Sia Shares Autism Diagnosis Following Music Film Controversy
“Only in the last two years have I become fully, fully myself.”
Sia’s controversial film Music may have been inspired by her own real-life experiences — even if it was subconscious. On the May 25 episode of Rob Has a Podcast, the 47-year-old singer-songwriter revealed that she had been diagnosed with autism. “I’m on the spectrum, and I’m in recovery and whatever — there’s a lot of things,” she said, adding that she was now sober as well after recently relapsing.
Sia did not state when she had been diagnosed with the condition, but she went on to describe feeling like she had to portray herself as a human being rather than live authentically for most of her life, insinuating that it was recent. “For 45 years, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go put my human suit on,’” she recalled. “And only in the last two years have I become fully, fully myself.” The Grammy nominee is likely referring to a common practice within the autism spectrum known as masking, which the Autism Service defines as when people “learn, practice, and perform certain behaviors and suppress others in order to be more like the people around them.”
The Grammy nominee’s reveal comes two years after she faced controversy for her 2021 film Music, in which she cast her frequent dancer and muse Maddie Ziegler, who is neurotypical, as a nonverbal autistic child. The film also features a scene in which Ziegler’s character is physically restrained during a breakdown, a practice that is widely criticized within the autism community.
Sia initially defended Ziegler’s casting and her portrayal of autism, asking fans and critics to “watch my film before you judge it,” before issuing a Twitter apology that also promised to remove the restraint scene from future printings of the film. “I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough,” she wrote, before deactivating her Twitter account entirely. A year later, Sia revealed that the controversy made her contemplate suicide and relapse from her sobriety. “I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab,” she told the New York Times, explaining that her friend Kathy Griffin “saved my life.”
Now, Sia says she’s in recovery after relapsing, but still related to a lot of the quirks that Survivor Season 44 finalist Carolyn Wiger — who has been sober since 2009 — spoke about on the podcast. “Nobody can ever know and love you when you’re filled with secrets and … living in shame,” she said. “When we finally sit in a room full of strangers and tell them our deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets, and everybody laughs along with us... then we can start going out into the world and just operating as humans and human beings with hearts and not pretending to be anything.”