Abby Lee Miller
Born in Pennsylvania in 1966, Abby Lee Miller inherited a love of dance from her mom; she took classes at her mother's studio since childhood. Miller started her own company at 14 and by 1980 had her own studio. But with Lifetime's show Dance Moms she became a star in her own right rather than just training aspiring ones. The series follows Miller, several of her students and their diva parents. In 2016, Miller's legal troubles caught up with her. She pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud among other charges, and in 2017 she was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Being exposed to dance her whole life, it's no surprise that Abby Lee Miller wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps. Miller's mom, Maryen Lorrain, a 50-year member of the Dance Masters of America, ran several dance studios before settling down with George L. Miller in the Pittsburgh suburbs. They had their daughter on September 21, 1966. As a young girl, she studied dance at her mom's studio in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. While she enjoyed numerous other activities, including Girl Scouts, ski club, clarinet lessons and charm school, Miller's primary passion was dance, especially competitions. Not a fan of performing herself, she opted for teaching early on. She founded the Abby Lee Dance Company while still a teenager. In 1980 she opened her own dance studio and has taught 3,000 to 4,000 students to date.
'Dance Moms' Debut
Over the years, Miller's students have gone on to dance in such Broadway productions as Footloose, Wicked and The Lion King as well as in Radio City's Christmas Spectacular. In a twist of fate, Miller went from the sidelines to center stage herself when Lifetime offered her a reality-television show, Dance Moms. It premiered on July 13, 2011. It follows a group of young wannabe dancers at Miller's dance studio and their stage moms. Now a pop-culture sensation, the program's third season premiered on January 1, 2013, and brought in 2.8 million viewers. The series has run for six seasons to date, but ratings have declined over time.
'Dance Moms' Spin-off
The Lifetime show has been such a success that the network gave Miller another series, Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition; it began October 9, 2012. The program featured 12 dancers competing for $100,000 and a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. Miller was a judge, along with Robin Antin, founder of the Pussycat Dolls, and dancer/celebrity choreographer Richard Jackson. The show aired for two seasons.
Miller refuses to see herself as a villain, even though that reputation is one of the reasons for her popularity and that of Dance Moms. She told In Touch magazine in a 2013 interview that while her methods may seem harsh, there's a rationale behind them. "When I tell a child something the first time, I'm nice. The 15th time, I start to get aggravated. By the 30th time, they're doing 100 push-ups and I'm screaming at them, and of course that's what they put on TV," she said.
Amidst increasing legal trouble, Miller left the show in March 2016, and was replaced by dancer Cheryl Burke of Dancing with the Stars fame.
In October 2015 Miller was indicted for 20 counts of bankruptcy fraud. She is accused of concealing income she made between 2012 and 2013, which totaled to about $755,000. In June 2016, Miller pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and charges she failed to report more than $120,000 in cash she brought into the U.S. from Australia. In May 2017, she was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and spend two years on probation following her release.
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