Maddie Ziegler has up until now been reality-TV famous as the wunderkind dancer of Abby Lee’s Dance Company on Lifetime’s Dance Moms. Now the 11-year-old gets a taste of internet fame as Sia’s pint-size manifestation in the music video for her lead single, “Chandelier,” which has hit over 11 million views and included a live performance featuring Ziegler alongside the shy Australian chanteuse on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Vulture caught up with Maddie in between dance practice and talked with her about performing on Ellen, Sia’s tattoos, and making Drew Barrymore cry.
I just watched your performance on Ellen. You were really good!
[Laughs.] Thank you.
Were you nervous at all?
I was a little nervous, because Ellen, she’s like, really famous, and especially because even though I had rehearsed it a lot, I only had one time to make it perfect on the show. Like in the music video I could do it a second time, or if something was wrong, I could redo it, but this time, I only had one try.
Did you get to meet any other celebrities?
I met Drew Barrymore and she was so cool. She told me, “I know I just had my baby three weeks ago, and that’s why I’m emotional, but I cried when you performed.” And then she pulled out a tissue and said, “Look, I was sobbing.”
How did you get the part? Did you have to audition for it?
Actually, no. It was really funny. Sia was a fan of our show. She actually tweeted us, “Hey, Maddie, would you like to be in my new video for my new song ‘Chandelier?’” I was just like, Whoa, this is pretty cool. A lot of people that I know got involved in it, and we contacted her and she really wanted me to be in it. So I flew to L.A. two weeks later, and I rehearsed and I filmed it.
What was it like to work with Sia?
Well, the first day I met her, she just came up and gave me a giant hug and said, “I can’t believe I’m with you right now! I’m such a big fan!” It was just so funny because she’s a really big star and a really successful singer and everything, and I couldn’t believe that she was fan-girling over me.
What did you think of the dance? It’s really different from what you normally do.
I like the whole dance. It was really different and weird for me, because I usually don’t, you know, be a crazy person every time. It was so fun to do and it was really out of the box and it expanded me a lot, because I’m used to competition dances where you’re like, Point your legs! But this time it was like, you just need to let go and feel it.
What do you think the music video means?
I didn’t really get the whole concept of it, but I was obviously playing Mini Sia, because I had the wig and everything. All the tips and corrections I was getting [were] just, really use your crazy eyes and just be weird.
Was it hard dancing with the wig?
It was very hard because my hair goes to like my waist, and I had to get all that up in my wig. I had to change it about four times throughout the whole day because it just kept getting loose. I had to be careful with it, but I also had to whip my head during the dance, so it was hard to split the difference.
What was the stuff they put on your hands and arms in the video?
Well, Sia has tattoos all over. On one hand she has something that says, “Don’t think.” So I had that. And then the other hand says, “Whatever dude.” And then I had two dogs on my hands because she has two little dogs. And then pretty much her whole arm is filled with kids’ drawings of dogs. And she really likes dogs and kids and stuff, so I just got the same ones as her on her hands and she put pink — pink! — on my hands and my feet just to have them pop. Just to make them even more weird.
Did they have good food on set?
It was great. They were like, “Maddie, if you need anything, we’ll go run out for you.” I asked for a drink and they were like, “Oh, I’m going to go run to the store and get that for you.” I was like, “It’s fine, I don’t need it, I was just wondering if you had it.” They were just really on top of the ball and they had everything.
What was the drink you wanted?
I like Sprite a lot, but I try not to drink it. My mom doesn’t want me to drink Sprite because it’s unhealthy. So she always has me drink water, but it’s hard not to!
I hope you got to have a Sprite!
[Laughs.] I did.
Do you like the song?
Oh, yeah, I listen to it all the time even though I had to dance to it for four days straight. I never got sick of it. I still listen to it, which is so funny. I’ve listened to some of her other songs too, but “Chandelier” is my favorite by far.
What other music are you into?
I like pop. I love Katy Perry, Sam Smith, and Demi Lovato.
What do your mom and Abby think?
They are so proud of me. My mom watches it every single day. Abby, she always has corrections to say to me. There were corrections after she watched the video, but she also said that like it’s just so different, and she thinks now I’m pretty much considered a professional dancer, because I always put myself out there now, and I’ve gotten a lot of hits on it, so I’m just super excited about it.
What was it like acting on Drop Dead Diva?
The person I had to act with who plays my mom and my dance teacher, she said, “I can tell you’re really nervous.” I was like, “I know, I’m so nervous, because I’ve never acted on a TV show.” I do my TV show with Ms. Abby and the other girls, but I’m not acting. It’s a reality-TV show — they just follow us around doing whatever they need to do. So she went through my lines with me. It was so nice, and that made me feel less nervous.
Do you ever watch TV?
Well, I rarely get to watch TV. I’ll watch it when I get home from dance usually. I usually get home from dance at 10 every night, and I’ll watch TV for about 30 minutes, and then I’ll go to bed.
What do you watch?
I like Disney Channel a lot, and I also like to watch Full House.