Kenzie Lays It All Out on 'Paper'

Kenzie Lays It All Out on 'Paper'

In every breakup there’s a feeling you can’t quite put a finger on. Anger gives way to heartbreak and circles back around to jealousy. In the mess of emotions that can be impossible to untangle, kenzie puts pen to "paper" to lay it all out.

The former Dance Moms star’s newest single "paper" looks inward, offering the singer’s most personal song and strongest vocal performance yet.

From her snowed-in childhood bedroom, kenzie calls me the day before Christmas. Excited for the sledding, hot chocolate and Rudolph reruns in days ahead, kenzie has all the kind openness of a budding star.

She is no stranger to show business. Following in the footsteps of her older sister, Maddie Ziegler, on Dance Moms, Mackenzie Zeigler entered the 'biz at age six, making her one of the youngest ALDC dancers at the time.

Photography by Brandon Bowen

But the days of Mack Z and "It’s a Girl Party," are well behind her. Trading in bows and barre for leather jackets and the American Horror Story "Murder House," the eighteen-year-old is coming into her own, pursuing her own lifelong dream of singing and still competing above her age bracket.

Now simply "kenzie," the singer is wise beyond her years, and, having delivered radio-ready single "100 degrees" over the summer, it’s clear she has more to say. Her newest single, "paper" proves her emergence in the music world is not just the expected pipeline of child celebrities, but is, instead, a personal pursuit.

Kenzie has found empowerment through baring her insecurities and is practicing honesty in the face of jealousy. On "paper" she croons to a past romance: "she looks good on paper, but I look good on you," opening the wound of a relationship lost.

In the visuals for the single, premiering below, kenzie makes a specter of her sadness, stirring up memories of the past, like the papers swirling around her in the haunting music video (set in the "Murder House" of American Horror Story Season 1 infamy). And it’s only right that she give PAPER a between-the-lines reading of the story behind the song.

Tell me about “paper.” What was the inspiration behind the song?

It's is about seeing your significant other move on to someone else. I feel like a lot of people compare themselves to their ex-boyfriend’s new partner or ex-girlfriend's new partner when they get into a new relationship. I know I've done it. I've definitely stalked my ex's new girlfriends. I feel like everyone has, so I really wanted to make a song about it.

It has a really special place in my heart. I love this song. I actually recorded the song two years ago and I'm so glad that it's finally coming out. I love music video and the whole concept. It's been a long time coming.

I know you worked with an all-female team on “100 degrees.” Was the process for “paper” similar? How did the music video come together?

This one wasn’t all female, but it was a female director, the same director. I love her so much so we had to use her again. The really cool concept of this video was it was a whole one-shot. It was filmed like a one-shot and I've never done that before. I actually was on a moving Dolly. Most of the time I was floating through the air. There are so many videos of me behind the scenes, and it looks so funny when it isn’t on camera.

We actually filmed at an abandoned house like it was a haunted house, where American Horror Story was filmed.

Photography by Brandon Bowen

Wait, the Murder House? Was it haunted?

It’s so creepy. I filmed there a few years ago for another music video and I remember I was so into ghosts ans spirits when I was younger. And I was there and I did the ouija board one morning and we were all freaked out.

I remember talking to the owner of the house this time and she was like "Yeah you were touching everything and running around, you were in your element."

So why did you decide on that house for this music video as well?

It set the tone. The whole space is really cool. I mean the decorations are definitely creepy and we definitely had to move some. It just looks like an old Victorian-style house and we wanted to go for that vibe.

The idea is that I'm at my boyfriend’s house and I’m just like a spirit in the back watching.

Photography by Brandon Bowen

The song definitely touches on the jealousy that lingers after a relationship. How did this song help you overcome that?

I’ve been in relationships where I’ve definitely taken longer to move on, and I’ve always felt like the person I was dating moved on really fast. That’s always really hard, especially if you’ve been dating for a long time. But now, Instagram and social media is a thing and that’s really hard during a breakup. I would compare myself to the people they were following or the people who were commenting on their stuff. That’s just a really toxic way to be. Thinking back, I definitely would have just blocked them, and tried not to compare myself. It’s like in the song you can hear me saying “she looks good on paper, but I look good on you." It’s that kind of jealousy. I feel like a lot of people can relate to it. I’m not the only one.

What has the fan reception been like for you? Is that something you’re still getting used to?

TikTok is definitely very different. I feel like since a lot of people only know me from a TV show, they think I’m just a random girl singing, and I’m like, No guys, I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I promise. I’m not just doing it because everyone else is doing it. And I’m excited for everyone to finally hear “paper” because the only thing they’ve heard is snippets on TikTok.

Photography by Brandon Bowen

How do you feel now, looking back on the song?

I definitely had a different mentality then than I do now. Just because I’m older, but I’m still young. I’m more confident in myself and more okay with how I am. I try not to compare myself to other people as much.

I think honestly making my own music and getting to write it has played a big role. And just living alone and changing my hair and meeting new people. I feel like I’ve just matured overall and it’s a really good feeling.

So where are you taking that energy next? Is there an album on the horizon?

I think probably this summer, which is still a long time away, but there will definitely be a lot more music coming out and you’ll have something to look forward to. I can’t really tell you anything about the album, other than “paper" is probably my favorite song.

Photos courtesy of Kenzie Ziegler


JT: Larger Than Life

Story by Brook Aster / Photography by Leanda Heler / Styling by Briana Andalore / Hair by Tevin Washington / Makeup by Eden Lattanzio / Nails by Tiny / Set design by Milena Gorum