In the decade-plus since Maddie and Kenzie Ziegler first pirouetted into our lives as the breakout stars of Dance Moms, they've released full-length albums, feature films, clothing collabs and even a memoir at the ripe old age of 15.
They've taken their talents to So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation and Dancing With the Stars: Juniors and, in the case of Maddie, racked up billions of YouTube views as electropop star Sia's music video darling.
And though they have a combined 28.5 million fans following their every move on Instagram, every now and then they'll come across a devotee that is shocked to discover that they're no longer pint-sized ballerinas collecting every trophy the dance competition world has to offer.
"The little girls who have watched us for a long time, they still think that we're young," noted Kenzie. "So sometimes when we meet them they're like, 'Wait, you're old?'"
At just 17 and 19, the Pennsylvania-bred, L.A.-based sisters have decades of second, third and fourth acts ahead of them, with plans to leave their marks in the world of music, entertainment, fashion and beauty.
But for now Maddie and her 20-months-younger sister Kenzie are enjoying this somewhat chill stretch of their career that allows them to jump at any opportunity that catches their interest while still making time for their latest venture.
The idea behind Take 20 With Maddie and Kenzie, their recently launched iHeartRadio podcast, was simply two sisters spending a third of an hour spilling their thoughts on everything and anything from relationships to their family to mental health or "even just, like, random topics that we like to share," explained Maddie in a joint interview with E! News.
Coming off six seasons of the Lifetime juggernaut they've described rather delicately as "unusual" and "stressful" (in which elementary school-aged aspiring professional dancers were thrown into a pressure cooker most adults couldn't handle), "We definitely feel like people needed to see a more personal, real side of us," Maddie continued. "I think we wanted to let our guards down and show something that wasn't so heavily produced and, rather, just us having a pretty casual conversation."
So casual, in fact, that while they hope to eventually give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at recordings—or maybe even attempt a live, in-front-of-an-audience version—"I think the problem with that is sometimes we have these laughing episodes where we just can't stop," admitted Kenzie. "Like there's definitely some parts of the podcast that have to be cut out because we're just, like, laughing so hard."
Still, noted Maddie, "That would be so much fun for people to just kind of see a live version of what we do. We're casual and we're usually slumped in our chairs just talking."
Ten episodes in, the series gives listeners a glimpse at the sisters' IRL behavior. Living just nine minutes apart from each other in their new West Coast home base, they'd wager they hang out just as much as when they were sharing their childhood home in Pittsburgh. "I feel like even when I'm bored in my room, I'm just like, 'Maybe should I annoy Maddie right now,'" revealed Kenzie, "and I'll call her just because I'm bored at home."
They bring that same familial, dishy vibe to their podcast, devoting a recent 20 minutes to why they're so approving of each others' significant others.
"I definitely think my boyfriend was very iffy about it because he's a normal kid," Kenzie said of Tacoda Dubbs, her love of 15 months, "which is the best, by the way. But, yeah, it was definitely very nerve-wracking for him and it still is. I think he still doesn't understand how it works. But he's working through it."
As for Aussie singer Eddie Benjamin, Maddie's boyfriend of more than two years and recent Harper's BAZAAR Singapore cover co-star, "He's, like, a surfer from Australia," she shared. "But now he's becoming an artist and releasing music and he's going to be going on tour. So I just think, like, he's now diving into this world. So it's cool because he can ask my opinion for a lot of things or I can try and give advice as much as I can, but I still am learning a lot from him as well."
And while Maddie would love to delve into more beauty content on the podcast—inspired by a recent collaboration with makeup brand Morphe—a little trip down memory lane is looking pretty good as well.
Asked about the possibility of having one of their fellow Dance Mom OGs on the podcast, Maddie responded, "That could be really fun. We are so close with all the girls, again, like the original cast." Years removed from their former lives and each forging their own paths in entertainment, "It's so cool to hang out as young adults," she continued. "It's so much fun to not have a crazy environment around us. We just all hang out at each other's houses and it's just really chill and fun."
Because after years of saving tears for their pillows, their futures are brighter than those center stage lights.
Following an extended COVID-induced wait, Maddie's turn as Velma in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake will finally hit theaters Dec. 10, followed by South by Southwest award-winner The Fallout. "It's a lot having these projects that you've worked on for so long finally being introduced to the whole world," noted Maddie. "But I'm so excited for people to receive them."
And after 13 years of expertly applying layers of foundation, blush and false eyelashes to both herself and her little sis, Maddie is ready to take her talents to the masses. "I would love to do my own line one day," she said. "I think that would be so amazing and something that I've dreamt of doing forever." (She'd wager that seed was first planted when she'd get a 4-year-old Kenzie competition-ready as she slept. Said Kenzie, "I would be sleeping on my bed and she would be putting my eyelashes on!")
In between volunteering as Maddie's model and musing about having her own clothing line, Kenzie is gearing up for the early 2022 drop of her next EP.
"I feel like this is just the first time where I can talk about things that have happened with my life and share some important things to me," she said of the upcoming album. "I just want people to take away something from it—whether that be happy, whether that be sad or that they can relate to it."
And though Kenzie's recent releases, including September's single "Happy For Me," have proven her pipes are every bit as impressive as her acro moves, she's more than well-versed in handling a stray hater or two.
"Honestly, like, most of the time the people that are commenting those things want to be recognized, you know what I mean?" she reasoned of social media trolls. "There's been times where someone comments on Maddie's picture and I comment back to them and I'm like, 'Don't ever—she's the most beautiful person!' And they're commenting back, 'I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to say that.' So now I've learned that none of it matters. They're probably just doing it because they're bored. Like, it's not worth my time."
It's a hard-earned piece of wisdom that can be even harder to remember in the moment.
"I think it's really easy to get into the mindset of focusing on that because there could be 1,000 good comments, but there's a few bad ones and it's like, 'Oh my gosh, but they said this about me,' and it's really hard to move past it," Maddie shared. "And I've watched Kenzie really, really go through that and there's been a lot of rude and mean people. And to see you overcome that, has been really beautiful."
Now veterans of living life in the public eye, "We've really tried to just trust our gut and move forward," Maddie continued, "and realize that there's a lot of Internet trolls and there's not much you can do about it. And just to, like, live your life and be as happy as you can be."
After all, brushing off criticism is pretty much ingrained in their muscle memory.
If anything, going through such an intense fame-making experience as kids "definitely set us up to, you know, not be afraid to put ourselves out there and have a tough heart," noted Kenzie. "I feel like that's the main thing I learned was to not care about what other people think and I'm so glad we did it together."
Maddie would agree that the experience "definitely prepped us for a lot," though she doesn't exactly seem wistful for those days of being trailed by reality cameras and having to block out backstage drama.
"I think it's crazy because now I feel like our lives are way more relaxed than they were when we were young because it was such a high-pressure situation," she told E! News. "In a way, I think we're so relieved that now it turned into more of a calm environment. And we're just so happy that it's transitioned into what it is now."