At just twelve years old, Mad­die Ziegler has been par­o­died by Jim Car­rey on SNL, re­leased her own cloth­ing line with her lit­tle sis­ter Mackenzie, and danced in a life-sized bird cage with Shia LaBeouf.

Schon! - - Elastic Heart - Words / Evan Ross Katz

Mad­die Ziegler started danc­ing at the age of two, the age at which most kids are learn­ing to walk up stairs. By the age of five, when most kids are learn­ing the al­pha­bet, she started danc­ing com­pet­i­tively. Th­ese are just two ex­am­ples of how Ziegler is a prodigy of her cho­sen art form: dance, which she has mas­tered be­fore her teens. Avatar to Grammy Award nom­i­nee Sia, break­out star of re­al­ity se­ries Dance Moms and, a few hours af­ter we meet, her cur­ricu­lum vi­tae will broaden with a per­for­mance on Satur­day Night Live. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of moxy and stage grav­i­tas that has put this young lady on a well-fu­elled rocket ship to su­per­star­dom.

Born in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia, Ziegler re­calls a story told to her by her mother, one of the afore­men­tioned ‘Dance Moms’ of the popular Life­time se­ries. In the story, Ziegler ex­plains how she came run­ning off the stage dur­ing an early per­for­mance of The Nutcracker with her face stream­ing with tears. She missed the stage the very sec­ond she walked off. Maybe we’ll put her in for an­other year, mom quickly thought. Spoiler: This was the right move.

Shortly af­ter, Ziegler and her younger sis­ter Mackenzie en­rolled at Abby Lee Dance Com­pany. That’s when ‘re­al­ity’ came knock­ing. “At first when we did the show, it was de­vel­oped as a docu-se­ries, so we thought this will last maybe a sea­son,” Ziegler ex­plains. Sea­son 5 pre­miered in Jan­uary, 2015. The show sa­ti­ated the view­ers’ ap­petite for a bizarre en­sem­ble of em­bat­tled moth­ers, ver­bally set­ting each other on fire in an al­most an­cil­lary be­hind-the-scenes look at the world of com­pe­ti­tion dance. “I don’t even watch the show,” Ziegler ad­mits. “We live it, we don’t re­ally have to see the show. It’s weird see­ing your­self on TV and when the moms are fight­ing. I don’t like to see that, so my whole fam­ily just doesn’t watch it.”

In­stead, Ziegler does what she knows: she dances, eight hours a day, six days a week, be­tween classes and shoot­ing the show. When she’s not danc­ing, she might be at the mall with friends (“my happy place”) or film­ing a guest ap­pear­ance on her favourite Dis­ney show, Austin & Ally. She’s do­ing her best to bal­ance nor­mal life with her ever-es­ca­lat­ing fame. Once Dance Moms is a blip in the over­sat­u­rated re­al­ity spec­trum, Ziegler will re­main, mak­ing re­al­ity TV her lad­der, not her land­ing. There’s no doubt she’s kept her head screwed on. “The other day while we were film­ing, she an­swered some­one’s ques­tion so elo­quently,” re­calls Abby Lee Miller. “There wasn’t an ‘um’, a ‘like’, or even a ‘well’ in her in­tel­li­gent, mean­ing­ful, re­sponse. In­side I was jump­ing up and down. I was so proud that this lit­tle pre­co­cious peanut had de­vel­oped into such a well-spo­ken, con­fi­dent young lady. Of course, I didn’t let her know this. I’m a teacher – I al­ways have to keep my stu­dents on their toes!”

Ziegler made head­lines last year by break­ing free from the land of re­al­ity stars af­ter Grammy Award nom­i­nated singer/song­writer Sia (who penned Ri­hanna’s Di­a­monds and Bey­oncé’s Pretty Hurts), reached out over Twit­ter ask­ing if Ziegler would like to be in the video for her lead sin­gle, Chan­de­lier. Loud screams en­sued. She got con­nected with Sia’s agent straight-away and was on a plane to LA two weeks later. “In­cred­i­bly sur­real,” is how she de­scribes the whirl­wind ex­pe­ri­ence. The video, which fea­tures a bleach blonde bobbed Ziegler play­ing a Sia avatar, ex­ploded, rack­ing over half a bil­lion views on YouTube.

Ziegler was re­cently back in LA, film­ing Sia’s fol­low-up sin­gle, Elas­tic Heart. This time she ap­pears in a gi­ant life-sized bird­cage op­po­site a very shirt­less Shia LaBeouf. Be­cause of Sia’s de­ci­sion to ob­struct her face from any and all pro­mo­tion for her al­bum, Ziegler has be­come the de facto face of the cam­paign. She joined the singer through­out a pro­mo­tional tour with stops on The Ellen Degeneres Show, So You Think You Can Dance, and on SNL, a per­for­mance she felt “ner­vous and ex­cited” about.

If one thing is made en­tirely clear, it’s Sia’s pro­found in­flu­ence on the young per­former. “She’s taught me to be my­self; not to let fame get to me,” says Ziegler. “She said it’s not fun let­ting ev­ery­thing get to you and hav­ing to be so se­ri­ous in life. She told me I’d have more fun be­ing silly. ‘Stay in the mo­ment. But have fun. Don’t let any­thing be too se­ri­ous.’ Be­fore I met her, I was re­ally, re­ally se­ri­ous, al­ways think­ing ‘I need to stay fo­cused,’ and now I take the time to be silly when I’m in re­hearsal. Life is more fun that way.”

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