Why Maddie Ziegler Was Abby Lee Miller's Favorite Student

Dance Moms, starring Abby Lee Miller and her favorite student Maddie Ziegler, premiered back in 2011, introducing the world to a new kind of reality show that brought all kinds of drama. First airing on Lifetime on July 13, Dance Moms changed the landscape of reality television. The show followed the talented young dancers of the Abby Lee Dance Company, their mothers, and, of course, the queen of the studio, Miss Abby Lee Miller herself. Over the years, viewers watched as Miller yelled, screamed, and disciplined the elite team of dancers — while the dancers' mothers fought amongst themselves and with Miller.

It was definitely prime television, but one of the most controversial aspects of the show was how blatantly Miller appeared to favor dancer Maddie Ziegler. Even people who never watched Dance Moms will recognize Ziegler's name, as she has starred in numerous music videos for Sia and has landed plenty of other big-time roles since her time on the reality show. Still, it was fascinating and a bit frustrating to see how much Miller favored Ziegler, but there were plenty of reasons why she was the favorite. While the show was full of talented dancers, Ziegler stood out.

Dance Moms' Maddie Ziegler kind of had an in with Abby Lee Miller

One of the first things that became apparent on Dance Moms was how much Abby Lee Miller liked Maddie Ziegler. She gave her more solos and constantly put her on top of her pyramid ranking system. Obviously, the moms on the show had a hard time dealing with the obvious favoritism, and it wasn't long before the fans caught on, as well as the dancers themselves. But really, it wasn't that hard to understand part of the reason why Miller gave Ziegler so much extra attention. 

As was mentioned on the show, Miller had known Ziegler and her family for a while before the dancer joined the Abby Lee Dance Company — long before the show started airing. In fact, in a Q&A session with Lifetime, Miller explained that she had gone to high school with Ziegler's father and that Ziegler had been dancing at her studio since she was a little 4-year-old girl. "When it was time to put both of his daughters into dance class, he brought them to me," Miller shared. Obviously, it makes sense that Miller would favor Ziegler, considering that they were basically family friends.

Maddie Ziegler's mom worked at Abby Lee Miller's studio

Now, while Maddie Ziegler had already known Abby Lee Miller for years before Dance Moms started airing, as Miller explained to Lifetime, she had more than one "in" with the studio mogul. For the first few seasons of the show, Ziegler's mom, Melissa, worked at the front desk of the ALDC. On the series, Melissa appeared to work at the studio, presumably to help cover the costs of her daughters' numerous dance-related expenses. With her mother working for Miller, Maddie Ziegler presumably got to spend more time at the studio and grow closer with her dance teacher. Additionally, as Christi Lukasiak pointed out during Season 1's fourth episode, "Melissa's in charge of the music" because of her job at the ALDC. 

The fact that Melissa worked the front desk, in addition to the fact the Ziegler family knew Miller well, already gave young Maddie Ziegler a head start at the ALDC. But, in all fairness, it wasn't just nepotism that caused Miller to favor the dancer. Miller saw something in Ziegler and just knew that she was going to be hugely successful one day.

Maddie Ziegler is known to be a fast learner

On top of her family connections — with her mother working the ALDC studio's front desk and her father having gone to high school with Abby Lee Miller — Maddie Ziegler just had some characteristics that helped make her Miller's favorite on Dance Moms. From the start of the show, it was obvious that Ziegler was a fast learner. Of course, all of the girls who were a part of the ALDC were fast learners, as well. In fact, there were numerous occasions on the show when the girls would learn an entire routine in a week, perform it, and place first at the competition. It was what made the show so intriguing — that people so talented existed and were so young!

But Ziegler was different, and Miller complimented her ability to learn routines quickly many times on the show. Moreover, Ziegler was even able to learn an entire routine with the Radio City Rockettes in just one hour, as Teen Vogue showed in a YouTube video, so clearly she has an amazing memory. Additionally, as Vulture reported, she was able to learn the choreography for the "Chandelier" music video in just two hours! 

Maddie Ziegler is also extremely talented

On most episodes of Dance Moms where the girls were performing at a competition, Maddie Ziegler would get to perform solos to lyrical routines, and they were absolutely stunning. It didn't take long for a lot of the moms (and fans) to complain that Ziegler's choreography seemed better than those of the other dancers. However, Abby Lee Miller refuted those claims, and, in an interview with Lifetime, she said Ziegler's performances were better than those of her peers because of what the dancer did with the choreography — not because she received preferential treatment. "It's what they make the choreography look like when they step on stage," Miller shared, calling Ziegler and her young sister, Mackenzie, "great, hardworking kids."

