Maddie Ziegler’s Rise From Dancing Tween to Superstar
Dance Moms‘ Abby Lee Miller has fired back after one of her most famous former students, Maddie Ziegler, criticized her teaching methods.
The Abby Lee Dance Company founder, who often voiced blunt critiques of her students on the Lifetime reality show, was famously moved to tears after the ex-child star’s mom informed her in a 2016 season six episode that they were exiting the series.
Maddie, now 19, said in a June 14 cover interview with Cosmopolitan that she hasn’t spoken to her past instructor since she left the show. Maddie said that “for the longest time, we felt so guilty,” as Abby “trained me, she helped me.”
“But also,” Maddie continued, “I knew I would be okay without her and I was sick of being in a toxic environment. I was like, ‘This is not for me. I can’t do this.'”
Abby, 56, posted a 10-minute YouTube video on June 16 in response to Maddie’s comments.
“I’m glad that there was finally a small, tiny, smidgen of recognition, because I did train her and I did help her,” she said. “A lot of people at the studio did. And I know that what I did for Maddie, with Maddie, helped her succeed.”
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But, she added, “If it was so toxic, why did you keep doing it?”
In her Cosmopolitan interview, Maddie said, “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.” Abby said on her YouTube page that the original child stars of Dance Moms, which included Maddie, “never had a contract,” although their mothers did.
Maddie told Cosmopolitan that she “had more stress” when she was a kid on Dance Moms than she did once she left. “There were really amazing times, but there were also a lot of things that were really, really not great for us kids,” she said. “The pressure of being known as, ‘Oh, she’s the girl that always wins,’ then to not win or to have another girl beat me was the end of the world. Because that’s what I was taught: to not win or to have another girl beat me was the end of the world.”
In her YouTube video, Abby said, “Maddie wanted to win. She wanted to be the best. She was a perfectionist.”
She added that Maddie “loved to dance. That’s where she was at home. That’s where everybody knew her name. Now the whole world knows her name.”
Maddie, who famously starred in Sia‘s “Chandelier” music video and appeared in Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story remake, said, “My dance teacher taught that if you don’t get the trophy, if you don’t get the crown, you are less than, which is the worst way to train a kid.”
Abby responded, “I have never said that.”
Maddie also said in her interview that while on Dance Moms, “We also weren’t allowed to watch our competitors or be friends with them.” Abby said that she did indeed tell her students not to observe their competitors dancing, in a bid to avoid psyching themselves out, giving themselves “false hope” or becoming fearful about performing. But she denied telling them to avoid being friends with anyone.
The dance studio director, who also helped train JoJo Siwa, clarified her intentions in her video. “I was fighting for everything for these kids to be the best that they could be on television,” she said. “And as far as the pressure to win, I was putting my name out there on television.”
Abby added, “I was risking my studio and the reputation and all the kids that came before those kids you know [on Dance Moms]. 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. Do they want to win? Yes. And I’m doing everything in my power to help them.”
In her YouTube video, she also praised Maddie’s “amazing” Cosmopolitan cover, which shows her wearing a scarlet Carolina Herrera tulle dress with blush floral accents. “Red,” Abby said. “Red looks good on every kid, for costumes, for stage. Red’s the way to go.”
E! News has reached out to Maddie’s rep for comment but hasn’t heard back.
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