Maddie Ziegler was first introduced to the public when she was eight, in the Lifetime Cable Channel’s “Dance Moms.” The reality television series premiere on 13 July 2011 drew a million viewers, and had a loyal following throughout its run, as it featured the training and performances of children under the guidance of Abby Lee Miller at her dance studio. Maddie’s fame skyrocketed after she wowed audiences when she danced in the music video of the 2014 hit song “Chandelier,” by the Australian singer-songwriter Sia; she’s not just a competitive dancer, as she pushed herself to try new things. Many wonder what became of her after her stint in the TV series, and what’s keeping her busy these days.
Dancing has been part of Maddie’s life since she was two, and took ballet lessons. She could hardly reach the barre, and would jump and twirl pretending to be a butterfly or a fairy princess. Her first recital was a number from “The Nutcracker” and that’s when she realized that she loved performing on stage, saying ‘When I’m up there, looking out at an audience, it makes me feel alive’.
Her mom, Melissa, signed her up for tap, jazz, and hip-hop classes at the Abby Lee Dance Company when she was four. Some people believed that it was her mom who pushed her to become a dancer, but Maddie said that her mother only supported what she wanted to do. If at one time she decided to become a make-up artist or a lawyer instead, her mom would be fine with that, and wouldn’t hold her back.
Due to her age and size when she started, she was put in recreational classes, and had to wait until she was five before she was moved to the company class. Maddie revealed that dancing didn’t come naturally to her, and wasn’t good at it at first. As such, she was relegated to the back of the group for every performance, which made her feel frustrated and sad. She practiced a lot and it paid off; it taught her the valuable lesson that she shouldn’t give up, even if she’s not good at something. Her teachers were right when they said, ‘Sometimes it’s not the best dancer who succeeds in showbiz, but the one who works the hardest.’
In the tap class, her teacher told her that she was too young and to just sit and watch. However, she moved her feet along to the choreography from the sidelines, and nailed it, so her teacher let her join the class. The same thing happened in her other classes; she admitted to not having the best dance technique or not doing it perfectly but she’s good at picking up choreography; she could do it after someone once showed her a step.
Maddie began competing when she was five for a tap solo and a ballet solo, but lost in both; she received gold but the goal was to get the platinum. By age six, she was winning various competitions, and never looked back. She said that she danced every day, but not to the point at which she was at the studio 24/7. It was important to take a break, especially when one was feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
At age eight, Maddie was quite intense and took things seriously, worrying about what other people said or thought about her.
Maddie Ziegler from Dance Moms doesn't look like THIS anymore! See how GROWN UP she looked at the VMAs: [http://wet.pt/1ARgo7p]
However, she gained confidence through the years, when she came to the realization that she didn’t have to mold herself to what others were expecting from her, and then found herself relaxing more in the sense that she didn’t feel like everything was riding on perfecting a particular dance performance.
How did it start?
With the success of Fox’s “American Idol,” John Corella, who was once crowned “Mr. Dance of America,” thought of creating a reality TV show that would focus on competitive dancing involving kids as far back as 2004. However, it was only in 2010 when the timing was right for a show like this. When the story was pitched to Jeff Collins of Collins Avenue Productions, he liked the idea of a show that was a cross between “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Real Housewives.” He then pitched it to the Lifetime Channel, and an order was made for six episodes with a budget of $100,000.
The initial plan was to document moms and their daughters from various studios all over the country, but due to budget constraints, John settled for his friend’s Abby Lee Studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The production company put up a casting call at Abby’s studio and on their website. To make great TV, it was important for the show to have tension among the cast, to create drama so casting the moms came first; it was said that their daughters never had to audition, although most of them had won competitions as well – Melissa and Maddie’s names were often mentioned by the other moms, as Maddie was undefeated that year. Her inclusion in the show would make for an interesting narrative. Melissa then fought hard to have her other daughter, Mackenzie, be part of it as well. The moms bickered a lot as they had known each other for years, having accompanied their daughters at the studio and during competitions, which had become a source of fascination for the fans.
Abby Lee was the chief choreographer and artistic director. When filming started, the producers realized they had another goldmine on their hands, as Abby was a formidable character and had a penchant for drama. She then became one of the central characters in the show.
The Junior Elite Competition Team was featured in the series, which was comprised of dancers aged six to 16, one of whom was eight-year-old Maddie. Abby didn’t mince words when evaluating their performances, and wasn’t fazed at all whenever she made them cry, as she’d rather do that in the privacy of her studio, instead of in front of hundreds of people in an open audition. She was aware that people thought of her as a tough teacher but said ‘I’m preparing them for a career. We do it all in my studio so that when they get to real life, they are ready.’ Abby earned a reputation for producing stars and employable dancers, saying that she knew how to groom these children. She often reminded them that she’s a professional and a mentor, and that she could either make them or break them, so they had better listen to her.
The girls were the cream of the crop in their age group, were gearing up for the start of the competition season. Changes had been made in the way things were done in the studio, since they were featured in the reality show, and one could only imagine the pressure it would put on the girls. Most dance studios had half a year to practice before performing their dance routine on stage, but at Abby’s the girls only had a week, as they would be doing a new routine for every competition.
Another new concept was the creation of a pyramid that indicated a girl’s standing in the group. Naturally, all wanted to be on top, as it meant being front and center during a performance; the criteria for that included attendance, behavior, performance, and work ethic. That first week, Maddie was at the top, because according to Abby, she was dedicated and her record the previous year was stellar. The ultimate goal for the girls was to go to the Nationals.
There was a time when Maddie cried, as she wasn’t feeling well during a rehearsal and wanted to go home, but somehow her mother talked her out of it and she continued practicing – Maddie was a perfectionist and had never missed a dance class before, but some said that it was a case of nerves, as there were cameras filming them.
