Three of Lizzo‘s former dancers have filed a lawsuit against the singer accusing her of sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment — including allegations of weight shaming during and after performances. Oof.
The lawsuit was filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court and first reported by NBC News on Tuesday. There are multiple allegations in the suit, which names Lizzo (whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson), her dance captain Shirlene Quigley, and her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. as defendants.
Among the claims made in the suit is an incident in which the Truth Hurts singer allegedly pressured one dancer to touch a nude performer at an Amsterdam club. Another claim asserts the dance group was subjected to an “excruciating” audition after Lizzo allegedly leveled “false accusations” that dancers were drinking on the job.
A third allegation may be the most unexpected from Lizzo. They say she berated a dancer over her weight gain, and then later fired that dancer after a meeting regarding a health condition. And another claim from the new filing holds that Quigley “proselytized” to dancers while “deriding” those who engaged in premarital sex — while simultaneously “haring lewd sexual fantasies, simulating oral sex and publicly discussing the virginity of one of the plaintiffs,” per NBC News.
In sum, per that news outlet, the suit brings claims for the aforementioned sexual harassment and hostile work environment, as well as accusations of religious harassment, racial harassment, “interference with prospective economic advantage,” and even false imprisonment!
Lizzo is accused of calling attention to dancer Arianna Davis‘ weight after a performance at South By Southwest. Davis first rose to fame as part of Lizzo’s reality streaming show Watch Out For The Big Grrrls — but she now says things weren’t so rosy behind the scenes. The suit claims Lizzo told Davis that she seemed “less committed” to her dance role — a comment Davis took to be a “thinly-veiled” reference to her weight.
Davis is one of the three dancers who has now brought the suit. Along with her, former dancer and Amazon reality show contestant Crystal Williams is named as a plaintiff, as well as ex-dancer Noelle Rodriguez, who has appeared in Lizzo’s music video for Rumors and other projects before resigning earlier this year.
According to the suit, Lizzo and her dance group took a trip to Amsterdam earlier this year. While there, they went to the strip club Bananenbar. Afterparties like that were “routine and non mandatory,” according to the suit, but those who went to strip clubs and the like were “favored by the singer and had greater job security.”
At the club on that night, though, Lizzo crossed a line. The filing claimed:
“Lizzo began inviting cast members to take turns touching the nude performers, catching dildos launched from the performers’ vaginas, and eating bananas protruding from the performers’ vagina. Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women.”
After Davis declined, Lizzo allegedly started a chant “goading her to do so.” Davis then declined three (!) more times, all while the chant “grew louder and more strident, demanding a visibly uncomfortable Ms. Davis to engage with the performer,” per the filing.
Following that unsettling event, Lizzo then supposedly asked a member of her security team to get on stage. At that point, the About Damn Time singer supposedly began to yell “take it off,” according to the plaintiffs. They noted:
“Plaintiffs were aghast with how little regard Lizzo showed for the bodily autonomy of her employees and those around her, especially in the presence of many people whom she employed.”
Then, a week later in Paris, France, the drama continued…
The plaintiffs noted that the singer invited her dancers to a club in order to “learn something or be inspired” by a performance there. But there was a catch, as the suit alleged:
“What Lizzo failed to mention when inviting the dancers to this performance was that it was a nude cabaret bar. … [The plaintiffs] were shocked that Lizzo would conceal the nature of the event from them, robbing them of the choice not to participate.”
The dancers also accused Lizzo’s touring company employees of lashing out with comments “charged with racial and fat-phobic animus” during their tour. For example, after the dancers asked to be compensated at 50% of their rate for their downtime days, an accountant for the company allegedly shot back with a 25% offer and “scolded” them for being “unacceptable and disrespectful.”
The suit claims:
“Only the dance cast — comprised of full-figured women of color — were ever spoken to in this manner.”
The harassment apparently didn’t end there, though.
According to the plaintiffs, Quigley — who also served as a judge on Lizzo’s Amazon show in addition to being the team’s dance captain — is a very vocal Christian who “took every opportunity to proselytize to any and all in her presence regardless of protestations.”
Upon discovering Davis was a virgin, the dance captain allegedly “discussed the subject in interviews and posted about it on social media.” Then, when Rodriguez pushed back against Quigley’s proselytizing as a “non-believer,” the dance captain supposedly shot back:
“No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.”
In April and May of this year, two of the dancers were fired unfairly, the suit claims. Williams was let go on April 26, “days after” she disagreed with an alleged claim made by Lizzo that the dancers had been drinking before performances.
Also that month, Lizzo informed all the dancers that they would suddenly and abruptly have to re-audition for their spots. So, the dance company put together an “excruciating” 12-hour rehearsal. During that ordeal, Davis allegedly became so fearful that she’d lose her job if she even so much as went to the bathroom, she “soiled her pants” in fear. Then, the touring company allegedly gave her “a see-through outfit with no undergarments to finish the performance,” per allegations.
The day after Williams was fired, Lizzo held an emergency meeting with all of her dancers. Davis recorded that April 27 meeting on her phone. According to the suit, Davis has “an eye condition that sometimes left her disoriented in stressful situations.” So, she wanted to have a recording of the meeting to go back and re-visit later.
But when Lizzo caught wind of the meeting having been recorded, she allegedly flipped out. The suit asserts the singer instructed her security team to confiscate all of her dancers’ phones:
“Lizzo became furious, hurling expletives at the group and stated that she was going to go around the room, person-by-person until someone told Lizzo who made the recording.”
When Davis admitted to recording the meeting, she told Lizzo she simply wanted to have a copy of performance notes and be able to go back and check on things later to improve herself. However, the Good As Hell singer didn’t buy that claim and supposedly responded:
“There is nothing you can say to make me believe you.”
The suit went on to add:
“Ms. Quigley and Lizzo then took turns berating Ms. Davis. After castigating Ms. Davis, Lizzo fired Ms. Davis on the spot.”
Davis then claimed that she was held in the room during the confrontation and not allowed to leave as quickly as she wanted to because Lizzo’s security detail was busy searching her phone for the recorded video. That allegation is significant because it is the standing for the false imprisonment claim that has been levied as part of this new lawsuit.
Sadly, that’s not even everything here. After Williams and Davis were fired, Rodriguez came forward and said that she felt “disrespected” and would be resigning her position as a dancer.
Lizzo allegedly replied to that resignation offer by “cracking her knuckles, balling her fists,” and firing off expletives at Rodriguez while telling the dancer she was “lucky” to be leaving so easily.
Then, as Rodriguez walked out of the room for good, Lizzo allegedly “raised both her middle fingers and yelled a slur,” according to the lawsuit.
In a statement to NBC News about the matter, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Ron Zambrano slammed Lizzo. He called out her supposedly squeaky-clean public image as someone who promotes body positivity and self-love while reportedly being ruthless and vindictive behind the scenes:
“The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publicly, while privately she weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralizing.”
No kidding. As for where the suit goes from here, NBC News reports that the plaintiffs have not specified a specific dollar amount for damages. They are seeking retribution for emotional distress, loss of earnings, unpaid wages, and attorney’s fees.
You can read the entire NBC News report HERE. Reactions, Perezcious readers?
[Image via MEGA/WENN]