11-year-old Maddie Ziegler is a dance prodigy. Not only has she won first or second place in every dance competition she’s ever been in—which you probably know if you’ve watched Dance Moms, the Lifetime reality show in which she stars—but she’s also the reason behind the collective internet freak-out over Sia’s beautifully creepy video for “Chandelier.” The video reached well over a million views within the first 24 hours, and now, only six days after its internet debut, it’s at 5.3 million.
Over the phone from Pittsburgh, the very young sounding 11-year-old speaks with the confidence of someone much older. Maybe it’s been all her time on TV, or perhaps her nine-year professional commitment to dancing. Either way, this little girl has got her act together. Between filming Dance Moms, participating in competitions, and taking dance classes, Maddie admitted she doesn’t have much free time to be a kid, but her publicist made sure I also knew that she has a YouTube channel with 30,000 subscribers that she updates with makeup tutorials, for fun.
So you thought you accomplished a lot last week? Sorry, Maddie just outpaced you and ended the race with a perfect split.
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was two. I went to the ballet studio for like a year and I actually wanted to do hip-hop so I went to try it out, but I ended up doing a lot of tap, ballet and jazz.
Why did you move away from hip-hop?
They didn’t do a lot of hip-hop there, so I decided to take other classes and I really liked them a lot.
How much time do you commit to dancing now?
Usually on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I start at about 1:00. On Thursday I have rehearsal at 9:30 in the morning. I do ballet and then I go to my tutor and then I go back to dance at 4:00. It really depends on the day, but I always end around 9:30 or 10.
What do you do to relax?
I don’t get to relax at all.
You don’t watch TV?
I mean I do, but not that often because I’m always at dance.
Why do you love dancing so much?
When I first started, I just fell in love with it because I get to be with my friends and learn so much from my teachers. It’s fun because with dancing you get to travel all over the world and meet great choreographers and work with new people—it’s so fun.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve been?
I like L.A. a lot.
Did you have to travel for this Sia video?
I flew to L.A. for four days and I did the music video. It was the coolest experience of my life because not only did I get to fly across the country, but it was really cool to have lots of cameras. I’m used to reality TV where whatever happens happens, but this was so cool because I got treated so well and everyone was so sweet and everything.
How did it all come together?
It actually happened over Twitter. Sia said, Would you like to be in my music video for my new song “Chandelier?” I guess she saw a couple of the shows and she saw me and she said she wanted to meet me and she wanted me to dance to her song. It was so cool. I was so excited. I was nervous at first because sometimes I have to turn things down because of either when we’re filming or dance or whatever, but I actually got to do this one, so it was really fun.
Do you use Twitter a lot?
I do some Twitter but I’m more on Instagram.
For sure. I hear a lot of kids these days are mostly on Twitter and Instagram, but not Facebook. Do you use Facebook?
I used to have a Facebook, but I don’t anymore.
Good to know. Did you listen to Sia before this video?
I always listen to her songs and videos and I think she’s a wonderful singer. I asked her to sing without any music, just by herself, and I think she’s better—she’s amazing in both ways—but she’s so good live. When I heard her I got chills.
The first day I met her she came up and gave me a really big hug and then when I showed her the routine, she cried.
So you got to meet her?
The first day I met her she came up and gave me a really big hug and then when I showed her the routine, she cried. I was in shock because she’s such a big artist and I don’t really consider myself famous or anything, so it was so cool. She was pretty much with me the whole time.
What did you and Sia talk about when you were together on set?
She was pretty much telling me how she doesn’t want to be famous. She wants to be known for her songs, but she doesn’t want to really show her face anymore, so whenever she does a video now she wants it to be somebody else, anybody, no matter who it is, no matter if it doesn’t look like her, they’ll just wear a blond wig.
Did you come up with the dance yourself?
No, we had a choreographer. It was really cool because I’m not used to doing that type of choreography. It’s always contemporary, but it’s not that crazy and I really liked doing it a lot.
How’d you get into that character? You were a very creepy little kid.
I know. But I don’t really know how, just listening to the music and through the choreography I got to really express my feelings. They told me I had to be super crazy, so there I am crazy eyes and everything.
How did you feel when you were filming?
I was so excited. On the outside I was really focused, but on the inside I was really freaking out because it was just so cool and I was in the video all by myself! I thought I would be in it just a little bit, but then I was the only person in the video. It was so cool.
What do you think of the final video?
I like it a lot. Every time my friends walk in I watch it again because I really like it.
Was this music video more fun than the other dance you’ve been doing?
I like everything else I do, but this is kind of a change for me because I do a lot of just pure dancing on the show. It was really really cool to play a different part and be playing a character.
Did you come up with a name for your character?
Not really, just creepy. I kind of played a mini-Sia. I had the wig and they drew some of the tattoos on my arm like she has.
What kind of music do you usually listen to?
I listen to pop music. That’s fun music.
Who’s your favorite right now?
Well, I like Katy Perry, Sia, of course, and Sam Smith.
Sam Smith has the best voice.
I know, he is so good. And Demi Lovato
Do you have favorite songs to dance to?
I usually dance to slow ballads, I don’t dance to lot of jazzy songs.
You said you first wanted to dance to hip-hop. Do you listen to any?
Yeah, I like some but not a lot. I don’t really like all the rapping. I like “Starships” and “Super Bass,” but those are kind of getting old now. I like listening to songs that have rap in them.
Would you ever want to try to dance to something a little more hip-hop or pop music?
Well, not pop really. Some of our dancers do jazzier stuff, but it’s always a lot of theater and Broadway, so we don’t really get to dance to Katy Perry.
Any plans for the future?
I’ve been auditioning for a lot of roles for movies and stuff, so hopefully that will happen.