Maddie Ziegler was 7 when she appeared on Dance Moms. She says the world labelled her 'a b**ch'.

Maddie Ziegler found fame on Dance Momsa reality show that followed Abby Lee Miller's competitive dance team and their mothers. 

It's been a long while since she and her sister, Mackenzie, exited the popular series in 2016, after starring for six seasons. 

However, the pain of being a child on screen, and having to deal with the likes of her demanding dance teacher, have stayed with her.

Watch this snippet of Maddie leaving Dance Moms. Post continues after video. 

Video via YouTube.

In an interview with Emily Ratajkowski on the podcast High Low with EmRata, Ziegler spoke about her toxic upbringing on Dance Moms and the apology she got from the mother, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, six years after departing the show. 

"Last year, I was having a really bad panic attack and I called my mom and things were coming up from the past, and she apologised to me," Ziegler explained. 

"She was like, 'I'm so sorry I put you through that.' It’s so sad because she would never want to hurt us, but none of us knew how crazy it would get."

Maddie Ziegler on Dance Moms. Image: Everett Collection.


When she began on the show, Ziegler was just seven years old. She claims producers manipulated her when her parents weren't around. 

"When I was doing the show, in the first season [in 2011] I was seven, and there were male producers saying, 'This is what you have to say,'" she recalled. 

"My mom wasn’t in the room, so I was like, 'Okay, I just have to do whatever I’m being told.' They would say, 'Say you’re the best, say you’re better than everyone else, say blah blah blah.'"

Ziegler says their influence on what to say during her confessionals made her seem like a villain to both the public and her friends on the show. 

 Maddie Ziegler, Mackenzie Ziegler and Melissa Gisoni. Image: Getty.


While chatting with Ratajkowski, Ziegler admitted she cried watching the first episode back at a viewing party with her co-stars because she seemed like "a b***h".

"I was perceived kind of like a little brat in the first season," she said. "... I just cried because I was like, 'Oh my gosh, everyone thinks I'm this b***h'. I'm not. I'm seven.

"It was so weird. [But] it kind of helped me a lot to be like, 'I can say no, I can stand up for myself'. But being so young, you don't realise all those things."

Her experience on Dance Moms led to Ziegler and her family walking away from the show – but it took them six years to do so.


And while she may have been Miller's favourite dancer, she wasn't treated any better than her co-stars, she says.

"Looking back — and a lot of people have started to say this — it’s like, 'Wow, she actually had the most pressure on her,' because [Miller] was like, 'You're my girl, so you have to lead everyone to victory every time,' which is just not sustainable," she said.

Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler in 2023. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, Ziegler's mother also spoke up about the poor treatment her daughters and the rest of the cast allegedly dealt with at the hands of Miller.


After being asked if "Abby really was that cruel all the time", the reality star told her Instagram followers, "It really was as bad as it seems."

"Abby had fun with the girls in the beginning, but then, you know, all the drama... She wasn't very nice," she said.

"If I was on the show now, it would be totally different because my girls asked me to keep my lips closed and not saying anything, but I could not hold back now. I'm too strong of a woman and I have kind of a big mouth now. I mean, I'm Italian. I don't know how I kept my mouth shut, but [it would not be good] if I was on that show now."

Listen to The Spill, Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast. Post continues after audio. 

Now 20, Ziegler is a successful actor and dancer, having skyrocketed into Hollywood when Australian musician Sia cast her in her music videos for 'Chandelier' and 'Elastic Heart'. 

She turned to acting and gained global recognition for her work in Pretty Little Liars, Austin And Ally and The Book of Henry. 

In 2021, she took on her biggest role yet, alongside Wednesday star Jenna Ortega in The Fallout. That same year, she also played Velma in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. 

Feature Image: Getty/A+E.

Is your world thrown into chaos when your kids are sick? We want to hear from you. For your time, you’ll go in the running to win one of four $50 gift vouchers!