Over the past year, in one of the most innovative and radical pop campaigns ever, Maddie Ziegler has become the face of Australian singer-songwriter Sia. Describing fame as being like an abusive mother-in-law, in 2013 Sia opted out of the whole game, removing her face from her artwork and all promotional materials. Instead of appearing in her own music video, she cast reality show Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler in “Chandelier”; the video, ICYMI, exploded, and culminated in the release of a second instalment featuring Ziegler together with Shia LaBeouf in January for the single “Elastic Heart”. Today, the saga ends with the final video from Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear, and fittingly, it’s all eyes on Ziegler’s face.
Back in 2014, Ziegler told Dazed about the process of shooting “Chandelier”: “The main direction Ryan (Heffington, choreographer) and Sia were giving me was ‘crazy eyes’, to be overdramatic...It was a big stretch for me, because I’m used to doing competition dances, or being cheesy… you know, with a lot of technique.’” It was the overwhelming, eerily unchildlike character that burst out of Maddie’s facial expressions that made that video such an intense watch. While the dance moves of “Chandelier” were replicated time and time again, nothing was quite as moving as Ziegler’s zig-zagging between desperate gasps and crowd-pleasing smiles. While LaBeouf and Ziegler’s cage battle made headlines, it was the way each transformed the other’s face that made it such a heartbreaking performance.
The triptych ends today with “Big Girls Cry,” once again directed with Daniel Askill (who also co-directed the first two), featuring Ziegler staring straight into camera as she gulps for air, tugs at her eyelids, whips her hair back and forth and generally creates as much madness and magic with only her head and shoulders as she did in “Chandelier” with her entire body. The trap of women in pop being sold on their image has been successfully subverted by Sia and Ziegler, and their final video together couldn’t make that any clearer. “I don’t care if I don’t look pretty,” Sia sings as Ziegler messes up her blonde bob and throws her best ‘crazy eyes.’ “Big girls cry when their hearts are breaking.” In the song, Sia declares her right to show emotion when she feels it, and in the video, Ziegler casts off music video traditions to enact something totally human and totally beyond her years. Watch it in the player above.