Maddie, now 20, rose to fame at just 8 years old after appearing on the controversial reality TV series Dance Moms.
She stayed on the show for six seasons before leaving in 2016, and later ended up condemning the way that the producers set her up “for failure” by encouraging her to act like “a brat.”
While Maddie was on Dance Moms, she was discovered by popular artist Sia, who wound up reaching out to her and asking her to appear in the music video for her 2014 hit song “Chandelier.”
The duo went on to form a super close relationship over the years, with Sia revealing on the Zach Sang Show in 2020 that she repeatedly recruited Maddie in her projects after feeling an “extreme desire to protect” her.
“As soon as I met Maddie, I felt an extreme desire to protect her and I think that it was part of my own healing. I felt just extreme compulsion to protect her,” she said.
“So I thought a good way I can keep her safe is just keep making projects for her and therefore most of the time we're working together,” she added.
As you might be aware, the 27-year age gap between Maddie and Sia is something that has raised eyebrows over the years.
Now 47, Sia would’ve been around 39 in 2014, which is when she first recruited then-11-year-old Maddie for her “Chandelier” music video.
Maddie has previously acknowledged the huge age gap between herself and Sia, telling ABC News in 2017 that it’s “weird to think” about how much younger she is.
“People are like, ‘How does that work?’ But we’re best friends,” Maddie told the network. “She gives me a lot of great lessons in life to make sure that I’m not overworking, or to make sure that I’m having fun with everything.”
After starring in “Chandelier,” Maddie went on to appear in the videos for Sia’s songs “Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry” in 2015, as well as “The Greatest” in 2016.
The “Elastic Heart” video sparked widespread controversy at the time of its release, given that it also featured then-28-year-old Shia LaBeouf wearing nothing but nude underwear. Maddie also wore a tight, skin-colored leotard in the video, and the pair performed an interpretative dance of sorts within the confines of a cage.
Many viewers felt that the video had sexual undertones to it due to Maddie and Shia’s minimal, skin-colored outfits and the nature of their dance. Shortly after its release, Sia apologized to her fans and clarified that she’d intended to create “emotional content.”
“I apologize to those who feel triggered by #ElasticHeart My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody,” she tweeted.
“I anticipated some 'pedophelia!!!' Cries for this video. All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring 'sia' self states,” she added.
Maddie defended Sia against backlash at the time, and has continued to speak highly of the artist over the years.
“She was a huge fan of the show I was on. She tweeted me when I was 11 and was like, ‘I’m obsessed with you. Be in my music video,’” Maddie paraphrased. Sia’s original tweet is no longer available since she deleted her account in 2021, though it actually read, “@maddieziegler @dancemom1313 [Maddie's mom, Melissa] hey maddie, you want to play me in the video for my first single? Melissa, my people are trying to get in touch.”
Maddie continued on the podcast, “I didn’t know who she was. We got in contact with her people, and I literally flew to LA two weeks later and filmed the music video for ‘Chandelier.’”
“She really felt like a guardian angel to me at that time. She, like, saved me from that show and everything I was doing,” Maddie added. “I couldn’t believe that she came into my life, and I was so grateful. And I think now, looking back, I really am able to understand all that she did for me.”
Host Emily went on to ask Maddie what it was like having the “huge responsibility” of working so closely with Sia and becoming “a part of her identity” when she was just a child.
In response, Maddie said that she understood this responsibility from a super young age, before going on to discuss their history of working together in a little more detail.
“The first video, I was like, ‘You’re not in it? This is just me?’ And [Sia] was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t show my face,’” she recounted.
“After we did that, we were going to perform on Ellen, and she was like, ‘Will you be in my next two videos and be my muse and do everything with me?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Like, I was 11,” she went on, adding that her family were “so stoked” by it all.
Then, Maddie went on to admit that Sia often apologizes to her for putting her under “so much pressure” at such a young age.
“She apologizes to me. She was like, ‘I just feel like that’s so much pressure,’ and I was like, ‘No, that was actually some of the best moments of my entire life,” Maddie revealed to Emily.
This comes six years after Sia publicly discussed her fears about pushing Maddie into the spotlight against her will.
In 2017, The Guardian published an article that questioned why Sia — who has been open about the fact that she does not want to be famous — would pass this stardom onto a child as young as Maddie.
Responding to the article on Twitter at the time, Sia wrote, “This article poses a question I have asked myself often. I do check in with Maddie weekly about whether she wants this, and assure her if she ever wants it to stop it stops.”