Clearly, Miller knew Ziegler was extremely talented, and she didn't hold back in feeling that way. Still, the way Miller constantly defended herself against accusations of favoritism was a constant source of drama on the show. And despite the moms saying that Ziegler got better choreography, no one could deny that she was extremely talented.

Dance Mom's Maddie Ziegler has an amazing work ethic

While Maddie Ziegler's talent took her far, her experience with dance took her even farther. Even though she was 8 years old when she started on Dance Moms, Ziegler probably worked harder than some people two or three times her age. On top of giving it her all in class, she would often take extra lessons to ensure that she gave a flawless performance.

In fact, in Season 5 of Dance Moms, there were a few episodes in which Ziegler didn't place first in her age group at the competitions... or even place at all. It was rough on Ziegler, as she was used to winning. But she worked extremely hard before the Sheer Talent Competition and ended up taking home that first place trophy. Even though she didn't always win, Ziegler worked hard and dedicated herself to dance so that she would come out on top as much as possible, which definitely contributed to Maddie Ziegler position as Abby Lee Miller's favorite young pupil, not to mention her success off of Dance Moms.

Maddie Ziegler has loads of charisma

As any Dance Moms fan knows, all former ALDC dancers were adorable when they were kids and have grown up to be gorgeous! But according to Abby Lee Miller herself, there was just something about Maddie Ziegler that made her especially charming and charismatic. In an interview with Lifetime, Miller spoke about the first time she saw a young Ziegler come into her studio. "Maddie made an incredible first impression," Miller said, adding, "She was just this cupcake. This tiny little body and this big head, and these gorgeous big eyes, and you just wanted to eat her up!"

Because Miller found Ziegler so charming and adorable, it's no wonder she was quick to take a liking to her. In her interview with Lifetime, Miller explained that Ziegler's charm also won her over when she first met her. Miller said that Ziegler came up and told her matter-of-factly that she wanted to take hip-hop and tap dance lessons, and Miller couldn't get over the fact that Ziegler spoke for herself. With that kind of charm and cute factor, it's no wonder Ziegler went so far with Miller by her side. 

Maddie Ziegler is always trying to better herself

While Maddie Ziegler might be extremely talented, that doesn't mean she's perfect. And one reason why Abby Lee Miller adored Ziegler on Dance Moms is that, when Ziegler messed up on her routines, she was willing to work to make corrections. While so much of the drama of Dance Moms relied on the mothers going to bat for their daughters and defending them when they messed up or didn't place in competitions, that wasn't really an issue with Ziegler, as she always wanted to improve on her own. 

In fact, in one episode of Season 2, Ziegler forgot the choreography to her solo dance, and she ran off the stage. Immediately after she messed up, she asked the stage manager of the competition if she could try again because she didn't want to upset Miller. "I want to go again," she said, begging, "Can I please go again?" She knew what she did wrong, and she was willing to try again to get it right. That kind of dedication no doubt went into helping Maddie Ziegler become Abby Lee Miller's favorite student.

Maddie Ziegler and her mom never got on Abby Lee Miller's bad side

Maddie Ziegler's mother, Melissa, was not one for drama on Dance Moms. Of course, she got into the occasional tiff with the other mothers while defending her daughter, but, for the most part, she tried to stay out of things. The fact that Ziegler's mom didn't press Abby Lee Miller's buttons as much as the other moms did likely helped Ziegler become Miller's favorite dancer. Though that isn't to say that Melissa didn't get into it with Miller from time to time because she definitely did. In Season 6, for instance, Melissa rushed to defend her younger daughter, Mackenzie, after Miller harshly criticized her. But overall, Melissa and Miller got along. 

Even when Ziegler messed up her performance in Season 2 and had a bit of a backstage meltdown, Melissa remained calm, cool, and collected. The other moms were upset that Ziegler appeared to be getting preferential treatment from Miller, but Melissa didn't engage and just focused on supporting her daughter. Likely because of that — and probably because of the many other times Melissa didn't pick fights with Miller — Maddie Ziegler remained Abby Lee Miller's favorite student.

