Two years after Sia apologized for the depiction of autism in her film, Music, the singer shared that she has been diagnosed with the condition herself.
“I’m on the spectrum, and I’m in recovery, and whatever—there’s a lot of things,” she said on an episode of Rob Has a Podcast, a Survivor-themed show.
The episode also featured season 44 finalist Carolyn Wiger, who discussed her experience with substance use and ADHD. Sia, who has previously opened up about her own sobriety, admired Wiger’s vulnerability and admitted that, at 47, she finally feels free after her autism diagnosis.
“For 45 years, I was like…‘I’ve got to go put my human suit on,’” she explained. “Only in the last two years have I become fully, fully myself.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects social skills, communication, learning, and behavior. Per the NIMH, the condition is characterized by “restricted interests and repetitive behaviors”—like limited or inconsistent eye contact during conversation, repeating certain words or phrases, or heightened focus on specific topics—that may affect a person’s ability to function at school, at work, and in other areas of life. ASD is considered a “spectrum” because its challenges and symptoms vary widely, both in type and severity.
In the podcast interview, Sia explained how meaningful it is to “feel seen” for who she is. “Nobody can ever know and love you when you’re filled with secrets and…living in shame,” she said. “And when…we feel seen for the first time in our lives for who we actually are…then we can start going out into the world and just operating as…human beings with hearts, and not pretending to be anything.”
In 2021, Sia received backlash for casting Maddie Ziegler—a neurotypical actress who has appeared in many of her music videos—instead of an actor with ASD as Music’s nonverbal main character. There was also concern over the film’s depiction of physical restraint used during a scene in which Ziegler’s character experiences a meltdown.
At first, the “Chandelier” singer defended her decision to cast Ziegler, claiming she didn’t want to do the project without her; eventually, she apologized to the autism community and announced that a warning label would precede all future screenings stating that the film “in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people.”
While chatting with Wiger, Sia thanked her for competing on Survivor without hiding her mental health and substance use issues. “I just want to say how inspiring it is to have someone in the world who is going out and didn’t put her human suit on,” she said. “You just showed up.”