Sia’s controversial film is not the first time her teen “muse” Maddie Ziegler has been thrown into the spotlight by the pop star.
Sia’s controversial film is not the first time her teen “muse” Maddie Ziegler has been thrown into the spotlight by the pop star.

Sia’s bizarre relationship with teen ‘muse’

Teenage star Maddie Ziegler is making headlines this week for her portrayal of an autistic teenager in Sia's "unwatchable" film Music.

The directorial debut of Sia Furler has been universally panned for its tone deaf, offensive and "dangerous" depiction of autism by disability advocates and film critics alike.

During production of the film, Sia told Variety Ziegler, 14 at the time, burst into tears, telling her, "I don't want anyone to think I'm making fun of them".

Sia said she responded, "Oh, honey, I won't let that happen. I was like, 'I promise, I won't let that happen'.

"I was like, your character is based on a real person I know, and I'm teaching you all of his utterances, and all of his tics, and as accurate a representation that I know. And also, you can have final cut. If there's anything in there that makes you uncomfortable, then you can have final cut."

RELATED: 'Music' review: Sia's first film is unwatchable and offensive

Maddie Ziegler’s depiction of an autistic character, directed by Sia, has caused outrage. Picture: Merrick Morton
Maddie Ziegler’s depiction of an autistic character, directed by Sia, has caused outrage. Picture: Merrick Morton

RELATED: Thousands sign petition demanding Sia's Music have its Golden Globes nominations revoked

Tens of thousands of people have now called for the movie to have its two Golden Globe nominations revoked, while another campaign says the film depicts "inhumane treatment" of autistic people.

But it's not the first time Sia has invited controversy into the now super famous teen performer's life.

"She lived a life of stress, her childhood was the most stressful childhood any child should have to live," Sia said in the Variety interview.

"When I met her when she was 11, I felt compelled to rescue her from that life and to protect her. And yet somehow it's almost like I threw her to the wolves, by accident.

"We didn't think Chandelier would be that famous. And we didn't think we'd keep working together so much."

Sia said Ziegler ended up being her "muse", and had since become "really famous".

The pop star now pays for her security and said she now faces "real threats".

"And it's because of me, and here's me, trying to avoid all that."


Sia has famously rejected her own fame, writing an "Anti-Fame Manifesto" in 2013, where she compared the spotlight to "the stereotypical highly opinionated, completely uninformed mother-in-law character".

In her place, Sia often cast Ziegler, after becoming interested in her as a performer on reality show Dance Moms.


At the age of 12, Sia cast Ziegler to star in the music video for her hit song Chandelier - which flung her into super stardom. In a 2015 interview with, Ziegler said Sia contacted her on Twitter.

"I didn't even know she was making a video - there was no audition, no anything. It was just a direct message from Twitter," Ziegler said.

The 2014 video has now been viewed more than 2.3 billion times on YouTube, and was parodied by Jim Carrey on SNL.


The following year, Sia cast Ziegler in another music video for her hit Elastic Heart, alongside Shia LaBeouf.

Sia, married at the time to Erik Anders, cast Shia LaBeouf to star alongside Ziegler, 12 at the time.

Ziegler and LaBeouf starred in the clip in dirty flesh-coloured underwear, inside a battle cage. The clip immediately sparked "paedophilia" concerns.

Sia responded to the controversy in tweets, writing: "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".

She described the clip further in another tweet, "These two warring 'sia' self states."

"I apologise to those who feel triggered by #ElasticHeart My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody," she said in a third tweet.

Earlier this year, Sia said she'd had an "adulterous relationship" with LaBeouf while he was dating his former partner FKA Twigs.

Sia also said she was "always gonna love" the actor and alleged she'd been "hurt emotionally" by him during their relationship.

Ziegler previously told working with LaBeouf was "fun" but recounted being injured on set, and said LaBeouf joked about punching fellow dancers.

"(LaBeouf) worked really hard for the video and we had a lot of fun together," Ziegler said.

"The day before the rehearsal I was getting lifted up by these guys and one of my blood vessels broke from having it squeezed too tight and Shia was really caring about me and he was like, 'Whoever did that I'm gonna punch you out.'"


In 2015, Ziegler appeared in another of Sia's music videos, for her track Big Girls Cry. Ziegler danced alone in the clip, costumed in a flesh-coloured leotard and blonde wig.

In 2016, she again starred in Sia's clip for The Greatest, in a tight grey leotard. The clip was a tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting - and begins with the text "#WeAreYourChildren" on screen.

The same year Ziegler also starred in the Cheap Thrills music video, alongside two male dancers. Sia appeared in the background of the clip, singing behind a microphone.

The same year Ziegler shared an Instagram photo appearing to celebrate the friendship between the pair. In the post, Ziegler, then 14, shared a photo saying "my two favourite necklaces". The photo showed a necklace inscribed with Maddie and Sia's names and a love heart, and another necklace with the word "sister".

Music, the now universally panned film directed by Sia, was originally slated to be released under the title Sister, Billboard reports.

Maddie is cast again in the music video for Rainbow in 2017.


In 2017, Maddie told People she's been living with Sia, and referred to her as "my second mum".

"I've actually lived with (her) this year more than I have with my actual family, so it's fun."

In 2018, for Ziegler's 16th birthday, the multi platinum artist bought Ziegler a white Audi.

Sia has since apologised for listening to "the wrong people" during the production of the film.

Originally published as Sia's bizarre relationship with teen 'muse'