Maddie Ziegler Calls ‘Dance Moms’ “Sad” & “Toxic”; Says She Never Wants to Speak to Abby Lee Miller Again

“I still hear your screeching voice in my nightmares, Abby…”

Maddie Ziegler is opening up about the time she spent as a child on Dance Moms, calling the reality TV show “toxic” and “sad,” and stating that she will be quite happy if she never has to speak to her old coach Abby Lee Miller again.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan published Tuesday, Maddie revealed that producers made her into the “brat” that many fans thought she was.

“People thought I was a brat because in all my interviews, I would say, ‘I’m the best. I know I’m going to win,'” Maddie— who was only 8 when she started on ‘Dance Moms’— said. “But that’s because the producer was telling me to say that. I don’t think I’m better than everyone else. I was just doing whatever they told me to do because I thought that’s what you did. They set you up for failure.”

Maddie also pointed to her former coach, Abby Lee, as a main source of stress and trauma. (As ‘Dance Moms’ fans know, Abby Lee would often scream at her dancers and ridicule them for losing.)

“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,” she said, adding that Abby wouldn’t allow her dancers to watch their competitors or befriend other dancers.

“I’ve had to unlearn a lot of those things,” Maddie said, adding that she will never watch old episodes of the show.

“I did watch a little bit of an episode from the very beginning to show my boyfriend…And we both were like, ‘This is sad. We need to turn this off,'” she said.

As the show began to bring Maddie and her family more stress, she says that her family tried to leave, but was forced to stay due to their network contract.

“My family and I really tried to leave for the last three seasons,” she said. “But when you’re in a contract, it’s really hard. Eventually, I finally got out.”

‘Dance Moms’ fans will remember the infamous episode in which Maddie’s mom, Melissa, broke the news to Abby Lee that Maddie and her sister Mackenzie were leaving Abby’s Elite dance team. Abby Lee responded by crying for hours and locking herself in an office.

“She was distraught. For the longest time, we felt so guilty,” Maddie said of Abby. “She trained me, she helped me, but also, I knew I would be okay without her and I was sick of being in a toxic environment.”

Maddie stated that she has not spoken to Abby Lee since leaving her dance company, and that’s totally fine with her, adding that she never wants to speak to Abby again.

“I feel at peace, definitely,” Maddie told the magazine of that decision.

Abby Lee while reading this article…probably…

Maddie has worked to make amends with her past by going to therapy, and says she’s now able to “feel” her emotions and be imperfect.

“I’ve learned I’m not going to be in trouble if I’m feeling bad or if I have an injury,” she said. “That’s the biggest difference. It’s amazing that I’m able to feel my feelings and not just push them down.”

UPDATE! Abby has released a YouTube video in which she directly responds to some of Maddie’s claims. Click here to read what she had to say. 

(Photos: Jason Merritt/Getty Images; Instagram; Lifetime) 


  1. no the place wasn’t toxic abby, screamed a lot but she was only doing that to teacher them and win and she loves all her students, moms shouldn’t yelled at abby cause them their children get punished

  2. I never thought Maddie came off as a brat. She was the best. She’s a beautiful and talented dancer.

    1. Hoe? Little harsh… I found her to be humble and supportive of her teammates. She was in a difficult situation, juggling between her parent and her “teacher”. I feel she did a great job under the circumstances. Hoe is a little too much.. She was a CHILD, put the blame where it is deserved!!

    1. I’m just curious if Maddie ever got braces. The poor child had horrible buck teeth. Certainly not her fault & I’m not “picking on a child,” which the first thing people say any time someone mentions anything about a child.

  3. sorry maddie—your mom loved it all–she loved lording over the other mom’s and bragging–she loved all the money and fame–what I always found sad was little Mackenzie in the background–hopefully you have a good friendship with her because she deserves more than she ever got

  4. I’ve only seen a few episodes of dance moms and I was surprised how Abby spoke to these kids, however, not surprised that the parents did nothing. I grew up in the dance world and some of the parents were big YIKES!

    However, there’s a clip that circulates online every so often of Abby sitting in a theater on her phone and one of the moms tells her to turn off the phone during performances because it’s unprofessional and Abby ZOOMS outta there so fast on her wheelchair and goes to the police station to file a report. The cameramen were having a hard time keeping up with her, it’s so hilarious. Please look it up if you haven’t seen it.

  5. That toxic cow got Maddie were she is today. Maybe she ought to point her finger at her MOM for enrolling, not one but two daughters, in Abbys abuse school, but what the fuck ever.

    1. I NEVER understood the appeal! Abby was always scary abusive just based on the few promos I had seen over the years.

      When she got sick, everyone seemed to be routing for her – which is fine, but seemed to completely forget this was not some saint.
      I also love how Abby doesn’t say she’s sorry for anything, *She* has come to terms, *she* realizes *she’s not going to get into “trouble” for expressing *her* feelings.

      So Abby is basically excusing her past behavior, without taking any responsibility for her past actions, and now because she’s been working on herself 🙄 she doesn’t have to worry about anymore consequences! Sorry, you don’t treat KIDS like that, if Abby had truly changed she would have apologized to Maddie and anyone else she actually felt bad about hurting a long time ago. She doesn’t feel bad, Abby feels completely ENTITLED to abuse those kids because they won competitions.

  6. My understanding is that kids on “reality” TV shows are not covered under the same laws that child actors are; because they’re NOT technically actors.

    1. I think it’s mainly because most children on tv are filmed and located in California. And California has really strict laws on how many hours kids can work, if they need a tutor on set, how they’re paid, the Coogan account, etc.

      But shows that are not filmed in CA are not required to follow those laws. I think Dance moms was filmed in Pennsylvania. And since PA isn’t known for its acting, it’s not really invested in making laws to protect child stars.

      Also, child labor laws are going to be changing in the next decade, as kids of youtube/ Instagram parents who have filmed every aspect of their life, but not paid them a cent come out and talk about the negative effects of their parents stealing both their childhood, but their money.

  7. It is not just Miller that is toxic; all the parents overlooked the abuse you and all the girls were subject to. Children are treated as a commodity in television and film. And I blame the parents.

    I’ve always thought that any child under the age of 18, should be required to have a court-appointed guardian ad Litem appointed to accompany them on set. The story of parents failing to protect their children in Hollywood is more than 100 years old.

    1. You’re so right. Like if my mother saw someone yell in my face like that, and tell me what a POS I was on a daily basis, it wouldn’t last a week before we were out of there.

      And my mom was reporting her to the state for abuse.

      I went to one of the top ballet academies in the world, and my ballet school was strict, no parents were allowed in the room, etc. But I was never talked to like Abby talks to those girls. Was there a lot of pressure, yes, but wasn’t because someone was screaming in my face, and the TEACHER wasn’t pitting us against each other.

      1. Exactly! I’ve never done dance or ballet, but I can understand some elements because I played sports. I’ve never had a coach yell at me like I saw from Abby. And that’s with some places being so noisy they might have to yell so you can hear – but never like that.

        I didn’t watch the show, but she was pitting Maddie and the others against each other? That’s emotional manipulation and it’s disgusting the show aided Abby in all of that.

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