Everything you need to know about Mackenzie Ziegler RN
Reality TV might have made Mackenzie Ziegler into a household name, but it’s her own passion that turned the 14-year-old into a rising star—one with a new book, at that. Here, the singer and dancer dishes on her latest creative leap.
Mackenzie Ziegler will throw herself into just about anything—like, literally throw herself, whether it’s into a back handspring at her Pittsburgh dance studio, a side aerial on a sidewalk or, you know, a casual back tuck at the airport.
“I was on my way to catch a flight and my friend dared me to do a flip in the middle of the terminal,” Mackenzie says, laughing at the memory. “She filmed it, so somewhere out there there’s footage of me almost flipping into a police officer. Luckily, I didn’t!”
The 13-year-old former The 13-year-old former star of Lifetime’s Dance Moms has been flipping her way through life ever since she followed in the footsteps of her big sister, Maddie, and began taking classes at the Abby Lee Dance Co. at only 2 years old.
There, she studied countless styles of dance, from acro to contemporary to ballet, under the tutelage of the now-infamous Abby Lee Miller. And after 10 years of dancing and drama (and a whole lot of fame), Mackenzie’s mom decided it was time for her daughters to say goodbye to ALDC and the reality show.
Despite being sad to leave friends like Brynn Rumfallo and Kendall Vertes, Kenzie finally had time to pursue other passions—like music. But first, she had to work up the nerve to sing in front of people.
“I was too scared to even sing for my mom or any of my friends at the start,” Mackenzie explains. “Maddie was actually the first person I ever sang in front of. I always felt really safe and confident with her.”
Turns out, Mackenzie had nothing to worry about. Her videos for “Day & Night” (a duet with bestie Johnny Orlando) and “Monsters (aka Haters)” have a combined 32 million views on YouTube. And her self-titled debut album? It hit number one on the iTunes pop chart after its 2014 release.
Today, Mackenzie’s still singing—she’s got another duet with Johnny dropping soon—and she’s also plenty busy doing other things (like designing a clothing collection with Justice and fitting in guest spots on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn). And when she’s not dancing, designing or acting, she spends time on homework, bingeing Netflix with Maddie or playing with her pup, Malibu.
Mackenzie’s schedule may be stacked, but luckily for us, she squeezed in some time— just before a shopping trip with her mom and a movie night with her girls—for a chat.
Here, she dishes on everything from writing a book (Kenzie’s Rules for Life: How to Be Happy, Healthy, and Dance to Your Own Beat hit stores on May 8) to learning how to dance her way right around the haters.
GIRLS’ LIFE: You’ve been in the public eye for more than half of your life.
MACKENZIE ZIEGLER: It’s alot of pressure sometimes. I know a ton of my followers are young like me, so I’m always trying to be a good role model. It’s hard, though. I could post a picture of myself on the beach in a bathing suit—where literally everyone else is in bathing suits—and receive a ton of hate for it.
How do you deal with the mean comments?
Well, at first I didn’t understand that people were being mean to me for fun—I thought they actually hated me and I’d really take their comments to heart. But I came to realize that there are people out there who will hate on you for no reason other than that they just want to ruin your day. Maddie actually helped me with that a lot. Her best advice to me has always been, “Don’t worry about what other people think or say.” That’s basically what I wrote the song “Monsters (aka Haters)” about.
That’s great big-sis advice. Guess that’s why you invited Maddie to write the foreword to your book?
I teared up when I first read it because I didn’t expect her to be so lovey-dovey. I thought she would say a bunch of things like how we fight a lot or that I’m annoying. I called her right after I read it, and she was like, “Mackenzie, stop crying!”
So sweet! What are some of your favorite memories from growing up together?
People wouldn’t really know this because on Instagram Maddie looks super serious, but she’s actually the weirdest person I know. When we were little, we used to sing and dance around to the High School Musical soundtrack. We’d also pretend to be Demi Lovato and Nicki Minaj. There’s even a video of us on Instagram wearing weird hats and singing along to “Super Bass” in strange accents.
Both of you are really busy. How do you shake off the haters when she’s not around?
We FaceTime a lot, but it’s difficult. She’s my best friend. It’s funny, though—when we were on the show we fought constantly. Then when she went on tour with Sia, I missed her so much. She made fun of me for how much I missed her! But it wasn’t until she came back that we became really close.
Maddie isn’t your only frequent collaborator. You also work with Johnny Orlando a ton.
Yes! Johnny and I actually met through our producers, and we clicked instantly. We have the same sense of humor. When something funny happens, we’ll look at each other and right away just start cracking up. The first show I ever did was in Toronto for our Day & Night Tour last year. We were in front of all of Johnny’s friends and family—and I have never been more nervous. Literally, my voice cracked in the middle of a show.
Oh, no! How did you recover?
Right after it cracked, I totally forgot what I was singing, I was so embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do, so I was like, “All right guys, sing along with me!” and I made the crowd sing until I felt better. It was the scariest moment of my life. I thought people would hear it and then go on Instagram and be like, “Yeah, she’s actually horrible and she can’t sing.” But I don’t think anyone realized it at all.
What are you and Johnny working on next?
We have a new song and music video coming out soon that I can’t talk about yet, but everyone is going to freak out when they hear it! I love working with him, and we’re really great friends.
Your songs get really honest. In “Breathe,” you talk about getting back to yourself when you feel lost. Does your life ever inspire your lyrics?
When I was little, I used to journal here and there. I’d write about the fights Maddie and I would get in, what I did that day, how I was feeling. Journaling definitely helps me put my feelings into a song, which makes it feel more real. I also have this really long note in my Notes app with just a bunch of jumbled ideas and words. If someone looked at it, they’d be
While we’re on the subject of writing, you’re releasing a book! What motivated you to do that?
There are a lot of people who say, “She doesn’t care about her supporters, she really just wants to have followers” or “She doesn’t care about her friends,” which are both not true. That’s why I wanted to write a book. Now, everyone can get to know the real me.
And to think, all of this started simply because your mom put you in a few dance classes.
It’s crazy to think about—and I didn’t even like dance at first! Dance has definitely shaped me as a person. I feel like if I wasn’t on the show, if dance didn’t teach me to never give up, I wouldn’t be who I am now. Dancing has brought me such a long way. I’m so thankful for it.
A version of this story appeared in the April/May version of Girls' Life magazine.