Reality shows are everywhere you look nowadays! Flicking through the stations, it’s more than likely that you’ll see at least a billion. Okay, maybe not quite that many… However, with ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’, ‘Big Brother’, and more variations of ‘The Real Housewives of’ than we can count, it seems we just can’t help but get involved in people’s lives and want to know as much as we can! Reality shows offer a number of different genres to follow. From more contest-based shows to following someone’s daily life, there seems to be a show for everyone. But one sub-genre of reality TV that is always guaranteed to get mixed reactions is when children are involved. We don’t know how, but we always find ourselves getting sucked into ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,’ ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’ and ‘Teen Mom.’ However, we can’t wait to find out what is happening in the lives of the cast and stare in shock/horror/awe/bemusement at what they get up to.
One program that stands above the crowd for us though is ‘Dance Moms.’ Whether it’s watching the mothers feud over whose child is going to be on top of the pyramid in the dance (which, in case you didn’t know, is the place to be!), or how the dancers rebel against the adults when they have had enough of being forced to dance, there’s no denying it’s addictive to watch. The show is not the same show, though, without its star – coach Abby Miller! Adding the perfect amount of harsh comments and edge to the show, Abby Miller became the prime entertainment and number one reason to watch ‘Dance Moms.’
But just who is the woman behind the dancing academy? Having had a simple upbringing, it seems unbelievable that Abby Miller was able to build such an empire for herself. However, as with all great towers, one loose brick and the whole thing comes tumbling down. That brick would see not only her empire but her entire life come tumbling down around her, and it would leave Abby Miller in a predicament worse than she ever imagined. Was the onscreen dragon act merely just a show, or was this coach always so tough?
The early years
Abigale Lee Miller was born on September 21st, 1966, to parents George Miller and Maryen Lorrain. It seems as though Abby was always destined to dance, with a mother who was a dance teacher by trade. This led to her take dancing lessons, instructed by her mom, and those fueled her passion for the art! Miller was a busy child as she also managed to find herself signed up to a skiing club, the Girl Scouts, and clarinet lessons.
Finding her calling
Fueled by her mother’s experience of 50 years as a member of a dance teaching academy, Abby Lee Miller quickly discovered that dance was her true passion in life and found she loved getting involved in the competitions. However, the young dancer also quickly learned that she much preferred being behind the scenes, so she then went into teaching the sport rather than performing herself. By the age of 14, Miller had founded her own dance school called the ‘Abby Lee Dance Company.’ Over a decade later she took on her mom’s studio to use for her classes.
The beginning of Dance Moms
Wanting to turn her passion into a paying career, Miller signed a deal to use her dancing academy as the location for a reality television series. Although her career had been fairly successful, having taught thousands of pupils over the years, Miller took her passion to the next level when ‘Dance Moms’ was first aired in July 2011. Even though the show was primarily supposed to showcase Miller’s school, the mothers of the girls dancing soon became a firm focus with the constant arguing between themselves and with the teacher.
Under the spotlight
The show’s premiere was heavily criticized and the production was under a lot of pressure from reviewers! With Abby Lee Miller leading the way as the dance instructor, it was meant to be her job to help and encourage the girls she was teaching. However, viewers saw Miller degrading the girls, and she was accused of bullying them on a few occasions. The moms were not much better in the eyes of the critics either, as they came across as pushy, and wanting their daughters to exceed no matter the cost!
Hitting big controversies
The show-runners didn’t stop and think about what the critics said before continuing with the second season. ‘Dance Moms’ continued full force with some pretty risky moves, which even saw one of the episodes be pulled and never released on the DVD of the season! In the deleted episode, Abby Lee Miller wanted the girls to wear tights and flesh-colored clothes, so it appeared as though they were nude during the dance. She defended the choice by stating everyone would know that they were, in fact, wearing clothes and were fully covered, but the network wasn’t keen.
Along with working hard on her still reasonably new television series, Miller set out to create another brand new show! ‘Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition’ was another reality series that followed dancing wannabes in the hope to win $100,000 and a scholarship to a prestigious ballet school. The show only lasted for two seasons and was canceled right after, but while on the air we got a chance to see Miller act as one of the judges for the show – harsh criticism and all!
Assaulting the teacher
In the beginning of January 2014, Abby Lee Miller found herself in court defending her case against a mom from the show, Kelly Hyland. Miller took the mom to court after she accused her of assaulting her on the show – ooer! Things didn’t go as planned though, as Hyland’s defense was that because the episode was aired, it meant it was scripted, and she was just doing what she was expected to. Hyland went on to plead not guilty, and the case was dropped.
