kind of just like, one of you follows the other and you’re like, “Oh, well I’ll follow them back because we’re both in the industry.”
Well, when I was younger I used to follow everyone, so I have always followed a lot of celebrities. If I do work with someone and they work with me, we usually follow each other after so we can see what we’re up to and stuff. But what’s really cool is a lot of my friends now are in the industry so it’s cool getting to support them and then they support me.
Do you find Instagram is the social media you use the most?
Instagram for sure, and I’m a big girl on YouTube, like I’m obsessed with it. YouTube is huge for me, I love it. Like I watch it non-stop.
What do you watch besides makeup tutorials?
Dance videos basically, and fashion Q&A’s, stuff like that.
So with social media do you ever feel pressured to post more often than you’d like to? If it’s been a couple days are you like, “Oh, I need to post something”?
Yeah, I feel like people will follow me and unfollow me on Instagram because they are expecting a post every day from me. I feel like Instagram is a way for them to keep up with my life. I could share what I’m doing, so I guess that type of thing, but sometimes I feel the pressure… because if you don’t have a picture to post, you have to find something.
Do you feel like because you’ve grown up in the spotlight you carry yourself differently than some of your friends who aren’t in the industry?
I’ve always been told I was very mature for my age, ever since I was younger, but being on set is being with a bunch of adults, it’s made me act older. Sometimes it’s hard for me to hangout with girls my age and act mature just because I can’t handle immature kids.
I can see that, especially at your age because it’s such a transition point for people. So you have a boyfriend, right?
How old is he?
He’s actually sitting right next to me right now [laughing].
How did you guys start dating?
Well, we met when we were like eight, and then years later we met again, and he’s from Australia, so it was kind of funny – and now we’re just dating.
Cute! So did he ask you out or how did you guys make it official?
Yeah, kind of. He just kind of asked me and I was like, “Yeah.”
What do you guys like to do on dates?
Eat [laughing]. The past few days we’ve just been going to Pinkberry a lot, and In-N-Out. We’ve been going for In-N-Out and sushi a lot.
Nice! Do either of you guys drive? Or not yet?
Not yet, I wish. A lot of people when I post him on my Instagram think he’s like 17 or 21 and really he’s actually eight days younger than me.
So people say Instagram official is when a couple posts a pic together, which you both have done – but then there’s also Facebook official, which people don’t always do anymore – are you guys Facebook official?
He has a Facebook, but I don’t. I think Facebook is for old people. I don’t like Facebook because my mom always posts on there, so I wouldn’t want her commenting.
What about Snapchat? Do you think Snapchat is dying?
Um yeah, a little bit actually. [Snapchat] used to be my favorite thing in the world, and now, I just got one back not too long ago, and it’s private. I only have maybe 15 or 20 people I Snapchat on there. It’s just not my favorite thing anymore. I used to go on it so much, but I don’t really go on it a lot [now].
What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done for you?
When I was like nine, it was when I first started meeting fans, and [people] started to realize who I was. This girl brought me this huge box, and I was like, “Aw, thanks,” and she goes “Will you open it right now in front of me?” I was like, “Yeah, sure.” I opened it and it was this big grandfather clock with my name engraved in it, it was the creepiest thing. It was just weird. Why would you give a grandfather clock to a nine-year-old?
Yeah, that’s bizarre. How old was she?
She was older, but probably like three years older than me, it was weird.
Do you think the dynamic has been weird for you because most celebrities have younger fans but because you got famous at such a young age you have an older following?
Yeah, it’s literally different all the time, it’s crazy how many different ranges of ages follow me. It will go from a legit 5-year-old and then I’ve had 40-year-old moms come up to me and fan girl out. So I guess it just depends.
So what’s like an average day of work for you? Or just an average day in your life?
I’m usually busy every day, but recently since I don’t do “Dance Moms” and whatever, it’s different all the time. I used to have a scheduled routine [for “Dance Moms”] and then film a certain amount of hours scheduled, but now I just do whatever I have that day, whether it be an acting job or a photoshoot or something like that, it just depends.
Yeah, what do you think you’d be doing if “Dance Moms” never happened?
I honestly think I’d still be dancing. I started when I was two and I’ve always been obsessed with it, it’s always what I’ve wanted to do. I was [going to try horseback riding, but] a few days before I was supposed to start my horse-riding lessons, I broke my arm. So I obviously couldn’t do the horseback riding, whatever. I’m actually glad because you never know, maybe I would’ve became a horseback rider and not a professional dancer. So you never know, I’m actually glad I broke my arm.
Yeah, it must have been a sign.
For sure. But if I wasn’t dancing I’d be doing some type of sport, so maybe horseback riding because I love horses. Maybe I could be a YouTuber, doing full time makeup and fashion videos all the time.
So what can we look out for in terms of your projects coming up?
I have a novel coming out called “The Audition.” It’s coming out in Australia November 1st, so I’m very excited for that. Also I’m going to be filming for a movie in July and August, so I’m excited for that. I can’t release what it is, but I can’t wait. So there’s just a bunch of things – I’m continuing to create my clothing line Maddie. I was just shooting for the Fall and Holiday collections, so I’m stoked for people to see that.
Dress by Anna Sui | Socks by Wolford | Shoes by Manolo Blahnik | Earrings by Delfina Delettrez
Shirt and choker by Areyouami | Jacket by Tommy Hilfiger | Pants by Miaouxx | Shoes by Gucci | Earring by Joomi
Custom cheerleader outfit | Shoes by Converse
Dress by Monse | Shoes by Sophia Webster | Socks by Wolford | Earrings by Tulleh
Coat by Nicopanda | Dress by Anna Sui | Shoes by Manolo Blahnik | Tights by Wolford | Choker by Areyouami | Earring by Delfina Delettrez
Dress by Nicopanda | Earring by Delfina Delettrez | Choker by Areyouami | Tights by Wolford
Onesie by Nicopanda | Tights by Wolford
Sweater by Aeropostale | Tiara vintage Saint Laurent
Photography by Ellen von Unwerth
Styling by Christian Classen at Starworks Artists
Hair by Laura Polko
Makeup by Mai Quyhn
Production Design by Whitney Mendelsohn
Model Zander Hodgson