Well, here’s a celeb scandal we never saw coming. Given that Lizzo has been such an outspoken advocate for women, especially women of color and those who don’t fit the skinny Hollywood mold, it’s been a bit jarring to hear about the lawsuit she now faces from former employees. Ex-dancers claim that they were the victims of not only sexual harassment from Lizzo but also discrimination based on weight. While Lizzo has vehemently denied all the claims, her accusers’ lawyer isn’t backing down and now wants to “take it to trial” and let the legal system decide who’s telling the truth.
But hold up, let’s back up a bit in case you missed something.
- Three former tour dancers filed the suit in Los Angeles on August 1. Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez are seeking unspecified damages for alleged body-shaming, sexual harassment, religious prostheletizing and harassment by the dance captain Shirlene Quigley, and more. The full suit makes some pretty damning accusations in which dancers claim they were not only forced to attend and participate in a sex show at a club in Amsterdam, but that they were subject to “false imprisonment” and loss of employment due to weight gain. The suit names Lizzo (real name Melissa Jefferson), Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., and Quigley as co-defendants.
- Lizzo wasn’t responsible for all the bad behavior in the suit. However, the accusers insist that even where Lizzo wasn’t directly involved, she must have known about what was going on and failed to do anything to stop it, thereby making her guilty anyway. “As the headlining act of ‘The Special Tour’ it was clear that Lizzo was the ultimate decision-making authority and supervisor of Plaintiffs,” the suit says. “Additionally, as dance cast captain, Ms. Quigley also held a supervisory role within the production. At no point did anyone from BGBT management nor Lizzo’s step in to put an end to this inappropriate behavior. Accordingly, Defendants are strictly liable for Lizzo’s and Ms. Quigley’s harassing behavior.”
- Many people believe this is just sour grapes. After all, Davis and Williams lost their job earlier this year after touring with Lizzo, while Rodriguez quit in May, shortly after Williams was fired. Davis and Williams were contestants on Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls that aired on Prime Video in 2022. However, they claim the filming experience was not a good one. However, many people believe that their claims might deserve more scrutiny given that they’re only making these accusations after being cut from the team.
- However, an outside party has corroborated some of what the plaintiffs are claiming. Oscar-nominated director Sophia Nahli Allison took to social media this week to say that she’d walked away from Lizzo’s documentary project because she had been “treated with such disrespect” by Lizzo and her team.
- On Thursday, August 4, Lizzo released a statement on her Instagram page in which she outright denied the claims that she was guilty of sexual harassment, discrimination, or any of the other behaviors alleged in the suit. She said the claims were “gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing” and that they had been “sensationalized and coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
- The plaintiff’s lawyers aren’t very happy about Lizzo’s statements. One of the lawyer’s working on the case accused Lizzo of being insensitive to what the former employees had experienced. “The dismissive comments and utter lack of empathy are quite telling about her character and only serve to minimize the trauma she has caused the plaintiffs and other employees who have now come forward sharing their own negative experiences,” said attorney Ron Zambrano, per Deadline. “While Lizzo notes it was never her intention ‘to make anyone feel uncomfortable,’ that is exactly what she did to the point of demoralizing her dancers and flagrantly violating the law.”
- They’re now ready to “take it to trial.” If Lizzo is indeed innocent, attorney Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Employment Lawyers, thinks she should be willing to prove it in court. (Never mind that the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused.) “More witnesses are coming forward every day corroborating the plaintiffs’ allegations, so we’re looking forward to facing Lizzo and her team in court,” Rahmani added.
Sharing this because validating other Black women's experiences is deeply important to me. pic.twitter.com/gd2xEK6szq
— Sophia Nahli Allison (@SophiaNAllison) August 1, 2023