Abby Lee Miller is responding to claims that her studio featured in Dance Moms was a “toxic environment,” according to the show’s former star Maddie Ziegler.
“If it was so toxic, why did you keep doing it?” Miller questioned in a 10-minute YouTube video in which she reacted to Ziegler’s latest feature on the cover of Cosmopolitan. “I had to. I tried to quit, many a time, and I was forced to come back to set because I signed a contract. News flash, the kids, the original cast, never had a contract. The moms had a contract, but the kids, well nobody wanted to pay the money and go through the process, so they were just kind of there on a handshake.”
The 19-year-old dancer and actress spoke to the publication about her experience with fame, beginning with her days on the reality show, where she was first thrust into the public eye. When asked if she considered quitting at any point during the six seasons she was on the show, Ziegler said yes.
“I started to feel like, It’s so peaceful outside of this world. I can’t be in this. My family and I really tried to leave for the last three seasons. But when you’re in a contract, it’s really hard. Eventually, I finally got out,” she explained of her exit in 2016.
Miller claimed that she was never aware of Ziegler’s desire to leave.
“Maddie wanted to be back at that dance studio. If she said, ‘I don’t want to go, I’m not going,’ kicking and screaming, stomping her feet, I’m sure her mother wouldn’t have brought her. Or she would’ve come and talked to me about it. She never did that,” Miller said. “That’s where everybody knew her name. Now, the whole world knows her name, from my studio, of course, the ALDC [Abby Lee Dance Company]as well as a little TV show called Dance Moms. I thought she wanted to be there.”
The 56-year-old went on to address specific quotes from Ziegler in which the teen said she was made to feel “less than” if she didn’t leave a competition with a trophy. She also alleged that Miller wouldn’t allow her dance students to be friends with competitors.
“It carries into other life lessons,” Ziegler explained. “I’ve had to unlearn a lot of those things.”
Miller, however, painted a picture of support for the girls.
“I was fighting for everything for these kids to be the best that they could be on television, and as far as the pressure to win, I was putting my name out there on television. I was risking my studio and the reputation and all the kids that came before those kids, you know,” she said. “There were lots of great kids before them, and there’s been lots of great kids after them. I have some stars right now out there competing. Do they always win? No. Do I want them to win? Yes. win? Yes. And I’m doing everything in my power to help them.”
The choreographer was relieved when Ziegler gave her credit for training her and helping her throughout the start of her dance career. “I’m glad that there was finally a small tiny smidgen of recognition because I did train her and I did help her. A lot of people in the studio did. And I know that what I did for Maddie, with Maddie, helped her succeed,” Miller said. “I remember hugging that kid close to me, I thought that I had helped her.”
Even when it comes to Ziegler’s experiences with acting, Miller claimed some responsibility.
“Maddie was trained to act at my studio, working on all those faces, all those expressions,” Miller explained. “She learned all of those skills in my studio and I don’t think there’s a person involved with the ALDC that is not proud of her.”
And while Ziegler expressed mixed feelings about being in the public eye, Miller shared her hopes in contributing to the young girl’s renowned career.
“The article was all about fame. Maddie doesn’t remember when she wasn’t famous. I do, I do. But I knew that little girl could have a better life, a more exciting life with an education at the ALDC,” Miller said. “I hope some day I’m at peace with it all, too.”
Critics responded to Miller’s video in YouTube’s comment section, namely pointing out that “Two things can be true at the same time.”
“Of course Maddie knows she is where she is because of Abby but if Maddie realized the environment was toxic she is absolutely allowed to distance herself. I don’t see the issue here,” one person wrote.
“Let’s all remember that Maddie was just eight years old when her life was thrown into turmoil. We will never know what truly happened behind the scenes (Abby and the moms tell very different stories), but whatever the case is, all those girls went through something traumatic. The kid learned that she could literally do no wrong. “I’m just saying, let’s give the girls some grace.”
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