Reflecting on her experience as Abby Lee Miller's star pupil, Maddie told Cosmopolitan last year, "My dance teacher taught that if you don't get the trophy, if you don't get the crown, you are less than, which is the worst way to train a kid. It carries into other life lessons. We also weren't allowed to watch our competitors or be friends with them. I've had to unlearn a lot of those things."
Which is precisely what the Pittsburgh native did after leaving Abby and what she described as the series' "toxic environment" behind nearly a decade ago. "I'm going to therapy, talking to people, doing all the things," Maddie told the mag. "I've learned I'm not going to be in trouble if I'm feeling bad or if I have an injury. That's the biggest difference. It's amazing that I'm able to feel my feelings and not just push them down. I'm also just really clean. That's where my perfectionism has transferred."
And as she celebrates her 21st birthday Sept. 30, Maddie's still collecting victories, first as electropop musician Sia's muse—her dance-heavy music videos racking up billions of YouTube views—and now as an actress-slash-author-slash-whatever-else-she-puts-her-mind-to, like her and younger sister Kenzie Ziegler's latest collaboration with clothing brand American Eagle.
And though Maddie hasn't done a binge-watch of her time on the Lifetime series, "We are so close with all the girls, again, like the original cast," she told E! News in a joint 2021 interview with Kenzie. Now each forging their own paths in entertainment, "It's so cool to hang out as young adults," she continued. "It's so much fun to not have a crazy environment around us. We just all hang out at each other's houses and it's just really chill and fun."
Because after years of saving tears for their pillows, the Dance Mom alums are enjoying futures far brighter than those center stage lights. Here's how each of the standouts from Abby's Junior Elite competition team are handling their lives as soloists.