There’s no denying the young stars of “Dance Moms” are talented, but, according to Season 6 reunion host Jai Rodriguez, who the girls affectionately call Guncle, the reality-television series is just the beginning for the dancers.
When Lifetime viewers tune in to the kids-only special Tuesday, they’ll be treated to numerous performances, including a cameo by YouTube sensation Todrick Hall and the debut of JoJo Siwa’s “Boomerang” music video, as they also see the girls say goodbye. Both Maddie Ziegler and Mackenzie Ziegler are leaving the show. And while Maddie, 13, has signed on to a few big projects, she may not be the only one with a career after reality TV. Rodriguez predicted the rest of the cast is also headed for greatness.
“There’s some breakout stars on the show,” the host told International Business Times, calling 12-year-old JoJo “comedy gold.” Speaking of the performer, he said, “She reminds me of Miley Cyrus,” who happens to be one of JoJo’s role models. “She’s a young Hannah Montana. She is hilarious.”
Rodriguez also had positive things to say about Mackenzie, 11, whose sister Maddie tends to get most of the spotlight. “Don’t think for a minute that means that Maddie is more talented than Mackenzie because that’s actually not the case at all. They’re both stars, just in different ways,” he told IBT, complimenting the preteen on her larger-than-life personality. “She’s got that ‘thing’ that any producer would love for a headliner.”
As for fellow longtime Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) performer Nia Frazier’s “heart of gold,” Kalani Hilliker’s “exquisite” dancing skills and Kendall Vertes’ “great voice,” Rodriguez said it’s clear they all have something unique to bring to the table.
No matter what lies ahead of the girls, Rodriguez shared that all seven dancers are turning into formidable young women, especially when it comes to battling coach Abby Lee Miller. “They’re finding their voices, they’re teenagers now. They’re not these little kids that want to be bossed around. They want to respectfully find an even playing ground between getting direction and getting critiques but not being bullied,” he said. And despite the “high drama” their moms brought on set during part one of the reunion, the girls could not have been more professional.
“They’re a really well-adjusted group of girls, considering how famous they are,” Rodriguez said, noting their differences from normal teenage girls center mostly on their access to red carpet events and cushy bank accounts. “I think all that considered, you’d expect them to be spoiled brats, and they were the exact opposite ... Whatever judgment calls people make on the parents, at the end of the day, they’re doing something right because these girls are so well-adjusted, so respectful, so well-behaved.”
When “The Girls Say Goodbye” special airs, viewers can expect the dancers to let their real personalities shine. “Abby’s nowhere to be seen, so the girls are really their authentic selves without fear of judgment,” Rodriguez said. “They all opened up and kind of said what they want.”
This means their goodbyes to Maddie and Mackenzie will also be authentic and emotional. When a montage of the original stars’ time at the ALDC rolled, it arrived with the waterworks. “They were really, really fun, upbeat, and then the moment hit them that this is really it. This is senior year, metaphorically speaking, you’re not going to work ever together in this group again. This is the last moment you’ll all be on the stage,” Rodriguez said. “On a social level, they were heartbroken.”
“These are teenage girls who grew up in front of America on the show and suddenly they’re saying goodbye. They’re a close-knit family that spent almost every day together ... and that’s changing forever. Life moves forward,” Rodriguez said. “At first, I think everyone kind of was like, ‘Yes, I’m excited,’ and then when reality hit, clips were showing, the waterworks start, the truth comes out about a lot of things, and it was really fascinating to be there.”
Let’s hope the “Dance Moms” special is just as fascinating to watch on TV. “The Girls Say Goodbye” airs on Lifetime Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. And tune in Tuesday, May 24, for a look-back episode featuring Maddie, Mackenzie and Abby.