'Dance Moms' Star Abby Lee Miller Sued by Fellow Castmember
Kelly Hyland, a mother of two children featured on the Lifetime reality show, claims Miller was abusive and acted inappropriately -- and producers encouraged bad behavior as a way to boost ratings.
A woman featured on Lifetime reality hit Dance Moms is suing star Abby Lee Miller. The Pennsylvania mother and her two daughters filed a lawsuit on Thursday alleging they were mistreated on the show, their contract has been breached, and they have not been paid for the fourth season and were intentionally subjected to emotional distress -- among other charges.
The suit in L.A. Superior Court was brought by Kelly Hyland and her two daughters, Brooke and Paige Hyland, against the producers of the show, Collins Avenue Entertainment, and Miller (Abigail Lee Miller in the suit).
Hyland, who has known Miller since childhood, had both of her daughters in the Pittsburgh dance school since before Lifetime made it famous. Hyland said it soon became clear “the children on the show were being subjected to abusive and unlawful working conditions.” She said they worked long hours without a break -- a violation of Pennsylvania labor laws.
She says she began to complain about the extreme burden this placed on her daughters during season two of the show. She had her attorney raise the subject but says she was told they were under contract and she would be sued for “everything she owned if she attempted to back out of the contract.”
The suit charges Miller as being the abusive one, acting like a drill sergeant, shouting and bullying her students -- as well as provoking arguments with the mothers in front of the children.
“Miller screams at the girls in front of the other dancers, moms and production crew,” reads the suit, “causing them to cry, and then Miller derides them for being emotionally weak when they do. Miller even tossed a chair during a confrontation with Paige."
The suit alleges this is all part of an effort by the producers and show to generate strong ratings.
Daughter Paige began to suffer from anxiety and have panic attacks, according to the suit, and a counselor at her school “concluded Paige was being bullied by Miller.”
Hyland says she found these events offensive, including an episode where the girls wore revealing outfits for a burlesque style dance routine where Miller directed the girls to make inappropriate gestures to their breasts and crotch.
She alleges other mothers complained as well that it was an attempt to sexualize the young girls. After the episode drew criticism from media and viewers, it was removed and no longer airs as part of the series. The suit also says an African American girl was subjected to racial hostility. The day after a complaint was lodged, the girls on the show were given iPads by the producers as gifts.
There is also a reference to the show hiring a choreographer, who is not named, who was later charged with child sexual assault and possession of child pornography.
There was also a November incident during a dance recital in the Bronx, New York where the suit says Miller, who is described as weighing 300 pounds or so, angrily lunged at Kelly Hyland and tried to bite her. Hyland says she slapped Miller in self-defense and then Miller called police. Before they arrived, Hyland says she was spirited away at the insistence of producers who, she believes, wanted a warrant issued for her arrest because it would “make for intensely dramatic television.”
Kelly Hyland says she did nothing wrong and later went to police voluntarily where she was arrested and released without bail. Later Miller was present at an arraignment in the case and Hyland says the dance teacher, in front of Lifetime and TMZ cameras, defamed her by calling her an unfit mother.
Miller, later when on the ABC show The View, says the suit, and against defamed Hyland, accuses her of being an alcoholic.
Hyland and her daughters refused to participate in the fourth and most recent season, but were called by producers and asked to show up occasionally. She says they were never paid for season four appearances or given other money they were owed. Hyland says she was also not paid for damage done to the floor of the Hyland home of over $21,000.
Hyland says she has suffered emotional distress, anxiety, frustration, anger, humiliation and anguish, for which she now wants to be paid exemplary and punitive damages.
A call to Collins Avenue Entertainment, which is also a contact point for Miller (according to a person who answered the phone there), led to a promise that someone would call back with a comment. As of the time of publication, there was no callback from the producers.