Mackenzie Ziegler, known as “kenzie,” has grown from the tiny dancer the world fell in love with on Lifetime’s Dance Moms to an incredible young singer, dancer, and actor. She stars in Total Eclipse on the digital network Brat, has authored a self-help book, has released an album called Phases, and is currently on a month-long tour opening for boy band PRETTYMUCH. Fresh off the success of her recent single “HOT” and record deal with the Sony Music Entertainment-owned Arista Records, kenzie chats with us about the projects she has going on, navigating such a hectic life, and her dreams for the future in our Summer 2019 issue.
Do you want to tell me about yourself and what you’ve got going on right now?
Right now I’m working on a bunch of things, so that’s really exciting. I’m going on tour with PRETTYMUCH, writing some songs, and I’m doing some stuff with acting as well that I can’t really say. I’ve had a really busy year.
Are you bi-coastal?
I mainly work in LA. It just depends on if I have to travel somewhere for a job. I don’t usually work when I’m in Pittsburgh, I kind of go there to get away from everything. I went a couple of weeks ago, and it was really nice, but I would 100% rather be in LA because I always feel like I have nothing to do in Pittsburgh, and even though I’m like relaxing I just always have to do, do, do. I just feel so bored not doing anything.
I mean you’ve spent most of your life working. How do you manage such a crazy schedule? Does it feel weird when you have time to just kind of be a kid?
Yeah, it’s really weird. Like, next week I have a couple of days off and I have no clue what I’m gonna do, but usually when I have nothing to do I do as much as I can and hang out with all of my friends at once. My mom gets so annoyed because I always want to fit as much as I can in the day so I’m not bored. It’s really hard managing my schedule and trying to do everything at once and see all of my friends when I have the day off. It’s definitely hard, but my mom is really good at time management. She has everything on a schedule, and she’s the most organized person I know.
When did you kind of decide to start delving into music? Has it always been something that you’ve wanted to do?
When I was younger, I did my first album when I was, I think, 9, and I liked music at the time, but it wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. I mean I kind of was just like it’s fine, whatever, and then I started doing voice lessons a lot after that, and I was like I think this is what I want to do, but I’m still not really sure. And then a couple of years after I recorded a few songs with Johnny Orlando, I started getting into writing my own music. I think that’s when I finally figured out that I wanted to do my own stuff because I mean it was all coming from the heart and it was so much fun telling everyone my story and singing about boy problems. It was so much fun sharing my life, and I love singing as well, so I kind of just figured it out. Now I’m writing my own music and singing my own songs, and it’s really great.
What is your songwriting process like?
I write with these two girls, who get me so well because they’re young, and they get everything that I’m going through. So I go into the studio for like six or seven hours, and we eat snacks the entire day and talk for like an hour and a half before we start writing, just updating them on my life. We try to have so much fun. We just mess around most of the time and then it just churns out some really great songs. I actually love my writing process, but sometimes when it’s like 3 AM and I’m up in my room and something comes into mind, and I think, “That could be a really cool song,” I just write it in my notes. I have a folder with a bunch of songs in it that I wrote by myself at like 3 AM.
It hasn’t always been easy. When I was like 11 and 12, I was writing with older people, and it was all new to me. I had no clue what I was doing. I literally knew no one in the room, and it would be a different person all the time, and they would just be like, “Okay, so what did you think we should write about?” and I was like “I don’t know, I’m 11, I don’t know what’s going on. I just like dancing, and that’s like it.” Most of the time when I was younger I would just sit in the room and watch them because I was so scared to say anything. Now I’m just more confident, and I say what I think, and if they don’t like it, that’s fine, I don’t really care.
Has it been scary putting your music out into the world?
Yes. I was freaking out when my album first came out, but I got really amazing feedback. I think people were shocked because the first time they had ever heard my voice was when I was like 9, and they were like, “Wow, this girl cannot sing at all.” Then I came out with my EP, and they were like, “Oh, so you actually can sing.” I think people really like my voice now. I just want my new music to be out now, but of course, it doesn’t work like that.
Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written so far?
Yeah, I really like this one called “Another Me.” It’s kind of about a boy, and that’s all I can really say. Most of my songs are about boys. I think that will be coming out soon, like one of the first ones. I’ll be singing that on tour, too.
So you wrote your book, Kenzie’s Rules for Life, and that kind of talks a lot about staying true to yourself, staying positive, making sure that you dance to your own beat. What was writing a book like that like for you, especially at such a young age?
Well, I actually wrote the book with a ghostwriter because obviously when I was that young I could not write a book by myself. It was pretty much interviews for many days in a row, and we would just talk for hours. It was so much fun, and I would tell her so many stories. It was just a really fun process. It was a way more fun way to write a book because I feel like it would be so boring if I did it myself. I love the book so much, and it’s inspired so many girls to be themselves and have fun with your friends and don’t stress out about anything. In the book, there are a bunch of tips and tricks on how to be happy and have fun and some DIYs you can do. I like it, and it has inspired some of my fans as well.
You also star in Total Eclipse on Brat. Was acting something you always wanted to do?
The first reason I wanted to do the show was that I was with all my best friends, and I met a lot of new people on it who are also my best friends now. I didn’t really think that I wanted to do acting then. I just wanted to have fun with it and see if I would like it if I did it. I was going on a bunch of auditions around that time, but it was just something to do that I wasn’t really that into at the time. Then, as I kept doing Total Eclipse, I learned that I actually loved acting. It was so much fun for me to get to play someone else. I mean, I was on a reality show and played myself and like when I’m singing I’m playing myself, so it was really cool that I got to play a different character. It’s just really fun, and I get to act with all my best friends.
You said that you’re working on something top-secret in acting right now, so you must still really like it. Do you have big plans for a future in acting or is it just something that you’re still figuring out right now?
I mean it’s half and half. I want to keep doing it, but I need to work on it more because I’m not the best at it, but I mean it’s definitely something I really want to do. My sister actually inspired me in a sense because she’s really amazing at acting, and she’s doing such amazing things. I was like I think I want to do that, too, because it seems really fun. It’s a great opportunity as well, and I would love to do it more in the future.
You also have your own makeup line, a product line at Five Below, and you’ve done clothing lines with your sister. What was it like getting to design your own products and have people actually use them?
I’ve always dreamed of having my own company. When I was little I would always make clothes and lip glosses from scratch. Literally, my friends and I, we would try to sell them online behind my mom’s back. We never actually sold anything so that’s probably good. Now that I finally get to have my own makeup line, it’s really, really cool. It’s weird that so many people use it because I see all these people who are like, “Yeah, I’m using Kenzie Z,” and that’s just so cool.
Did you get to have a big part in designing it all?
Yeah, I got to pick all the makeup colors, the names of them, the color of the packaging, what I wanted it to look like. I really got to contribute my say.
You’re only 14 so you have a lot of time to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Is there any like one thing that you sort of always pictured as your end goal?
I think just everything that I’m doing but like on a more advanced level. I love everything that I’m doing, and I would definitely want to continue it. Everything, but definitely just more heightened. It’s kind of a dream.
STORY GINA DECICCO
PHOTOS JERRY MAESTAS
HAIR & MAKEUP GLENN NUTLEY
NAILS MERRICK FISHER
STYLIST AMANDA LIM
LOCATION ANDAZ WEST HOLLYWOOD