Reality television is notoriously well-edited, dramatic, and generally over the top, but many viewers are often left wondering just how much of it is real and what goes on behind the scenes. Dance Moms, one of the most popular reality shows in recent history, had no shortage of onscreen drama between the young dancers, their mothers, and, of course, their coach, Abby Lee Miller. Fans of the show already know a lot about the Abby Lee Dance Company's big wins and losses, but these quotes from Dance Moms stars illuminate just how intense production was for its young cast members.
Most of the original cast members from the show's 2011 pilot stayed on board for several seasons, and feuds only got more fiery as the years went on. Solos, duets, and trios were even doled out based on a weekly hierarchy (as if the insecurities that come with pre-teen life aren't already challenging without Abby constantly ranking you and your frenemies).
Some of the most berserk happenings occurred offscreen. The tensions between dancers and their teachers were worse than portrayed in the episodes, some of the cast's insecurities worsened because of the show, and racism went unchecked for years. It's impossible to know the full truth about what happened after the cameras stopped rolling, but thankfully for fans, some of the biggest stars have been more than willing to spill the tea on what it was like to star in one of the most controversial reality shows of the 2010s.
Maddie Ziegler On The Forced Fights
Maddie Ziegler cultivated quite the post-show career since her departure at the end of Season 6. In addition to becoming one of Sia’s closest collaborators, the dancer is now a bonafide actress with roles in major movies like The Book of Henry and Sia's Music.
In 2015, Maddie opened up about her career to USA Today and talked about how some of the drama on Dance Moms was scripted. “The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other. You know how I said that moms do fight? The moms have a fake fight sometimes,” Maddie said. “Afterward, they just start talking and laugh about it.”
Kenzie Ziegler On Feeling The Pressure
Maddie Ziegler’s sister, Kenzie, had a less-than-stellar experience on the show as well. She was constantly compared to her older sister and picked on by other cast members.
In her 2018 book, Kenzie’s Rules for Life: How to be Happy, Healthy and Dance to Your Own Beat, she addressed this negativity point-blank: “I thought everyone was constantly judging me, watching each move and tearing it apart, nitpicking everything I did, and laughing at me behind my back.”
It’s a heartbreaking realization about how damaging such public criticism can be to one’s self-worth, but she’s since moved on and found her true calling making pop music.
Chloe Lukasiak On Leaving The Show
Chloe Lukasiak was one of the central characters in the otherwise-ensemble cast of Dance Moms, often going head-to-head with Maddie. Her most fiery exchange, however, was with Abby when she made a hurtful comment about Lukasiak's looks behind the scenes. "The reason I left Dance Moms was because my former dance teacher made fun of a medical condition I have," she stated in a 2019 YouTube video. Chloe has silent sinus syndrome, a rare disorder that can cause facial asymmetry.
Nia Sioux On Being 'Bullied' By Abby
Beloved cast member-turned-actress Nia Sioux told her followers on the app she was particularly targeted for her race while appearing on Dance Moms from 2011 to 2017.
"You think you can hurt my feelings? I was the only Black girl on [the show]," Nia wrote on top of her Aug. 9 TikTok video.
Other cast members followed suit with the trend of exposing their true feelings about the show, but Nia's experience was especially poignant because of the racist microaggressions she experienced.
"And that’s on being bullied by the biggest bully in America," she wrote in the caption of the video. She was presumably referring to Abby's comments about her race and shoehorning her into "ethnic" dance routines that often resulted in online backlash toward the dance teacher.
JoJo Siwa On Christi Lukasiak's Behavior
JoJo Siwa might be a hair bow magnate and musician now, but keen fans remember her drama-filled stint on Dance Moms. Within the first 20 episodes, other cast members made catty imitations of her voice, including another dancer's mother.
JoJo recently revealed some simmering drama that wasn’t shown in any of the episodes. She took to TikTok to call out Christi Lukasiak, the mother of former ALDC member, Chloe Lukasiak. On Dec. 4, 2020, JoJo responded to a video of Christi calling Gianna Martello, one of ALDC’s choreographers, "not nice" during a Zoom call.
“[S]he works so hard every single week for so many people, including Chloe. She had one of the most stressful jobs on the show. She was in charge of choreographing every single number,” JoJo said in response to Christi. “The thing is, you don't need to say that somebody is not a nice person. I'm sure you're a very nice person, even though the experience that I've had with you, you were not nice to me.”
Christi responded to JoJo’s video, stating, “If she had an amazing, positive experience, then I'm really happy that that's how it went.” JoJo had never appeared as a regular cast member alongside the Lukasiaks, so any drama that went down had to have happened behind the scenes.
In Elite Daily’s It’s Complicated series, we dissect the biggest celebrity drama to find out what happened in front of the camera, behind the scenes, and everywhere in between. Read more here.