Sia: ethics of fame and Maddie Ziegler 'a question I have asked myself often'

Michael McGowan
Dancer Maddie Ziegler and singer-songwriter Sia Furler at the Grammy awards in 2015. Photograph: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Naras

Performing artist Sia Furler has responded to concerns about her use of 15-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler as a creative partner, saying the use of children in entertainment is “a conversation we should all be having”.

On Thursday the enigmatic singer responded to a Guardian column which questioned Sia’s use of Ziegler as an avatar of herself in her live performances and music videos.

The column asked whether the spotlight-shy artist was exposing a child to the same fame she sought to avoid, writing that “the grown-up who has seen what fame can do and fears it has, perhaps unwittingly, handed it over to the child instead”.

On Twitter, Furler admitted that the article “poses a question I have asked myself often”.

“I do check in with Maddie weekly about whether she wants this, and assure her if she ever wants it to stop it stops,” she wrote.

“It’s a conversation we should all be having. Not just myself but all directors, stage parents and agents [w]ith their children, clients, charges.”

Furler began working with Ziegler after spotting her on the US show Dance Moms and the teenager has now appeared in six music videos, live TV performances and a global tour as what Malkin called the “the fury and the face” of Furler’s music. Reviewing the recent concert in Melbourne, Guardian writer Richard S He said: “if [Sia is] JM Barrie, Maddie Ziegler is Peter Pan”.

But Furler wrote that fame “affects her differently than how it affected me”.

“Maddie was already famous when I discovered her, but I have certainly expanded her exposure and feel responsible for that. I feel very protective of her and my goal is to empower her in whatever choices she makes,” she wrote.

“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.”

The Adelaide-born star has just wrapped up a two-date tour of Australia, her first since 2011.