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'Dance Moms' alum Maddie Ziegler says her mom apologized for putting her on reality series as a child

Maddie Ziegler said her mom apologized to her last year for putting her through the "Dance Moms" reality series, a show the 20-year-old joined when she was just 7.

Former "Dance Moms" star Maddie Ziegler said her mom has apologized for putting her on the reality show at such a young age. 

"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 apologized to me," Ziegler, 20, said on Emily Ratajkowski’s "Emrata" podcast Tuesday. "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."

Ziegler said she started dancing competitively when she was just 4 years old and joined the Lifetime reality show about young dancers at Pittsburgh’s Abby Lee Dance Company when she was just 7. 

Ziegler’s mom, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, "really did everything to try and break our contract," Ziegler added. She finally left the show after six seasons when she was 11 or 12 years old with the help of Sia, who Ziegler worked with for several years, dancing in her videos. 


The 20-year-old said she has "blocked out so much of my childhood" from before she joined "Dance Moms," saying she doesn’t remember what her life was like before the reality series.

"It’s weird to find out things that I did when I was younger on like TikTok," she said. "Like I’ll see people posting things on me, and I’ll be like I don’t even remember doing that."

The "West Side Story" alum said she continues to struggle with the thought process instilled in her by her dance teacher when she was younger. Ziegler recalled being taught that "you have to be the best. If you don’t win you’re not good." 

"And so that was like the mentality when I was little, and I was such a perfectionist and I was so hard on myself, and I’m trying to unlearn all those traits," she admitted.


While Ziegler wants to keep her determination and strength, she also wants to feel like it’s OK to "mess up."

She said when she was on the show she was perceived as the "lead," "most well-treated" dancer but "in a way now, looking back, and a lot of people have started to say this, it’s like, ‘Woah, [dance teacher Abby Lee Miller] actually had the most pressure on her because she was like, ‘You’re my girl, so you have to lead everyone to victory every time,’' which is just like not sustainable."

When she started on the show at 7 years old, Ziegler claimed that "there were male producers saying, 'This is what you have to say. My mom wasn't in the room, so I was like, 'OK, 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.'"

Because of that, she said she was perceived as a "little brat" on the show. 


"I remember we watched the first episode at a viewing party for the launch of the show, and I just cried because I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Everyone thinks I'm this b---- and I'm not. I'm 7!'" she said. "It was so weird. It helped me a lot to be able to be like, 'I can say no, I can stand up for myself.' But being so young, you don't realize all those things."

"Dance Moms" also shot "almost 30 episodes a season," which she said "consumed our lives."

Ziegler said when she was little she wanted desperately to be a professional dancer but after dancing in several of Sia’s videos she realized she wanted to pursue acting. 

Ziegler said she still loves dancing, but acting is more her focus now. 


"I have a lot of people that I respect that come up to me, and they’re like, ‘Please, never stop dancing. Like, that would be the worst thing if you stopped dancing.’ And it’s like, Ooh, I feel that, but it’s also like that’s a lot of pressure. I think acting has kind of become the forefront of what I love right now," she added. 

"Dance Moms" ended after eight seasons in 2019. 

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