Three of Lizzo's former dancers accused the singer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
As reported by NBC News, the dancers allege that Lizzo engaged in toxic behaviours including pressuring the dancers to touch a nude performer at an Amsterdam club, drawing attention to a dancer's weight gain, and berating employees.
“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,” said the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Ron Zambrano.
Arianna Davis and Crystal Williams were two of the contestants who competed on Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, a reality television series on Amazon Prime in which women competed to become dancers for Lizzo. The lawsuit states they were later fired. Noelle Rodriguez, the third plaintiff, appeared in Lizzo's "Rumors" music video in 2021 and became a dancer later that year. She is said to have resigned earlier in 2023.
The dancers allege that Lizzo harassed them at an Amsterdam strip club earlier this year. According to the suit, she "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’ vaginas." Lizzo allegedly also pressured Davis to touch the breasts of one of the performers, and when Davis declined, led a chant in order to pressure her into doing so.
“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,” according to the lawsuit.
Lizzo allegedly also invited the dancers to a bar in Paris the following week "to be inspired," without mentioning that it was a nude cabaret bar. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were “shocked that Lizzo would conceal the nature of the event from them, robbing them of the choice not to participate.”
The plaintiffs allege that Lizzo's afterparties were routine and not mandatory, but that those who attended were favoured by the singer.
According to the lawsuit, Lizzo called attention to Davis' weight by saying that she appeared "less committed" to her role after an appearance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival. The suit describes this as a "thinly veiled" comment about Davis' weight.
The dancers also named Lizzo's production company in the suit, as well as the captain of Lizzo's dance team for engaging in inappropriate behaviours such as sharing about sexual fantasies, simulating sex acts, and discussing the virginity of one of the plaintiffs in interviews and on social media. While the lawsuit does not itself claim that Lizzo knew about the allegations against the dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, Zambrano said they believe the singer was aware of their complaints.
Quigley, a religious Christian, is also accused of shaming people who had premarital sex and proselytizing, "any and all in her presence regardless of protestations." The lawsuit alleges that she considered Rodriguez to be a "non-believer," and when asked by cast members to stop pressuring Rodriguez, said “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.”
The lawsuit alleges that Williams was fired after she spoke up at a meeting and pushed back against Lizzo's assertion that the dancers were drinking before performances. Five days later, she was fired by the tour manager, who attributed the move to budget cuts, the lawsuit says, though no one else was fired.
Rodriguez complained about the decision to publicly fire Williams at a subsequent meeting, which she recorded due to what the lawsuit calls an eye condition that sometimes left her disoriented in stressful situations. A few days later, Lizzo demanded that security confiscate the dancers' phones.
According to NBC News:
“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,” the suit says.
Davis acknowledged recording the meeting, saying said she wanted to have a copy of Lizzo’s performance notes, the suit says. When Davis said she hadn’t meant any harm — and that she’d deleted the video — Lizzo allegedly responded: “There is nothing you can say to make me believe you.”
“Ms. Quigley and Lizzo then took turns berating Ms. Davis,” the suit says. “After castigating Ms. Davis, Lizzo fire Ms. Davis on the spot.”
Before Lizzo left the meeting, Rodriguez told her that she felt disrespected and would resign, the suit says. Lizzo responded by “cracking her knuckles, balling her fists” and using an expletive to tell Rodriguez she was “lucky,” the suit states.
As Rodriguez left, the suit says, Lizzo raised both her middle fingers and yelled a slur.
The suit alleges false imprisonment against Lizzo’s production company because a member of her security detail allegedly forced Davis to remain in the room after the meeting ended so he could search her phone for the video.
NBC noted that in recent clips, Lizzo continues to encourage fans and advocate against bullying. At a recent concert, she told a fan, “The words that we say have a long-lasting effect on people."