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Maddie Ziegler Says Success Isn’t Always About Talent

Maddie Ziegler, the breakout star of Lifetime’s reality show Dance Moms, has moved on to becoming a familiar face in the dance world, touring with Sia and appearing in her videos, judging Fox TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, and now taking on Hollywood. In this excerpt from her New York Times bestselling memoir, THE MADDIE DIARIES, she explains that it wasn’t natural talent that brought her success…

In the beginning, they put me in the recreational classes instead of the company ones because of my size and age. It took a year, but I got moved up to the company when I was five. To be totally honest, I was not a good dancer. I was always the youngest, and they put me in the back of all the numbers, which made me really sad and frustrated. I didn’t want to be in the background. I complained to my mom, but she told me I had to work hard and practice a lot—that was the only way to get recognized. When I first started the company tap class, the tap teacher told me mom, “She’s too young but she can sit and watch in the back.” I did what he asked but as I stared from the sidelines, I moved my feet along to the choreography he was teaching—and nailed it. So he changed his mind pretty quickly and let me join in. That was always what happened. I didn’t have the best dance technique, but I was really good at picking up the choreography. If you showed me a step once, I could do it. Maybe I couldn’t do it perfectly, but I could do it.

Slowly, I got moved to the middle and then the front of the group dances. It didn’t happen overnight; I had to work my butt off. My teachers used to always say, “Sometimes it’s not the best dancer who succeeds in show biz but the one who works the hardest.” Well, that’s me—the one who worked super hard. If it had all come easily to me, if I’d been born with natural talent, maybe I wouldn’t have felt the way I did. Maybe I would have gotten bored and moved on to something more challenging. But the fact that I wasn’t very good to begin with made me want it even more.

Photo courtesy of the author.

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