At 14 years old, Maddie Ziegler carries herself with more grace than most adults I know. Sitting in glam while celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan hides Maddie’s thick brown locks under a short blonde Edie Sedgwick-inspired wig, the young yet mature dancer tells me about forgoing dance moves for films: “This is the first time people are going to see me [acting] so I hope they take me seriously as an actress and don’t categorize me as a dancer, or say she’s in the SIA videos, or she’s on Dance Moms. Now I act too, and I don’t want people to just see me as a dancer.”
Maddie made her silver-screen debut in The Book of Henry, released in June of this year. While she admits she’s “obsessed with acting now” Maddie credits her early dance career with boosting her confidence, saying “Going on stage in front of a thousand people—that’s kind of where I got all my confidence from. It’s weird, but I would rather dance in front of a thousand people than dance in front of my closest friends, because they know me so well and that stresses me out. If it’s a group of people that I don’t know then it’s totally fine.”
The actress-dancer hybrid slash makeup enthusiast (she’s been applying her own false eyelashes since the age of six and her aunt taught her how to style hair on her American Girl dolls) might get butterflies while performing in front of her squad, but she looked cool as a cucumber while Mike Rosenthal captured her ’60s flare on set. When they get the shot, it’s time for a mane change. Justine transforms Maddie into a mini Brigitte Bardot via a voluminous, bouffant-adorned hairstyle, which Maddie’s luscious brown locks permit beautifully. She hair-flips for a Boomerang then it’s back to posing, this time in a black turtleneck and white-framed sunglasses.
Having started dancing at 2 years old, you’d think Maddie makes no room for self-doubt, but even she feels societal pressures: “I am insecure about a lot of things and a lot of people make comments like ‘oh, she’s perfect’ or whatever, but I go through the same struggles other teenagers do. Like ah, I have a breakout, or you know, I am worried about what people are going to say on this Instagram photo, if I look a certain way. So it’s stressful—the standards now.”
Still, Maddie does Maddie, uninterrupted. On her YouTube channel, she features easy hair tutorials as recreated on her sister (when Maddie was five, she accidentally burned her sister’s face while curling her hair for a party) and answers fans’ burning questions. Her go-to hairstyle? A topknot. “Every time I have a day off I’ll lock myself in my room and do hair and makeup. Once I do that, I’ll take a picture, take it off and do a different look and I’ll do that the whole day while I watch YouTube videos,” she says, adding “If I weren’t a dancer, I’d be a hair and makeup artist.” Makeup and hair might remain Maddie’s hobbies, but she’s turned her love of fashion into an eponymous clothing line, Maddie.
Before embarking on another tour with dance mentor SIA later this year, Maddie is making more moves on the film front. Along with young Hollywood starlets Elle Fanning and Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie lends her voice in the animated film Leap!, out on August 25th. And that’s not all, folks—Maddie is working on a movie called Sister alongside SIA and Kate Hudson, which we’ll have to wait until 2018 to see. Watch out Tinseltown, Maddie is on a mission.