Spending an afternoon hearing about Maddie Ziegler's obsession with her makeup artist feels like third-wheeling with two best friends so pure, you want to cry and throw up at the same time. Their obsession isn't the creepy I-made-a-shrine-of-you type, but it is the I-drew-something-on-you that-you-got-tattooed kind. Seriously. Ziegler, 17, says her makeup artist, Tonya Brewer, has a drawing Ziegler once doodled on her arm tattooed there now. And it depicts one of Ziegler's biggest past insecurities.
"She has my teeth tattooed on her because, when I was younger, I was really insecure about my teeth because I had a gap, and one [was] in front of the other. They just weren't perfect teeth, and she was very much like ... 'You're great the way you are; you don't need to change anything about you,'" she says. "But Tonya was very specific about how she loved my teeth so much. I drew them on her one day as a joke to show her, 'Oh, yeah, these are my crooked teeth,' and she was like, 'I'm getting that tattooed' — and she kept saying it." Lo and behold, Brewer got the tattoo not long after.
It makes sense, then, that "genius" Brewer is the person who inspires Ziegler most, particularly when it comes to beauty. Coming from the dance competition world, "where everything has to look 'pretty,'" Ziegler says she was reluctant to push any boundaries with her makeup looks in fear of what people might think. Brewer helped her tear those walls down. "I owe it all to her for letting my imagination be way more creative nowadays, because I feel she's the one [who] pulls me out of funks," she says. "Whenever I'm not in a good mood and she does my makeup and does a creative look on me, I always feel better after and just feel more confident about myself."
As she geared up to achieve her lifelong dream of releasing a makeup collection — the Maddie Ziegler x Morphe Imagination Collection — Ziegler wasn't going to do it without Brewer by her side. She says Brewer was a part of the development process from the very first meeting, where one shade in Ziegler's proposed Imagination Palette stood out to Brewer so much, Ziegler says she inspired the name. "When we were picking the shades, literally in the first meeting, [Brewer] was dying over [the shade She Insists]. I was just like, 'Oh my goodness, you are so obsessed with it,'" she says. "She was like, 'I insist that it's in your palette. I don't care what you say; this has to be in it.' That's why I named it She Insists, because she literally insisted on it being in there."
As "literally obsessed" with Brewer as Ziegler is, her fascination with and interest in makeup came long before the two ever met. Publicly documenting her upbringing as an original Dance Moms cast member, Ziegler was no stranger to makeup, even as a child. "The fact that I was doing my full lashes when I was 6 is crazy to me," she says. It was through competing Ziegler developed a love for makeup, and the dream to have her own makeup collection came soon after. "Literally, since I can remember, I've been obsessed with makeup, and I had hopes of creating a makeup line for so long."
The Maddie Ziegler x Morphe Collection, consisting of a 20-pan eyeshadow palette, a dewy glow stick, and lip gloss and blush bundles, is Ziegler's childhood dream come to life. Everything from the super bright shades down to the doodles on the packaging are products of Ziegler's own imagination. "When I was about 12, I had this idea out of the blue. I didn't even have a makeup line at this point ... but I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I need to have my drawings on my palette.' I already had this idea that I needed all my illustrations on it," she says. "I was like, 'For the eye palette, I'll draw eyes; for the lips, I'll have lips on it.' I stuck with that since I was 12, and I'm so happy I did, because it's a part of my younger self [that's still] with me."
In addition to the illustrations, Ziegler says she'd always imagined her own makeup collection filled with the palette's punchy, vibrant shades, a far cry from the dance competition world's uniform makeup looks. Out of all the makeup Ziegler's danced in — for competitions and professional jobs — one particularly bold look still stands out: her makeup in Sia's "The Greatest" music video. In it, she wore messy rainbow tears on either cheek.
Sia, she says, is another figure in her life who's pushed her imagination to new depths and "helped [her] crazy, weird side come out." The two began working together when Ziegler was 11, when she starred in the singer's 2014 "Chandelier" music video, which instantly shot to viral status. Since then, Ziegler's appeared in music videos for "Elastic Heart," "Big Girls Cry," and "Cheap Thrills," and she now considers Sia family. "When I first met her, I was definitely a little shy, but that's how I just always was. She knew from when she used to watch me on TV that I had a weird side, and she was like, 'I know there's something in there and I need to pull out of you,' and as she did," says Ziegler. "There's the shade called Godmom in the palette, which is named after her because she's my [godmother], and then, there's also the black eyeshadow called Pantera, which is named after her dog that passed away."
Ziegler couldn't have predicted the exponential stardom she'd experience post-Dance Moms, and she didn't expect to still be working with Sia to this day either. "I thought I would do 'Chandelier' and then never see her again ... I didn't think anyone was going to see this music video because I didn't even know who Sia was," says Ziegler. "I remember going to L.A., filming it, coming back, and my friends at dance were asking me, 'What did you do?' and I was like, 'I wore a wig, it was so weird. No one's going to see it, but it was really fun.'" But six years and seven music videos later, Ziegler says Sia doesn't want to work with anyone but her.
Sia may not be sourcing any other star dancers anytime soon, but that doesn't mean Ziegler isn't dancing in anyone else's videos — namely her younger sister's. While Kenzie, who also appeared on Dance Moms with Ziegler, has since developed a successful music career, the 16-year-old has also cultivated a massive TikTok following (18.4 million, to be exact). You'll see Ziegler dance alongside Kenzie from time, doing viral choreography in 15-second bursts. You'd think, with Ziegler's dance abilities and more than 13 million Instagram followers, she'd have already dominated TikTok, but she doesn't plan on joining anytime soon.
"I personally think that TikTok [isn't] really my thing, and I really applaud all of the girls and boys on TikTok because they're so cute and they do such cute dances — but I think it's just not for me. I'll watch them, but I don't actually really make them unless [Kenzie] forces me to," says Ziegler. "There are times where I want to learn to dance, but for the most part, I definitely am more of a viewer. I prefer doing real contemporary dance rather than the 15-second dances."
For now, you'll have to stick to Instagram for glimpses into Ziegler's days. Though she was shy in the past, she's not anymore, especially when it comes to sharing what's important to her, like her pride in her new makeup collection, a cute snap with singer Eddie Benjamin, and messages of support to the Black community in a time where supporting Black people is critical to combating systemic racial injustices. "Me and some people went out to protest [for Black Lives Matter]. [Racial injustice is] not something that's just happened now. This has been going on forever."
Ziegler is aware of her influence, both on- and offline and is specific about how she wants to use hers. "We have voices and have these platforms — we should use it for good rather than just posting selfies all the time," she says. "And I know that some people have kind of stopped posting about it ... but we need to keep doing as much as we can."