Three of Lizzo's former dancers filed a lawsuit against her Tuesday, accusing the singer of harassment and creating a hostile work environment. On Thursday, Lizzo responded, calling the allegations "false."
The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, names Lizzo (whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson); her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc.; and her dance team captain, Shirlene Quigley, as defendants. It alleges that the three plaintiffs—Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez—were subjected to weight-shaming, sexual harassment, religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, and interference with prospective economic advantage, among other allegations. Not every claim was brought against each defendant, according to NBC, which first reported the news.
The complaint accuses Lizzo of being involved in several incidents where her dancers were “exposed to an overtly sexual atmosphere that permeated their workplace,” including “outings where nudity and sexuality were a focal point."
During one such alleged outing, the lawsuit says that Lizzo pressured one of the dancers to engage with nude performers at a club in Amsterdam. It also says that the singer, who has built up a public persona as a champion of body positivity and inclusivity, expressed “thinly veiled” concerns about one of the plaintiff’s “weight gain” before firing her.
“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 plaintiffs' attorney, Ron Zambrano, in a statement.
The suit alleges that Quigley “made it her mission to preach” Christianity to the dancers, “took every opportunity to proselytize to any and all in her presence regardless of protestations,” and publicly discussed the virginity of one of the plaintiffs.
After news of the lawsuit broke, Quigley shared a video on her Instagram in which she stated that she had a great time on tour with Lizzo and repeatedly expressed sentiments to the effect of "God is so, so good."
Lizzo’s former creative director, Quinn Whitney Wilson, along with another former dancer, Courtney Hollinquest, have shared support for the lawsuit on social media. "I’m not apart [sic] of the lawsuit - but this was very much my experience in my time there… I very much applaud the dancers courage to bring this to light," Hollinquest wrote on her Instagram story. Filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison shared on social media that she traveled with Lizzo in 2019 as part of a documentary project but left after two weeks because she "was treated with such disrespect by her" and that the details of the lawsuit "made me realize how dangerous of a situation it was."
Lizzo shared a statement on Instagram on Thursday addressing what she said were “false allegations.”
“These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing,” she said. “My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized.”
She went on to specifically denounce her former dancers’ claims of sexual harassment and weight-shaming.
“I am very open with my sexuality and expressing myself but I cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not,” she said. “There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world. I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolutely never criticize or terminate an employee because of their weight.”
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