Like mother like daughter
Not wanting to miss out on the chance to get her oar in, Kelly Hyland’s daughter Paige set her sights on Miller, too. Paige was only 13 at the time, but that didn’t stop the young dancer from dragging her former coach back to court. Paige attempted to sue the reality star, but her case was dismissed from court with no action taken. Allegedly the charges were over Miller getting physical with the girl on the show and over how she was in fact paid to be so nasty to them!
2014 wasn’t a good year for Miller as two more members of the cast from the show quit following the airing of the finale. Christi Lukasiak and her daughter Chloe left the squad after Miller was accused of continuously insulting the young dancer as well as rejecting Chloe through her actions on the show. With the show getting so much bad press, it looked as though Miller had a lot of work to do if she wanted to stand a chance at gaining herself a good reputation!
New show release
Even though her original TV series looked as though it could be beginning to dwindle, Abby Lee Miller was determined to take things on the road when she released her brand new show in the summer of 2014! The show, entitled ‘Abby’s Studio Rescue,’ followed the superstar coach as she traveled to different dance academies across the country in order to restore them and help the coaches with any issues they had. She wasn’t necessarily venturing from her roots, but the new show did allow us to see a different side of Miller.
Expanding the business
During May 2015 and the airing of season five, Miller announced that she had plans to open a brand new dance studio. The academy would have the same name as her previous dance school, but would instead be located in Los Angeles. The new location would allow Miller to expand her teaching horizons and reach a wider audience. However, with over 2,000 miles and a whole country between them could it be a recipe for disaster for the coach to try and split her time?
Dramatic storm out
Season five brought all the usual drama, arguing and tantrums that the audience was so used to seeing in the show back to the screen. However, the season went off with a bang as the star coach, Abby Lee Miller, made her dramatic exit from an awards ceremony! This side to Miller would be apparent in future episodes as well, but could it have just been a ploy to help boost the viewer numbers for the season?
Causing a national scene
Some episodes dropping under 1 million viewers, which perhaps was the reason for the performance Miller gave. In leaving she was trying to defend how hard everyone from her academy had worked after her team didn’t win the first place prize and instead got awarded with second. Miller was seen telling the mothers to demand the money they had paid to the organizers back, and, even after being told she had to stay, Miller gathered her girls and left!
Not a true villain
Even though Abby Lee Miller was often portrayed as the harsh character in ‘Dance Moms’ and even shown to be enforcing strict punishments, she reported that the ‘TV version’ the world saw was not her real personality. We all know editing can be a beautiful thing and Miller says this is precisely what is done to make her look so bad on screen. Her reputation is one for being a TV villain, but Miller still disputes this.
Not all of the award ceremonies were bad for Miller and ‘Dance Moms’. In 2015 she got a second shot; this one wasn’t quite so explosive, but did give everyone a reason to celebrate! At the Kids’ Choice Awards in 2015, the show was able to take home the award for ‘Favorite Reality Show.’ Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying it got quite the following kept thousands of viewers entertained with all the drama.
Back in the courtroom
The drama is never ending for the dance teacher, as Abby Lee Miller found herself back in court in October 2015. However, this time it wouldn’t be a simple in-and-out case with no charges. Miller was up against something much more significant. She was facing charges of fraud after filing 20 different claims of bankruptcy over the years! The charges were brought to light after it was discovered that she kept over $755,000 of earnings hidden, to avoid paying taxes. Awkward!
The beginning of the downfall
The beginning of the end for Miller came after she filed for bankruptcy and the judge on her case went home and saw her show on television! Wondering how Miller could have a show as successful as she did, but have no money, left the judge pondering. An investigation commenced, and all of the reality star’s secrets began to come out. Surely she must have known she would be caught at some point… but then again, after getting away with it for so long, the option must have been so tempting.
Initially, Miller was facing what could have been up to five years in jail, as well as $5 million that would have been owed for fines! With such an overwhelming sentence on the table, it seemed as though the reality star was about to get a reality check after all these years. With the show’s number beginning to dwindle and the threat of jail looming, it appeared as though Abby Lee Miller would take her mind off things by diving head-first into work; continuing to film season six of ‘Dance Moms.’
Tensions on the show
It was hard for Miller to keep her off-screen troubles off-screen, and tensions soon grew in the sixth season. Keeping a lower profile saw the reality star spending more time at her new studio in Los Angeles to work with a younger group of girls. She even commented on how she didn’t like the older girls on the show anymore. Ouch! The new season saw Miller putting an unbelievable amount of pressure onto her new, younger students; perhaps to give herself something to focus on and end on a high.
