Save the tears for your pillow. Dance Moms alum Zackery Torres reflected on their time on the reality series — and claimed it wasn’t all pretty.
“That was the first time I really understood what it meant to be bullied into dancing a certain way,” the 21-year-old dancer told Page Six on Thursday, June 10. “I don’t really know whose fault it is. I think we have the system to blame, and I think that it’s something we all need to be aware of and continue speaking out about.”
The University of Southern California graduate first appeared on season 1 of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition in 2012 before joining the Dance Moms cast with instructor Abby Lee Miller. At the time, Zackery and their mom, Gina Torres, were “shocked” by the “crazy” behavior displayed by the parents of other dancers.
While they met “a lot of really amazing people” while working on the Lifetime show, which came to an end in September 2019 after 8 seasons, the pressure was overwhelming. Though dance “is rooted in a lot of historic traditions,” they never really understood what teachers meant when they said to “dance like a boy.”
“There’s a lot of detrimental moments that really kind of set me back as a young person and being on that TV show,” Zackery explained. “It’s something that we all just need to be aware of. We all grew up this one way, maybe I was bullied into dancing this way … but then stop it there, don’t pass it down to the next generation of young people.”
Earlier this month, the reality TV alum announced that they’re transitioning. “That means I’m transgender if you didn’t know. My pronouns are they/she, which means that they or she are totally fine,” they said in a “life update” on social media. “I’m just hopping on here to tell you that I’m going to be posting more on Tiktok and I’m excited about it!”
Zackery isn’t the only former Dance Moms star to speak out about the negativity on the show. In June 2020, Adriana Smith accused Miller, 55, of making racist remarks toward her and her daughter, Kamryn, during the show’s eighth season. The Abby Lee Dance Company owner issued a public apology soon after the claims made headlines.
“I genuinely understand and deeply regret how my words have effected [sic] and hurt those around me in the past, particularly those in the Black community. To Kamryn, Adriana, and anyone else I’ve hurt, I am truly sorry,” she wrote via Instagram at the time. “I realize that racism can come not just from hate, but also from ignorance. No matter what the cause, it is harmful, and it is my fault.”
The Everything I Learned about Life, I Learned in Dance Class author continued: “While I cannot change the past or remove the harm I have done, I promise to educate myself, learn, grow, and do better. While I hope to one day earn your forgiveness, I recognize that words alone are not enough. I understand it takes time and genuine change.”
Smith said she would “not accept” Miller’s apology and the allegations prompted Lifetime to pull the dance instructor’s coronavirus-inspired series, Abby’s Virtual Dance Off.