"Dance Moms" alum Abby Lee Miller is responding to former student Maddie Ziegler's claims that the show was a "toxic environment."
Ziegler, now 19, was just a child when she starred on "Dance Moms," which was set inside Miller's dance studio, the Abby Lee Dance Company, and aired for eight seasons from July 2011 until September 2019 on Lifetime.
Though one of Miller’s standout students until her 2016 exit, Ziegler revealed during an interview with Cosmopolitan that she now was “at peace” with the fact that she and the notoriously strict dance coach are no longer in communication.
“She was distraught (when I left). For the longest time, we felt so guilty,” recalled Ziegler. “She trained me, she helped me, but also, I knew I would be OK 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.’ I haven’t spoken to her since,” she added, with the magazine noting that Ziegler doesn’t plan on speaking to Miller ever again.
Ziegler, who went on to appear in several of pop star Sia's videos and act in hit movies including "West Side Story," said her family tried to have her leave the series earlier. "But when you’re in a contract, it’s really hard. Eventually, I finally got out," she explained.
After the interview was published, Miller, 56, responded to Ziegler's comments in a video on her YouTube channel. She remembered the hard-working Ziegler as "a kid I loved."
"What I don’t understand about the pressure, the ‘toxic’ situation — if it was so toxic, why did you keep doing it?" Miller asked, adding, "I tried to quit many a time, and I was forced to come back to set because I signed a contract.”
“Newsflash: the kids in the original cast never had a contract," Miller claimed. "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.”
Miller went on to say that she never realized Ziegler, who she said "wanted to be the best," was so unhappy in her tutelage, noting that Ziegler was eager to come into the studio at all hours to train.
“I thought she wanted to be there ... 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 have come and talked to me about it. She never did that," she said.
Miller also proudly took some credit for Ziegler's success today.
“I know that what I did for Maddie, with Maddie, helped her succeed," she said, later adding, "I hope someday I'm at peace with it all too. But I know I will never forget the names of my teachers."