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Sia Responds to Criticism About Putting Child Dancer Maddie Ziegler in the Spotlight

Sia has become as famous for her lack of visibility as for her award-winning music. The cover of her new Christmas album, for example, features her surrogate, Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler, instead of the singer herself. Ziegler, of course, has starred in several of Sia’s music videos over the years, including, most famously, “Chandelier.”


Given Sia’s insistence that fame can be damaging, author Bonnie Malkin wondered why she would shine the spotlight she hates on a young star. In an article for The Guardian, Malkin asked, “If fame is so damaging, why pass it on to a child?”

Ziegler was 11 when she made her first appearance as a mini version of Sia in the video for “Chandelier” in 2014. She has since starred in most of Sia’s music videos, acting as the singer’s avatar. Sia has faced some criticism because of that in the past, especially after the emotionally charged video for “Elastic Heart,” where Ziegler danced with actor Shia LaBeouf — which many felt hypersexualized the then-12-year-old. 

In response to Malkin’s op-ed, Sia faced the question head on, admitting that she has wondered the same thing. Taking to Twitter, she shared her thoughts on having a teen stand in for her both in videos and as the focus of her current world tour.

“This article poses a question I have asked myself often,” Sia tweeted. “I do check in with Maddie weekly about whether she wants this, and assure her if she ever wants it to stop it stops. It’s a conversation we should all be having. Not just myself but all directors, stage parents, and agents … with their children, clients, charges.”

She continued: “Maddie was already famous when I discovered her, but I have certainly expanded her exposure and feel responsible for that. I feel very protective of her and my goal is to empower her in whatever choices she makes.”

Finally, the singer said, “Some would argue a teenager can’t or shouldn’t be charged with making sound choices for themselves and so I do try to choose the best for her always. But I think this is an important conversation.” Sia also told fans that she has learned Ziegler doesn’t appear to be affected by fame in the same way she is, and that she can only take Ziegler’s insistence that she’s feeling comfortable at face value.

While it doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s expressive, over-the-top performances for Sia will stop anytime soon, the young dancer does seem comfortable with the level of fame she’s achieved as the face of the singer.

Ziegler has not responded to The Guardian‘s criticism, however, and usually shies away from talking about her role in Sia’s career.

What do you think of Sia’s use of Maddie Ziegler in videos and performances? Let us know @BritandCo.

(Photo via Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS)

Kat Armstrong
Kat has been a writer, social media maven and mom for longer than she's willing to admit. She's also spent time in front of and behind the camera, interviewing celebs, politicians and acting as a producer for fashion and artistic photography shoots. When she isn't writing for various orgs and publications, she's hanging with her kids, husband and French Bulldog, Peter, in Toronto, Canada.

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