Becoming a star
Ever heard of Maddie Ziegler? Well, she has gone on to become an incredible dancing prodigy after landing the starring role in many of the music videos for Sia (including dancing alongside Shia LaBeouf!). Even with her current fame, it was Abby Lee Miller she could thank for her talent as she starred on ‘Dance Moms’ until season six! Miller was often accused of favoring Ziegler when she was on the show and was reportedly devastated when she decided it was her time to leave.
During the airing of season six, life for Miller was very busy due to all of the legal proceedings taking place. Having formerly pleaded not guilty of her fraud charges, she later went on record in the summer of 2016 changing her decision to guilty. With the admission of what had happened, it looked like Abby Lee Miller’s life was about to take a turn. In what was perhaps a distraction from the real world, or maybe an act of complete denial, Miller continued to cast new recruits for the next season of her show.
The final season?
With a lot of Miller’s life having been shown on her reality show, it was inevitable that the new series would become the talk of the town! Season seven made its premiere at the end of November 2016 and looked as though it was set to be as explosive as ever. Amazingly, in March 2017, Miller announced her decision to leave the show voluntarily, due to other commitments. The series was set to end early following her departure. Would this be the end of ‘Dance Moms’ completely?
In May 2017 Miller’s court date to decide her fate finally arrived. The verdict was not a good one. Miller was sentenced to 366 days in prison and had to pay $160,000 in fines! The outcome could have been worse for the reality star, however, as she had faced a much greater sentence when the charges were first brought against her. Unfortunately for the dance teacher and reality star, the sentence still saw Miller having to spend time behind bars. Hopefully orange is her color!
Miller reportedly stated how she had got caught up in the fame that had come flooding into her life and got entirely carried away with what she was doing. She went on to admit how she now felt like a joke to everyone and was disappointed in herself for her actions. Miller reported the reason she had hidden the money in the way she had was because she had got herself into financial trouble over the dance academy and was in way over her head.
The academy closes
Unfortunately, with Abby Lee Miller serving time, it looks like it may be the end of the Los Angeles dance academy as we know it. Mainly to pay the humongous fine she was hit with! The building was reported as being up for rent, but the real estate agents states that the location had already been snapped up for the duration of Miller’s arrest. It also now appears as though the academy has in fact been sold.
July 12, 2017, saw Abby Lee Miller don an unfamiliar appearance to the one we are so used to seeing. With unkempt hair and little makeup on, the reality star stepped out of her car and entered the jail in Los Angeles where she would begin serving her sentence. To add insult to injury, the network that broadcast her show sent a camera crew to film a news special of the story! Perhaps they thought seeing some familiar faces would have been comforting to Miller in some way? Ouch!
Before going inside the prison, Miller had an understandably emotional moment, crying and eating macaroni and cheese. She was very worried about what she may experience in jail. Miller stated in an interview shortly before turning herself in: “I hope it won’t be as bad as I imagine. If it’s that bad I probably won’t survive it… I mean, if a whole gang of people want to kill you, they’re gonna do it. If a whole bunch of people want to make your life a living hell, they’re gonna do it.”
Following the news of their coach being locked up, it seemed as though the girls from the show would have a hard time learning their routines from a prison cell! It was rumored that the last ‘Dance Moms’ episode to star Miller would be the last for the show entirely. Especially when the girls started posting photos with captions hinting to their final competition and coming to the end of an era. However, the show has since gone on to be hosted by Cheryl Burke for the foreseeable future. Could Miller’s show continue without her?
During her time in prison Miller commented to a close friend, and mom from the show, on how she feels completely abandoned by the dancers that quit following her arrest. The former coach for the team reportedly spoke of how she thought that it was her and her company that made the dancers all of their money. She also thought they shouldn’t be so quick to run away. Wow, even from behind bars Miller is still able to dish it out!
Miller’s time inside hasn’t been an easy one for her (not that any jail time is ever easy!) as she has reportedly been telling someone on the outside of the rules she has to follow. As well as being punished for having fruit in her cell, the star wasn’t allowed any visitors for the first two months of her sentence. She has also spoken about how she has been shouted at while having torches shone in her face. It seems life on the inside is a struggle for the star!
A brand deal
While at the moment they are still only rumors, it has recently emerged that Abby Lee Miller may have found herself a new hobby to keep herself busy while serving time. It has been rumored that Miller has been selling t-shirts inside of the prison with slogans on them as part of a campaign to free the star, along with variations that include the show’s new motto – ‘Everyone’s not replaceable’ – plastered over the tops! Miller has support on the outside from members of the team for her clothing.