Mackenzie And Maddie Ziegler Have A Strained Relationship With Their Dad

"Dance Moms" alum Mackenzie Ziegler, now known simply as Kenzie, released the song "Anatomy" in July 2023. The pop ballad, paired with a music video choreographed by Kenzie's sister Maddie, is a moving insight into the rising star's strained relationship with her dad. "It's just anatomy, you're only half of me / Still, you don't know me at all," Kenzie sings. "You've been my missing piece, so why aren't you missing me?"

Long-time fans of the Ziegler sisters might remember when their dad, Kurt Ziegler, appeared on Season 1 of "Dance Moms," getting into an explosive fight with Abby Lee Miller about the role that dance played in the destruction of his family. While that was only a glimpse into the tumultuous dynamics experienced by the family, Maddie and Kenzie have been reflecting on and opening up about their fraught fatherly connection in the years since they starred in "Dance Moms."

"Anatomy" is a testament to this, with Kenzie revealing that she originally penned the song as an exercise with her therapist. "I genuinely wrote this song just so I could send it to [my therapist] and be like, 'Here's my letter to my dad," she told ET. "And then I ended up loving it so much more than I thought I would and I just wanted people to hear it."

Kenzie and Maddie's parents divorced when they were young

Kenzie and Maddie Ziegler have been children of divorce for most of their lives, noting on their former podcast, "Take 20 with Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler," that their parents divorced when they were four and six years old. "We were the only ones that had split families," Maddie shared, comparing her family dynamic to that of her friends at the time. "I just felt like we weren't the picture-perfect family anymore."

Initially, Melissa Gisoni and Kurt Ziegler shared partial custody of their daughters, but Gisoni petitioned for modification and obtained legal and primary custody in 2017. This change may have been prompted by the family's cross-country move, as the girls and their mom followed "Dance Moms" once the show relocated from Pittsburgh to L.A. in 2015.

Things appeared to be strained between the father and daughters long before their big move, but the distance certainly didn't help. "We were in L.A. and he was in Pittsburgh, so we never really got to see him, and then it got to a point where it was just, like, he's not present," Kenzie revealed about her father on "The Squeeze" podcast.

The former Dance Moms star opens up about her new song

Kenzie Ziegler has been pretty transparent about the fatherly inspiration behind her song "Anatomy," but she's also revealed that its release has been a positive experience for her. "I'm honestly, like, okay now," she told "The Squeeze," opening up about her relationship with her father. "Even just releasing the song and seeing, like, everyone's reactions and also people saying 'I am in the same boat, I feel the same way.' I feel like I'm just at peace now."

Beyond sharing insight into the song's healing nature, the "Total Eclipse" actor has also talked about how she collaborated with her sister Maddie Ziegler to make the music video come to life. While Kenzie originally took a long break from dance following her stint on "Dance Moms," the "Anatomy" music video features her revisiting her past through dance alongside a younger version of herself. 

"From the second I heard the song, I was like, 'Oh, I have to dance in it and Maddie has to choreograph it,'" she told People. "We grew up the same, so it kind of was a moment for us to share together, and it was super emotional." Given the Ziegler sisters' history with their father, we're glad to see the "Dance Moms" alum can share something so cathartic and personal with the world.