Maddie Ziegler On How Fame Has Affected Her Life And Childhood; Admits She Doesn’t Feel Normal Anymore

Maddie Ziegler Orange Dress - Pitch Perfect Premiere

It’s hard to imagine that Maddie Ziegler is only 12-years-old. The Dance Moms star has already experienced more than most of us do in a lifetime thanks to the popularity of her reality show and a decade-long dedication to dance. Despite all the upsides of fame (dancing with Sia at the Grammy Awards!), Maddie admits it’s also impacted her life in unfortunate ways – and sometimes she just wants to be a normal tween. 

Anyone who has ever watched Dance Moms can attest that Maddie seems very mature for her age. In fact, for this in-depth interview with the Telegraph UK, Maddie is by herself with the interviewer as Melissa “pops in and out of the office” in between caring for MacKenzie who was sick back at their temporary apartment. (Maddie was also accompanied by a security guard who waited in the hall). Maddie is TWELVE! 


And that is one of the negative by-products of living in the limelight. As a result of her fame, Maddie no longer has a regular family home, Maddie and her little sister MacKenzie (or MacZ) are now homeschooled as they move back and forth from Pittsburgh, PA to LA, plus travel all over the US and world for Dance Moms events and the show. Currently Maddie, her mom and MacKenzie are living in an LA apartment for two months to work on the newest season of Dance Moms which will feature Abby Lee Miller, her mentor, relocating the ALDC to Hollywood.

Maddie finds the living situation annoying, because they have no space from each other. “She’s like a little drama queen,” Maddie complains of 10-year-old MacKenzie. “We don’t get along at all.”

 Maddie describes her and MacKenzie as “polar opposites” – while she is dedicated and disciplined, MacKenzie is… not. “I’m responsible. She’s not. She loves spending money and I like to save it. If something is a lot of money, I’m like, ‘Mom, you don’t have to buy this for me.’ But Mackenzie is like, ‘You are buying me this.’ She’ll do anything in her power to get a Louis Vuitton purse.” 

Another issue, although Maddie won’t necessary admit it, dance has taken over all aspects of her life. “I used to love math but it’s getting too difficult for me now with algebra,” Maddie concedes of her life on the road, but insists she’s still dedicated to her homeschool curriculum. Maddie and MacKenzie go to a tutor from 8:30 – 12:30 each week day, then it’s dancing and often filming until late in the evening. “I need to make sure I am still getting an education, I don’t just want to be a dumb dancer.” 

But how does she have the time? In addition to and DM, Maddie is also doing other projects,  like a guest role on the ABCFamily show Pretty Little Liars. “Dance is my number one priority but I’m also doing a lot of acting and singing. I definitely want to be a triple threat,” Maddie announces. And of course, there is her notorious relationship with Sia, who declared the 12-year-old prodigy her muse. Maddie has performed at the Grammy Awards, on Saturday Night Live, the Hollywood Bowl, on talk shows like Ellen – and it is that affiliation with Sia that has skyrocketed her out of the reality TV fame genre and into the mainstream. 

“I still get nervous. I’m a perfectionist so I always want everything to be great,” Maddie confesses. And the Grammy’s were nerve-wracking, “Kim and Kanye were right in the front. I was freaking out that they were watching me dance.” Maddie confesses she still gets starstruck when meeting celebrities although she tries to hide it, her mom on the other hand, freaks out, which is embarrassing. “I just want to stay professional. I don’t want them to think I’m a fangirl,” Maddie explains. “I’m one of the performers and I’m not just a background dancer, I’m the dancer.” 

So how did it all begin? On twitter – Sia tweeted Maddie after an episode of Dance Moms and asked to work together. Maddie shares at first she thought it was a joke. “I said to my mom, ‘I don’t believe this.’”

Maddie has now formed more than a working relationship with the pop star. “It feels like I’ve known Sia for my whole entire life,” she describes. And it is Sia who often reminds Maddie that she’s just a kid. “She says, ‘If it’s ever too much for you, you have to say you can’t handle it.’” And is it ever too much? Maybe more so than even Maddie is willing to admit. 

Dance has been Maddie’s entire life – she can’t even remember a time when she wasn’t dancing and she enrolled in Abby Lee’s school at aged 2 – and she claims it was love at first performance. “I started off in the baby program and then two weeks later I was moved up to the older class. I wasn’t so much the best dancer but I was really smart in picking up choreography,” explains Maddie. “I was two for my first dance recital: we did this little Nutcracker performance – when I came off the stage I was crying and my mom was like, ‘Why are you crying?’ and I said, ‘Because I want to go back on stage.’” 

Melissa maintains that Maddie wants such big career and pursues it. She describes her daughter as “definitely type A – she lays out all her clothes the night before, she has to be early for everything,” but Melissa insists, despite Maddie’s rigorous lifestyle, she’s still a little girl at heart. “Even though she’s so worldly, she’s also really naive – which I love,” Melissa says. “When she’s with her friends, they really play.”

“I have an old soul,” Maddie agrees. “Yesterday one of the producers was crying because she was going through a rough time with her relationship. I was going, ‘Are you OK?’ and she was saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m crying to a 12-year-old.’” 

Maddie’s dancing has since taken on a life of it’s own – and become a consuming focus for Maddie’s mother Melissa who is now a full-time manager to her daughters’ careers. Maddie’s parents even divorced in 2011 and Melissa blames dance as Maddie’s father Kurt told her, “Dance has ruined our marriage.” Maddie co-signs her career has put a strain on her relationship with her father, who has since remarried, as has her mom. “I don’t see as much of my dad, I live with my stepdad, who’s awesome. He’s like my best friend. I usually see my dad on holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve – definitely not Christmas though, because all my presents are at my house.” 

Dance has seriously affected Maddie’s life in other ways as well – she readily admits she’s not a regular teen and can’t even pretend to be. “I don’t feel that normal anymore because I get recognized, even when I’m just trying to have fun or going to get ice cream with my friends,”she candidly reveals. “People go crazy and it gets overwhelming.”

At a recent visit to Top Shop in the UK, Melissa recounts how “30 girls” were following Maddie, shouting her name. “Sometimes they start crying and Maddie is like, ‘No, please don’t cry!’” 

Maddie regularly works with a publicist and has her own “24-hour security” team. One of whom Maddie describes, giggling, as “good-looking.”  

Another thing that seriously separates Maddie from other girls her age – her schedule. “I used to be such an early bird but now my mom has to wake me up about 20 times,” says Maddie. Luckily she’s not on a strict diet. “My mom lets me eat whatever because I burn it all off. I love grilled chicken and steak. I used to be into fruit roll-ups and junk food but not any more.”

Despite her success Maddie insists she hasn’t made it yet. “On a scale of one to 10, I feel I’m at a nine because there’s definitely room for improvement. I know I could go further.” 

However, this summer she is doing something normal 12-year-olds do – summer vacation. “This is my first summer off in five years, I’m so excited.” Maddie gushed. And with her free time, Maddie plans to do “Nothing!” We’ll see what Melissa and Abby have to say about that… 

This interview kind of made me sad… Just me? On the positive, I absolutely adore Maddie’s outfit in the above photo – it’s the perfect thing for a tween red carpet, fashion-forward without being too mature or too juvenile. Super cute! 


 [Photo Credit: FayesVision/]