At the studio, there were motivational phrases that were plastered on the wall ,such as ‘Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing!’ Abby was under a lot of stress during competitions, saying that this was her livelihood, but just an afterschool activity for the moms; the girls didn’t like to have Abby backstage with them, as she made them nervous. Maddie was quite disappointed when their group won third place at the West Coast Dance Explosion. She performed again for a trio number, and placed second. Despite not winning, Melissa was proud of how beautiful Maddie was when she was dancing on stage.
The first season was a hit, with an average viewing rate of 1.3 million. The public had seen how difficult it was for the kids in the world of competitive dancing, and was certainly intrigued by what went on – most of the fights that occurred were between Abby and the moms. Many questioned Abby’s style of teaching, and said it was cruel, while she called it ‘tough love.’ The Dance Masters of America issued a statement saying that the show was detrimental to the dance profession, as their dance educators and students were totally misrepresented. They also revoked Abby’s membership in her chapter, as their mission was ‘to provide the best dance education in the most loving atmosphere.’
Being on camera all the time felt weird at first but it didn’t bother Maddie as she just went about her business. However, she said, ‘Eventually, you feel a little exposed because you’re “on” all the time.
Your life is what the show is about, but you’re also trying to live it,’ and added, ‘I just wanted to dance; I didn’t want all the drama.’ After the show aired, people recognized them wherever they went, but the first time she realized how popular they had become was when they danced and modeled at a kids’ fashion catwalk show at a mall. Thousands of fans came, and were screaming, pushing and shoving to get close to them. For a nine-year-old it was scary, and Maddie could hardly believe that so many fans were there to see them. Interestingly, what made her endure all the pressure and hardships were her teammates, who became her best friends, although rivals in many instances.
The reality TV series opened a lot of doors for Maddie, as she amazed people with her talent. It brought her to the attention of singer-songwriter Sia, who immediately thought of her when it was time to make an MV for “Chandelier.” Sia said there was something about the young girl’s expression that showed ‘real depth and wisdom’ that she could attune to. Eleven-year-old Maddie was shocked that she had to look off-balance and crazy with a freaky expression, while dancing to the song in an abandoned apartment, but she did it amazingly well according to Sia and the director; she’d learned the dance moves in just an hour.
She gained worldwide recognition with the release of the MV in 2014, as it garnered over 2.4 billion views. It changed her life, as she found herself performing on “Ellen,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Saturday Night Live,” and at the Grammy’s. There was an instant connection between Maddie and Sia when they first met so the latter worked with her on several more projects after that, including the MVs of “Elastic Heart” (2015) with Shia LaBeouf, “Cheap Thrills” (2016), and “Together” (2020) with Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. Maddie also performed six or seven numbers on Sia’s “Nostalgic for the Present Tour” (2016-2017).
What is keeping Maddie busy after “Dance Moms”?
Maddie along with her sister and mom left “Dance Moms” during season six, after appearing in over 160 episodes. Some attributed her exit from the show to the legal troubles of her mentor, Abby Lee. However, her mom Melissa, revealed that her kids were done with it, as they were doing the same thing over and over. It was also holding Maddie back from doing anything else, so they felt it was the best course of action for her, career-wise.
Maddie was grateful for the show giving her the opportunity to do what she loved to do in front of many people. She missed her friends, but she didn’t miss the drama.
Her mom tried to give Maddie a normal life at home by giving her housework such as making her bed and cleaning her room. Maddie also spent time with her friends from Pittsburgh, but only two weeks had passed and she was missing Los Angeles already. She said she would move in with Sia in L.A. When it comes to Maddie’s work, her mom would receive a call from the agent and manager about an offer, and Melissa would talk to her about it.
As a TV personality
In 2016, she was cast as the fourth judge in Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation”; 13-year-old Maddie thought it was insane when they offered her that position. She said her resume was nowhere near her co-judges – Paula Abdul, Jason Derulo and Nigel Lythgoe. Other TV shows she appeared in include Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors” and “Celebrity Family Feud,” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”
Maddie Ziegler is still dancing her way into our hearts!
As an actor
Maddie was cast in the role of a young girl abused by her stepfather, who’s the police commissioner, in the 2017 drama thriller “The Book of Henry.” She did a cameo role as a cheerleader in the 2020 teen romantic comedy “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You”, and was part of “The Fallout” (2021), an HBO Max high school drama about a student who was traumatized after a school shooting. Maddie landed the role of Velma, one of the Jet girls in the musical drama “West Side Story”, co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. It received positive reviews from critics, but tanked at the box office as it had a worldwide gross of just over $65 million against a budget of $100 million. They attributed its weak performance to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the high cost of movie tickets, and the streaming services.
As a fashion designer
She launched her own clothing line called Maddie in 2016. After attending red carpet events, she became interested in what other celebrities were wearing, and fell in love with fashion when she attended New York Fashion Week, and so found herself wanting to design clothes.
She had a sketchbook filled with drawings of her ideas, and was amazed at how it was brought to life by her team. Her line was a mix of comfortable and casual ‘tomgirl’ silhouettes that she could wear every day.
In 2017, “The Maddie Diaries: A Memoir” made the New York Times Best-Seller list in its first week. She said she wanted people to know that she’s a normal teenager, and shared how she started dancing, and what her life was like, including her relationship with her sister Mackenzie, her friendship with Sia and her fellow dancers. Maddie also talked about being hooked on “Gossip Girl,” binge-watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” and crushing on Zac Efron. Subsequently, more of her books were published, such as “The Audition,” “The Callback,” and “The Competition.”
There seemed to be no stopping Maddie from exploring her interests and venturing into other fields aside from dancing. People can only expect more from her, as she continues to dream big and work hard to make her chosen career a reality.