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Sia worries about ethics of using teenage dancer as public face

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Moya Crockett
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The singer says she has “asked herself often” whether she should use 15-year-old Maddie Ziegler as her stand-in in live shows and music videos.

Sia has responded to criticism of her work with 15-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler, saying she has “asked herself often” about the ethics of using a teenager as a stand-in.

The famously mysterious musician, who says she has no desire to be personally famous, has long used dramatic wigs and hats to obscure her face in public. Ziegler has performed as an ‘avatar’ for Sia in music videos, album artwork and live shows since 2014, when she starred – aged just 11 – in the video for the song Chandelier.

In a column recently published in The Guardian, writer Bonnie Malkin questioned whether it was ethical for Sia to use Ziegler as the effective face of her operation. “If fame is so damaging, why pass it on to a child?” she asked.

Responding to Malkin’s article on Twitter, Sia said that she regularly wondered whether she should be employing Ziegler in this manner – and constantly asked the child star if she was happy with their collaboration. 

Maddie Ziegler has appeared in six music videos for Sia, including 2014's Chandelier

“This article poses a question I have asked myself often,” she wrote. “I do check in with Maddie weekly about whether she wants this, and assure her if she ever wants it to stop it stops.”

The musician said that this conversation was one “we should all be having. Not just myself but all directors, stage parents and agents [w]ith their children, clients, charges.”

Sia has been outspoken in her rejection of celebrity, even writing an “anti-fame manifesto” in 2013 in which she characterised fame as a mean-spirited mother-in-law who “questions everything there is to question… Things I had never dreamed of feeling insecure about prior to meeting her.”

However, she now says that she does not think Ziegler – who she first spotted on the US reality TV show Dance Moms – views fame in the same way. 

“Maddie was already famous when I discovered her, but I have certainly expanded her exposure and feel responsible for that,” she wrote.

“I feel very protective of her and my goal is to empower her in whatever choices she makes.”

Sia continued: “Some would argue a teenager [c]an’t or shouldn’t be charged with making sound choices for themselves and so I do try to choose the best for her always. But I think this is an important conversation.

“What I learned from Maddie is that fame affects her differently than how it affected me. I can only trust that she is telling me the truth. If that changes, we stop.”

Images:  Rex Features

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women's Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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