Frequent “Dancing With the Stars” performer and professional dancer Maddie Ziegler said in an interview with Cosmopolitan that her former dance instructor, “Dancing With the Stars” guest judge Abby Lee Miller, created a “toxic environment” at her dance studio, which was featured on the show “Dance Moms.”
Maddie said that the girls were pitted against each other and not allowed to be friends and the drive to win at all costs ingrained a lot of behaviors in Maddie that she had to “unlearn” when she finally was able to get out of her contract and leave the studio alongside her younger sister and “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors” contestant Mackenzie Ziegler.
Now Abby Lee Miller has fired back in a YouTube video response titled, “Dear Cosmopolitan.”
Here is what she had to say about some of the specific claims made about her in the interview:
Abby Says She Put Her ‘Job on the Line’ for Maddie
One quote that was cited a lot from the interview was where Maddie said that Abby trained her and helped her but she knew she would be OK without Abby and that she was “sick of being in a toxic environment.”
To this, Abby said:
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 at the studio did and I know that what I did for Maddie, with Maddie, helped her succeed. I remember hugging that kid close to me. I thought that I had helped her.
Maddie was trained to act at my studio, working on all those faces, all those expressions — Lizzie Borden, Helen Keller, the happy girl, the sad girl, the abandoned girl. She learned all those skills in my studio and I don’t think there’s a person involved with the ALDC that is not proud of her.
Abby goes on to say that she fought for Maddie, including getting her time off from the show so that she could dance in Sia’s music video for “Chandelier.”
“Who went to bat so that Maddie could leave production and go to LA and shoot a music video called ‘Chandelier’? I did. I fought with the producers, I fought with the network. I put my job on the line for a kid, a kid that I loved, to go do something different and exciting,” said Abby.
She continued, “Nineteen years old? I don’t think she realizes what all happened. What I went through in prison, what I went through in the hospital, what chemo’s all about, what being in a wheelchair is like. They don’t know. I hope someday I’m at peace with it all too. But I know I will never forget the names of my teachers … that I learned so much from watching.”
Abby is referring to the fact that in 2016, she pleaded guilty to felony bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to a year in prison; she served about 10 months. Shortly after her release, she was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, which left her cancer-free but in a wheelchair.
Abby Wonders Why Maddie Didn’t Just Quit if She Was So Unhappy
The dance instructor also addressed the “toxic” comment in another section of the video where she wonders why Maddie didn’t just quit the show. In Maddie’s interview, she said she and her family “tried to leave for the last three seasons” but “when you’re in a contract, it’s really hard.”
Abby said in her response that only the mothers were under contract, so Maddie could have left at any time.
What I don’t understand about the pressure, the ‘toxic situation’ — if it was so toxic, why did you keep doing it? 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.
Maddie wanted to win. She wanted to be the best. She was a perfectionist and any faculty member at my studio will tell you that. She loved to dance. That’s where she was at home, that’s where everybody knew her name. Now the whole world knows her name, from my studio, of course, the ALDC, as well as a little TV show called “Dance Moms.”
Abby also denied that she put too much pressure on them to win, saying that she was “doing everything in [her] power to help them” win, but they wanted to win as much as she wanted them to win.
Finally, she said that she did not forbid them from being friends with their competitors and cited many girls on the show who Maddie was friends with.
“I am a dance teacher, I am not going to tell you who you can and can’t be friends with,” said Abby.
“Dancing With the Stars” returns for its 31st season in fall 2022 on Disney Plus.