Let’s cut to the chase: Maddie Ziegler is the epitome of starbound It girl material. Largely by virtue of her ability to attract any camera with near magnetic force, the 19-year-old Pittsburgh native is dominating worldwide screens one pivotal role at a time. As if it was ever a question that one of the most pronounced dancers of the 2010s would find herself working within the big leagues, she continues to affirm her rightful place as one of Gen-Z’s in-demand rising scene stealers.
A decade ago, Ziegler was dancing her way into our hearts across television screens on Lifetime’s hit series Dance Moms; nowadays, she’s hardly the doe-eyed 8-year-old we were introduced to in years past. In a transition from the competition stage to movie marquees, she traded in her rhinestoned costumes for scripts and studios on some of the most coveted Hollywood lots. Today, the name “Maddie Ziegler” stuns through the credits for monumental titles from Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story to HBO Max’s The Fallout.
On an evident artistic roll, Ziegler is constantly outdoing herself — every new project added to her résumé is somehow even better than the last. To that, she credits her innate determination and early drive for success discovered at the dance studio. “Dancing helped me so much going into acting,” she says, “It’s partly the reason I even had interest. I realized that I was playing a lot of different roles in all of the dance pieces.”
What’s clear to anyone familiar with Ziegler’s dance background is that she makes it look a little too easy. From endless fouetté turns to soaring leaps, it became obvious that commanding the stage is second nature, but despite every pointed toe, the true star of the show was always her ability to convey a response from the crowd. If a dance is sad, Ziegler makes us cry. If we need to laugh, rest assured she delivers. “Dancing really helped me realize there’s intention behind a specific emotion,” she shares. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m sad here.” It’s ‘let’s build why you’re sad.’ If you can internalize it, then you can portray that when you’re dancing.”