Sia reveals autism diagnosis two years after controversial film: ‘I have fully become myself’

Singer Sia with blonde bangs, an orange jacket and a white top.

Singer Sia has revealed that she has been diagnosed with autism, two years after enduring an intense backlash for how she depicted the condition in her debut film. 

The queer Australian artist is best known as the voice behind mammoth pop singles, including “Chandelier” and “Titanium”, but in 2021 she branched out into film-making.

Her first feature, Music, was a musical drama about a non-verbal teenager with autism called Music, who goes to live with her sibling Zu, a recovering addict and drug dealer. The film frequently breaks into dance sequences in an attempt to depict what is happening in Music’s mind.

The decision to give the role of Music to Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler, who has appeared in many of Sia’s music videos, was met with heavy criticism because the actress is neuro-typical. 

Sia performs in a white dress and blonde and black wig, which covers her face. Maddie Ziegler dances next to her.
Sia with Maddie Ziegler, who features in music videos and stars in Music. (Getty/ Mat Hayward)

Others were upset and concerned by one scene in particular, in which Music is held face-down in prone restraint after becoming overstimulated and overwhelmed.

The controversial restraint can cause distress and physical injury, while some instances have led to people suffocating to death.

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At the time, autism and anti-restraint groups came together to demand the “harmful” film be cancelled, accusing the singer and the team behind it of failing to “address recommendations to protect autistic people.”

When Ziegler was first announced in the role, Sia defended the casting by saying that “the character is based completely on my neuro-atypical friend”.

However, after the film was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, she apologised, added a warning card about the restraint scenes, at the start of the movie, and later removed them all together.

In addition, some people were angered that the film appeared to put Ziegler in Blackface.

In a new appearance on Rob Has A Podcast, Sia revealed to hosts Rob Cesternino and Carolyn Wiger that she is “on the spectrum, and I’m in recovery and whatever – there’s a lot of things”.

According to the National Autistic Society, the condition is a developmental disability which has an impact on how people communicate and interact with others and the world around them. As a spectrum condition, it affects people in completely different ways and to varying degrees.

“For 45 years, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go put my human suit on’, and only in the [past] two years have I become fully, fully myself,” Sia added.

“Being in recovery and also knowing about which kind of neurologicality you might have, or might not have, I think one of the greatest things is that nobody can ever know you and love you when you’re filled with secrets and living in shame.”

Sia has been open about her previous struggles with addiction, and last year admitted that she had relapsed and went to rehab following the backlash to Music.