Three dancers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging that while touring with the Grammy winner, they were exposed to an “overtly s€xual atmosphere” that led to harassment during their work.
On Tuesday, three ex-dancers of Lizzo filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that the Grammy-winning singer and her dance team captain fostered a hostile work environment during their performances on her Special Tour this year.
According to The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit from the plaintiffs’ law firm, the legal document stated that the dancers were subjected to an “overtly s£xual atmosphere” in their workplace, which involved outings centered around n udity and £exuality. NBC was the first to report on the lawsuit.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Melissa Jefferson, known by her stage name Lizzo, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., and Shirlene Quigley, the dance captain of the tour. The lawsuit does not explicitly state whether Lizzo was aware of the allegations made against Ms. Quigley by the plaintiffs.
According to the lawsuit, Lizzo and Ms. Quigley are accused of being engaged in multiple incidents that the dancers’ lawyers claim involved $exual and religious harassment, as well as weight shaming and various other allegations.
As per the lawsuit, Ms. Quigley is accused of “making it her mission to preach” Christianity to the dancers, with a focus on virginity, while Lizzo allegedly subjected them to $exual harassment.
According to the lawsuit, during a night out at a nightclub in Amsterdam, Lizzo allegedly invited employees to touch n ude performers and interact with props like di ldos and bananas used in their performances.
The lawsuit states that due to fear of retaliation, a dancer ultimately gave in and touched the br€ast of a n ude female performer, even though they had repeatedly expressed no interest in doing so.
As of Tuesday, representatives for Lizzo and her production company have not responded to requests for comment.
After competing on Lizzo’s reality television show on Amazon Prime, titled “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” in 2021, two of the plaintiffs, Arianna Davis and Crystal Williams, started performing with Lizzo. The show aimed to provide representation for plus-size dancers, as Lizzo stated during its airing. However, Ms. Davis and Ms. Williams were allegedly dismissed from their roles in the spring of 2023, according to the lawsuit.
Furthermore, a third plaintiff, Noelle Rodriguez, joined Lizzo’s dance team in May 2021 after being hired to perform in the music video for “Rumors.” As per the lawsuit, Ms. Rodriguez decided to resign shortly after the firings of Ms. Davis and Ms. Williams.
Some of the accusations appear to challenge Lizzo’s reputation for promoting body positivity and inclusivity.
“The actions of Lizzo and her management team, as described, contradict the image she presents to the public,” stated Ron Zambrano, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. Privately, he added, Lizzo allegedly engaged in weight-shaming and demeaning behavior towards her dancers, actions that are not only illegal but deeply demoralizing.
The lawsuit claims that some of Lizzo’s statements to Ms. Davis, who has been diagnosed with a binge eating disorder, gave her the impression that she had to discuss her weight gain and disclose personal details to maintain her job.
Since her 2019 hit “Truth Hurts” topped the charts, Lizzo has been instrumental in popularizing “feel-good music,” self-love, and celebrating diversity through empowerment anthems, launching a size-inclusive shapewear line, and gaining millions of social media views.
Lizzo won the current year’s Grammy for “About Damn Time.”
Diana Reddy, an assistant professor at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that allegations not falling under legally protected categories could potentially undermine Lizzo’s body-positive message and may encourage a settlement.
Given the challenges of proving a hostile work environment in the unconventional entertainment industry, the plaintiffs’ lawyers may be seeking a settlement. “Employment discrimination plaintiffs often face difficulties in court,” Ms. Reddy said.
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