'Dance Moms' Abby Lee Miller trying to make a comeback

Miller wasn't invited to the "Dance Moms" reunion.

May 4, 2024, 6:05 AM

"Dance Moms," the reality TV show and dance competition series hosted on the Lifetime network, was known for its core cast of talented young dancers. But also key to the show: Abby Lee Miller, whose famously high standards and harsh critiques of the children under her tutelage often led to conflict.

On May 1, Lifetime aired a reunion special that brought together several former cast members from the show to discuss how a childhood in Abby Lee Miller’s dance studio shaped their adolescence. One person was missing: Miller herself.

In a rare interview, Abby Lee Miller tells “Impact x Nightline” anchor Juju Chang about how she feels about the girls she worked with -- and whether she regrets some of her harsher teaching methods.

"I know when I go to sleep at night that I have done my job, and I have made the world a better place for children," Miller told ABC News. And those kids that you're talkin' about, that tough love, they're doin' great."

VIDEO: 'GMA' Hot List: Abby Lee Miller reflects on life after prison
VIDEO: 'GMA' Hot List: Abby Lee Miller reflects on life after prison

Since the show went off the air after its eighth season in 2019, Miller has remained a controversial figure -- some former "Dance Moms" girls praise her tough love, while others are still healing from what they say was wounding criticism.

"We went through some severe trauma together, and we survived it," Brooke Hyland, a dancer on "Dance Moms," told "Impact x Nightline.” Brooke, her sister Paige Hyland, and fellow cast members Chloe Lukasiak and Kendall Vertes all share their stories in a new episode of “Impact x Nightline”: "Dance Moms: Behind The Curtain," streaming now on Hulu.

Miller's rise to fame on the show was not without controversy. Her unorthodox, explosive and no-nonsense attitude often led to emotional outbursts, tears and heartache. This intense environment even led to some young dancers quitting the company.

"Dance Moms" follows the journey of mothers and their young daughters, ages 6 to 13, at Abby Lee Dance Company/Reign Dance Productions. The show’s eighth season ended in September 2019.

In 2020, Miller was accused of racism by former "Dance Moms" mother Adriana Smith, who pulled her daughter Kamryn out of the show following what she alleges were racially charged comments from Miller. Miller responded in a post on her Instagram account, saying in part, “I genuinely understand and deeply regret how my words have effected [sic] and hurt those around me in the past, particularly those in the Black community. To Kamryn, Adriana, and anyone else I’ve hurt, I am truly sorry.”

Days after the allegations surfaced, Lifetime announced they would not move forward with airing one of their "Dance Moms" spinoffs, “Abby’s Virtual Dance-Off.”

One of the show's most notable moments came during a competition in November 2013, during a conversation about another dancer replacing Kelly Hyland’s daughter, Brooke, on the team. This resulted in an altercation between Miller and Kelly Hyland. The argument started backstage and quickly became a public screaming match, then escalated.

After the fight incident, Kelly Hyland and her daughters did not appear on the show again. Both Kelly Hyland and Miller took legal action against each other. Miller alleged assault, while Kelly sued for defamation and emotional distress. Both cases were eventually dismissed.

Miller would continue to find herself facing legal issues. She was charged with hiding over $750,000 in a secret bank account and faced 20 counts of bankruptcy fraud in 2015. Miller initially claimed innocence but ultimately pleaded guilty to concealing income she had earned after filing for bankruptcy. She was sentenced to a year in prison and served eight months.

Miller left prison in May 2018 and moved to a halfway house. However, her situation deteriorated soon after.

"I had lost 127 pounds in prison. I read 150 books," Miller said. "And I exercised every day. I was in the best shape of my life. So when I walked in, she was like, "Oh my god. You look fabulous. What's going on?" And I said, "I have this pain in my head and in the back of my neck is killing me."

Miller was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, which is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. During her battle, she underwent ten rounds of chemotherapy. She is now cancer free, but she's still unable to walk on her own easily because a tumor caused damage to her spine.

Despite her dramatic fall from grace and her detractors, Miller's expertise is still in high demand as mothers continue to seek her out. She hopes to create her own version of "Dance Moms" without Lifetime’s involvement. She currently teaches master classes nationwide, promoting them to millions of her followers on social media.

One protégé of Miller's remains a fan, giving her high praise.

"I definitely have a way different relationship with Abby than anybody, I think," Jojo Siwa, who appeared on two seasons of "Dance Moms," said during Lifetime’s reunion special. "I do credit a lot of my thick skin and my ability to handle good news and bad news to Abby. This is going to be a little controversial to say, I think, but to me, Abby was always right."