No longer on top of the pyramid. Abby Lee Miller had a reputation for turning her students into stars on Dance Moms, but many of her former costars regret what they had to go through in order to succeed.
“I had more stress [on the show] than I did once I left. I have dissociated so much from that time,” Maddie Ziegler, who starred on the Lifetime reality TV show from 2011 until 2016, told Cosmopolitan in June 2022. “It’s weird because there were really amazing times, but there were also a lot of things that were really, really not great for us kids.”
The West Side Story actress added that it took a while for her to stop tying her self-worth to winning dance competitions. “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. It carries into other life lessons. We also weren’t allowed to watch our competitors or be friends with them. I’ve had to unlearn a lot of those things,” she explained.
She continued: “I did watch a little bit of an episode from the very beginning to show my boyfriend [Eddie Benjamin] … And we both were like, ‘This is sad. We need to turn this off.’”
Miller fired back at Ziegler’s claims the following day, claiming that the former So You Think You Can Dance judge felt “at home” at her studio. “I was fighting for everything, for these kids to be the best that they could be on television,” the dance teacher said in the video, adding that she was responsible for all of Ziegler’s success. “I know that what I did for Maddie, with Maddie, helped her succeed.”
While Miller has defended her controversial teaching methods, often pointing to the Abby Lee Dance Company alums who have become professional dancers, others have alleged that she did more harm than good.
In October 2014, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of former student Paige Hyland (who was then 13 years old) which claimed that she suffered emotional abuse during her time at the ALDC. The suit also alleged that Miller pinched students until they bled and “insulted and abused Paige on an almost daily basis, including cruel name calling, insults about Paige’s physical appearance and making offensive false and defamatory accusation [sic] about Paige’s family.” The suit was dismissed in July 2015.
When Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke stepped in for Miller on season 8 of Dance Moms, she claimed that the girls were “traumatized” from their experiences working with their former teacher. “The girls are so precious, and I feel like they are traumatized from what has happened with Abby, and it’s important for me to still be strict and do what I do,” the ballroom dancer told Us Weekly in May 2017. “I expect nothing but the best from the girls, but it’s also important for me to make them feel confident about themselves because they are all beautiful and talented.”
Keep scrolling to see everything the Dance Moms cast has said about Miller over the years: