Buried deep in a just-published New York Times profile of Kathy Griffin’s quest to get back onto the D-list following the widespread backlash to the comedian’s 2017 photo shoot with a bloody Halloween mask of Donald Trump is the previously undisclosed story of how Griffin helped save singer-songwriter Sia‘s life.
The piece chronicles the acerbic comedian’s slow return from Hollywood exile in the wake of the photo stunt, noting that along the way, she befriended Sia, who was enmeshed in her own media whirlwind surrounding the 2021 film musical she wrote and directed, Music. The widely panned movie musical that the Times notes was criticized by disability rights activists for its depiction of people on the autism spectrum and for its casting of a neurotypical actor in the lead role — Sia’s longtime dancer/foil Maddie Ziegler — was a passion project for the singer.
In a January 2021 interview, Sia recalled that on the first day of rehearsals, Ziegler was very worried that audiences might think she was “making fun” of the autism community, to which Sia replied, “I won’t let that happen. And last week I realized I couldn’t really protect her from that. I thought I could.” Ziegler played the title role of “Music” in the film, a non-verbal teen who is suddenly thrown into a relationship with her newly sober half-sister, played by Kate Hudson.
In addition to weathering a torrent of harsh online comments, a petition drive was launched to have the movie’s release canceled. According to the Times, the avalanche of negative reaction pushed Sia to the edge. “I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab,” Sia told the paper, adding that Griffin’s help was key to getting her through the experience. “She saved my life.” At press time a spokesperson for Sia had not returned requests for additional comment.
Despite writing and recording dozens of Billboard Hot 100 hits for herself as well as Rihanna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and many more, Sia has long eschewed the spotlight by wearing elaborate wigs and costumes, and rarely performing on stage. The singer has also previously discussed her struggles with addiction and suicidal ideation.
But at the behest of Griffin, the normally camera-shy Sia accompanied the comedian to a West Hollywood restaurant that is a paparazzi hangout last November — sans costume — to help out her friend.
“I just need one good picture out there besides those that say, ‘Kathy Griffin is a jihadist,’” Griffin told the paper she said to comedian-director Judd Apatow, who was reportedly her first choice for a date that night. Instead, Sia drove to the spot with Griffin, “strategically timing their arrival to be ‘caught’ by photographers.”
“We were joking that we were on Survivor: Hollywood,” Sia said of the stunt, which resulted in some snaps running in The Daily Mail. The warm, smiling shots of the two — a rare instance of Sia not obscuring her face in public — ran under the headline “Sia shares a warm hug with Kathy Griffin at dinner… after singer helped the comedian restore her voice following lung cancer surgery.”
At the time of the backlash, Sia explained to online commenters that she wrote the script and 10 original songs for the accompanying album after spending three years doing research. She also said that Music was based on an unnamed friend on the spectrum who “found it too stressful being non verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother.” She also noted that there were 13 people on the spectrum cast in the film and that two people on the spectrum were advising her at all times, calling the movie a “love letter to caregivers and to the autism community.”