Kalani Hilliker is done saving her tears for her pillow.
During four seasons of heeding teacher Abby Lee Miller‘s oft-repeated Dance Moms demand, “We never were really allowed to vocalize how we felt,” Kalani revealed in an exclusive interview with E! News. “And I definitely held a lot in of how I was feeling and what was going on just because I obviously wanted to be the best.”
Not only did she worry about crossing Abby—she of the “everyone’s replaceable” reminders and the pyramid ranking system for her young students—”but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone,” said the 22-year-old, signing on to our Zoom chat fresh from teaching her 7-year-old dance students. “I had so many eyes on me that I was just wanting to be the best I could.”
Taking a step away from the spotlight, “I feel like when I finally was able to move out and be by myself, I realized a lot of things that happened to me in my childhood carried with me,” she continued. And reflecting back on the criticism, mind games and overwhelming pressure, she was able to unpack the anxiety it left behind.