Maddie Ziegler made amazing facial expressions

One of Maddie Ziegler's most recognizable traits are her huge eyes, which she uses to express a wide range of emotions while she performs. On Dance Moms, most of Ziegler's solo performances were intense lyrical routines, and Ziegler's facial expressions only made those performances that much more amazing. That definitely must have helped Maddie Ziegler become Abby Lee Miller's favorite student.

In fact, when speaking with Lifetime, Ziegler was asked about her trademark "Maddie Face" that she perfected in Season 2 and that fans have come to know and love. Miller probably loved Ziegler's ability to act while dancing and put her whole self into the routine. "The Maddie Face" certainly became iconic during her time on Dance Moms. Ziegler, for her part, said in the interview that she just looked "constipated" while making "The Maddie Face." Still, the fact remains that her facial expressions likely helped her win competitions and Miller's love

Dance Moms' Maddie Ziegler always had that star quality

As Maddie Ziegler began dancing at the ALDC when she was only 4 years old, it would have been understandable if she had needed some time to catch on to the routines and the technical aspects of dancing. But according to a Lifetime interview with Abby Lee Miller and Ziegler, that's not what happened. Ziegler's first class was apparently a hip-hop class, and Miller was sure Ziegler wouldn't do well in it given her young age. But after the class was over, the hip-hop instructor came up to Miller and told her that Ziegler was the best one in the class, despite it being her first day.

Naturally, Miller realized, "Maybe I have a star here," as she told Lifetime. It was only a few years later that Dance Moms began filming, and Ziegler's star quality became even more apparent. Since Miller already thought of Ziegler as a star, the dancer would, of course, naturally become the Abby Lee Miller's favorite student, even when compared to the talent of the other dancers. Miller was smitten with Ziegler's star quality since day one.

Then came Maddie Ziegler's appearances in Sia videos

With all of Maddie Ziegler's star quality, talent, hard work, and dedication, it was only a matter of time before she got discovered. So when artist Sia reached out to the young dancer on Twitter, asking her to be in her music video for her song "Chandelier," hardly anyone was surprised. Still, once the video went viralwhen Ziegler was only 11 years old — Abby Lee Miller's favoritism towards Ziegler only grew. How could it not when Ziegler would go on to perform on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and star in other Sia music videos

Of course, Miller couldn't help but brag about Ziegler after the release of "Chandelier" and all of Ziegler's subsequent performances that came with starring in the video. In one episode of Dance Moms, Miller called all the girls and their moms into the studio to congratulate Ziegler, and it was obvious Ziegler had a spot as Miller's favorite student for the foreseeable future.

But now Abby Lee Miller wants credit for Maddie Ziegler's success

While Maddie Ziegler was once Abby Lee Miller's favorite dance student, the two have come a long way since their time on Dance Moms. After Ziegler found worldwide success with her dancing and acting skills, Miller ended up being sentenced to prison for one year for 20 counts of fraud, as reported by Deadline. Still, despite Miller's legal troubles, Miller discussed her relationship with Ziegler in the special Dance Moms: Abby Tells All Exclusive in 2017 (just before she went to prison) and basically took credit for all of the dancer's success.

"I look at what she has done, the other jobs and the other opportunities besides Dance Moms, they all involve dancing," Miller said (via USA Today). "I don't think, had she not been in my studio, she would be where she is today." It's true that appearing on Dance Moms definitely helped Ziegler make her mark on the world, but her natural talent is what really helped her stand out.

Maddie Ziegler is no longer in contact with Abby Lee Miller

After Maddie Ziegler left Dance Moms at the end of Season 6, it definitely appeared as though she and Abby Lee Miller were on good terms. But in actuality, Abby Lee Miller's one-time favorite student is reportedly no longer in contact with the dance studio owner. Speaking with Us Weekly in 2018, Ziegler was asked about her relationship status with Miller, and she revealed they were no longer in touch. "We don't keep in contact," Ziegler said. "But I wish her the best."

Even though the two Dance Mom stars are no longer in touch, there's no denying the fact that Ziegler and Miller once had a strong bond and that both have come so far since their time on the popular reality TV seriesZiegler has maintained her talent, securing plenty of more roles, and has basically become a star in her own right. And Miller, now out of prison and back as a star on the rebooted Dance Moms, seems like her creative — albeit critical — old self.