'Dance Moms' Star Mackenzie Ziegler Talks Business, Success and The Spotlight


The prominence and importance of young female entrepreneurs are one of SWAAY's themes this week given the significance of this year's International Women's Day. Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler are perfect examples of young innovation in girls that we could all only hope to exemplify.

Having first appeared as a duo on the hit TV show Dance Moms, the pair quickly rose to fame and were touted for multiple TV and film projects. The older of the two - Maddie famously starred in Sia's music video for her song 'Elastic Heart' in what was perhaps one of 2015's most singular performances, which she went on to perform live on some of the world's biggest and most widely viewed stages.

Following in her sister's footsteps, Mackenzie has begun to pursue entrepreneurial exploits and the first of those is her breakout T-shirt collection Tee4too. Beginning the line with her close friend Gabi Medvene-Cirigliano, the two have explored their creative talents and the brand has been highly successful since its launch - especially given that proceeds from the brand are shelled out to the girls' favorite charity, the ASPCA.

Maddie is set to take Hollywood by storm this year - starring in Ballerina and The Book of Henry - both set for release in 2017. While Mackenzie has enjoyed stays on top of Itunes and Billboard charts, and has recently starred in Nickelodeon's Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn on top of a nomination for a Teens Choice Award.

This pair is no ordinary duo and Mackenzie talks to SWAAY about branching out from her initial stardom gained from Dance Moms.

How has your appearance on Dance Moms changed your life?

My life has changed a lot! People recognize me just about everywhere I go. It was strange at first but I am used to it now. I have great fans and I love that they support me in everything I do.

Why did you decide to create the clothes line?

My friend Gabi and I love T-shirts and we would do 'DIY' designs at home. We were always asking our moms for supplies. People would comment on our shirts and it sparked the idea that we should start our own line. Now we create T-shirts and have so much fun doing it. We don't let our moms get involved at all. When they come up with any idea, we tell them that this is our company and we can handle it.

Why did you choose ASPCA to receive donations from your brand?

We are big animal lovers! We love all animals. Gabi even has horses! It was just a natural fit. We want to help animals that are in need.

What is your creative process - how do you come up with your designs or videos?

Gabi and I text or FaceTime each other ideas. We think about what's going on in our lives and on social media with kids our age. We also listen to fan ideas that they submit on social media.

You're a YouTube sensation - who was your inspiration for starting your own channel?

I have always loved any type of camera, lights or tech things and I also have always wanted my own TV show. YouTube is kind of like having your own show! I love coming up with video ideas and sharing them with my fans. Once I started making videos, I was hooked!

What are your upcoming business plans? Who helps you with your business?

Next we are doing cute baseball caps and more awesome T-shirts. We are having a new shoot next week! Gabi's mom and my mom do all the financial stuff but that's it. We do the rest. We even email and send messages to all our customers ourselves.

How do you deal with the spotlight?

I'm just a happy-go-lucky kid. I try to stay positive. Kids tell me they look up to me (even though I'm short! Ha ha) so I try to be a good role model.

What's the outlet you most enjoy doing at the moment - Instagram, YouTube, clothes designing?

That's a hard one. I love them all for different reasons! IG because it's quick and easy, YouTube because it's fun coming up with video ideas and clothing because I love to dress cute!!

What app do you use the most?

I am probably on Music.ly the most. I love making Music.ly vids!

Maddie and Mackenzie are a testament to their generation that is growing up in a turbulent and uncertain time for women. In the aftermath of the election, much care was taken to inform girls of their age that although Hillary Clinton lost, it was not a loss for women. There would be female presidents and leaders in the future and there's no doubt that these two will be representative of an entire generation of female leaders, unburdened by failures or setbacks - the women of the future.

