- Written by Mark Savage
- BBC Music Correspondent
Two years after apologizing for her portrayal of autism in the music film, Sia revealed she had been diagnosed with the condition herself.
“I felt like for 45 years, I was like, ‘I gotta go put my human suit on,'” she said.
“And only in the last two years have I become completely myself.”
Sia, whose full name is Sia Furler, is best known as a singer-songwriter, with her hits including Chandelier, Titanium, and Cheap Thrills.
But in 2021, she turned to filmmaking with The Musical, a musical drama about a woman who becomes the sole caregiver to her half-sister, a non-verbal autistic teen.
She was widely criticized for casting neurotypical actress Maddie Ziegler – who appears in many of her music videos – in the lead role.
There was also outrage over a scene in which Ziggler’s character is seen being held in a controversial restraint face down during an episode of hyperstimulation.
The restraint can pose a risk of bodily harm and, in some extreme cases, death by suffocation.
At the time, Sia defended the film, saying it was based “entirely” on the experiences of an “atypical neurotic friend.”
However, after the film was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards in 2021, the singer issued a series of apologies on Twitter before deleting her account completely.
She stated at the time: “I plan to remove scenes of restraint from all future publications. I listened to the wrong people and it’s my responsibility, my research was clearly not exhaustive enough, not broad enough.”
It also promised to add a warning card to the film, saying it “in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on people with autism.”
At the time, the Australian singer made no mention of being neurotypical. But in her vocal appearance, she said, “I’m alert, I’m in recovery — there’s a lot going on.”
The 47-year-old appeared on the podcast to congratulate Caroline Weiger, the runner-up in the final 44 series of Survivor.
She had previously called Wiger her “favorite player”, and offered the single mother $100,000 (£80,900) to help her through financial difficulties.
During her appearance on Survivor, Wiger’s quirky and unfiltered personality endeared her to many fans, some of whom asked if she was autistic.
She later replies that she is not on the spectrum, but has ADHD and is in recovery from addiction.
On the podcast, she congratulates Sia Wiger as someone who “didn’t put her human suit on. He just showed up and was willing to be rejected, to be weird.”
She added, “The jerk in me recognizes the flavor in you.”
The behavior you describe, of learning and practicing certain behaviors to “fit in” with the people around you, is consistent with the concept of autistic masking.
Psychologist Dr Emma Culvert previously described masking to the BBC as “things people do to hide or disguise aspects of their behavior that might look different to non-autistic individuals”.
Sia, a recovering alcoholic, also responded to Wiger’s own struggles with addiction and recovery.
“I think one of the greatest things is that no one can really know and love you when you are full of secrets and living in shame,” she said.
“And when we finally sit down in a room full of strangers and tell them our deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets, and everyone laughs with us, and we don’t feel like pieces of trash for the first time in our lives, and we feel seen, for the first time in our lives, for the real us—then we can start to come out to the world and act as human beings with hearts, and not pretend to be anything.”
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