4 min read

The Impact of Food and Fitness on Fertility: Discussion With Dr. Geraldine Ekpo

*Eat.Plank. Live Podcast Recap: Episode #7- The Impact of Food and Fitness on Fertility Discussion With Dr. Geraldine Ekpo

The topic of fertility is particularly relevant for current times when we are all trying to find our way in the midst of a pandemic and develop life plans within great uncertainty

In a previous post, I shared how I started my podcast, eat.plank.live in March 2020. In episode 7, I spoke with Dr. Geraldine Ekpo, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist. We spoke about the various forms of fertility treatments and the way fitness and food influence reproductive health. Going into this conversation, I considered my friends and how they were dealing with their unique reproductive journeys as COVID-19 is still changing so many aspects of our lives.

The Three Types of COVID-19 Reproductive Journeys

Single and Ready to Nest: These are the friends that were either casually or actively dating pre-COVID-19. They are in their late 30s or early 40s and looking for a life partner with the goal of conceiving children. The emergence of the pandemic created a significant challenge for them since finding a trusted partner to develop a relationship within a virtual world is nearly impossible and adds additional delay to an already time-sensitive goal.

Going into this conversation, I considered my friends and how they were dealing with their unique reproductive journeys as COVID-19 is still changing so many aspects of our lives.

Partnered and Trying: These are the friends that were actively trying to conceive with the help of a fertility clinic. The initial shutdown and disruption to an already emotionally and physically draining process were devastating for a lot of people. In the Bay area, some clinics shut down while others allowed couples that were already in the process to continue and paused on new patients. Again, in this case, time is of the essence.

Pregnant and Expecting: These are the friends that are already pregnant but experiencing their pregnancy in a pretty unconventional way. From the inability to throw baby showers to heightened diligence around doctor checkups (e.g., no visits allowed with partners or family) the need to social distance is an additional annoyance. Don't quote me on this but I believe I even read that babies are gestating longer in the womb because women are now less active due to working from home, limited travel, etc.

So, What Does Fertility Work Really Entail?

When people hear about fertility, myself included, they normally think of just IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). The intent of IVF is to help increase the efficiency of creating an embryo, and the process can take anywhere from three to eight weeks depending on the prescribed protocols. Genetic testing for embryos makes the process lean towards the longer end of the spectrum.

When people hear about fertility, myself included, they normally think of just IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).

Fertility preservation caters to the woman who is not yet ready to conceive or is facing possible medical treatment that could affect future reproduction. Available technology allows for the retrieval and freezing of eggs for possible future use. Unlike sperm, which is produced at every stage of life post-puberty, people with ovaries are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Additionally, the quality of those eggs and the ability to repair themselves degrade over time. Egg freezing provides the patient with the ability to preserve the retrieved eggs at a point in time.

Another form of fertilization treatment is IUI or Intrauterine Insemination. In this procedure, the sperm is inseminated into the uterus at the optimal stage of the cycle. This process is usually implemented when there is a concern with sperm motility (ability to move) or if the sperm count is low. This is a less invasive treatment option than IVF.

Food, Fitness, and Fertility Discussion With Dr. Geraldine Ekpo

As we pivoted the conversation to post-conception care and the impact on fetus development, I found it interesting that there are few well-designed studies on the impact of certain foods on fertility and the conception process, as it is difficult to truly isolate outcomes when there are so many factors in play that could be confounding. Additionally, there is historically less research done in reproductive-age and pregnant women due to the concern for potentially exposing a developing fetus to negative outcomes.. This makes perfect sense to me and just something I never really thought about. But research has found that, for men, consumption of marijuana can affect sperm quality and motility.

The major takeaway from my conversation with Dr. Ekpo is that moderation is the key to everything.

In terms of fitness, we first have to separate fitness from weight because they aren't necessarily correlated. I know several heavy-set women that run half marathons with ease. On the other hand, it seems that BMI (which is a body mass to height measure) can have an impact on ovulation as a high number or a low number can cause hormonal issues that interfere with the body's reproductive functions.

The major takeaway from my conversation with Dr. Ekpo is that moderation is the key to everything. Whether you're on your own fertility journey or know someone that is, you can check out the full convo on my podcast on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher to learn more.

Thanks all and be well!