The lawsuit, which was viewed by Variety and NBC News, has been filed against Lizzo (whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson), her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., and Lizzo’s dance captain, Shirlene Quigley.
According to Variety, former dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriquez have made a slew of allegations in the suit, including false imprisonment, disability discrimination, sexual, religious and racial harassment and assault. Lizzo has denied the claims, calling them “sensationalised stories”.
One of the key allegations in the lawsuit pertains to a night the team spent in Amsterdam. The plaintiffs allege Lizzo invited cast members on her tour to a club called Bananenbar, where there are nude performers. They allege they weren’t told prior that there would be nude performers, thus “robbing them of the choice not to participate”.
“The main event of the night was a club called Bananenbar, where patrons are allowed to interact with completely nude performers,” the lawsuit claims. “While at Bananenbar, things quickly got out of hand. 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’ vaginas. Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club. Lizzo began leading a chant goading Ms. Davis. Ms. Davis said three times, loud enough for all to hear, ‘I’m good,’ expressing her desire not to touch the performer.
“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.”
Further accusations also allege Lizzo and choreographer Taisha Scott made unwelcome comments about Ms Davis’ weight gain.
“In professional dance, a dancer’s weight gain is often seen as that dancer getting lazy or worse off as a performer. Lizzo’s and Scott’s questions about Ms. Davis’s commitment to the tour were thinly veiled concerns about Ms. Davis’s weight gain, which Lizzo had previously called attention to after noticing it at the South by Southwest music festival,” the lawsuit states.
“Although Lizzo and Ms. Scott never explicitly stated it, these questions accompanied by Lizzo’s statements made after the South by Southwest music festival gave Ms. Davis the impression that she needed to explain her weight gain and disclose intimate personal details about her life in order to keep her job.”
The lawsuit also alleges Shirlene Quigley pushed her religious beliefs on the plaintiffs.
Quigley also allegedly routinely discussed the fact that one of the plaintiffs was a virgin, including bringing it up in interviews and posting about it on social media.
Quigley is also yet to comment on the lawsuit.
More accusations allege dancers were fired publicly as an intimidation tactic. The plaintiffs also claim that the Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. (BGBT) management team, who “consisted entirely of white Europeans” had “accused the Black members of the dance team of being lazy, unprofessional, and having bad attitudes.” The lawsuit goes on to allege “only the dance cast – comprised of full-figured women of colour” were treated thusly, “giving Plaintiffs the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic animus”.
Lizzo Responds To The Lawsuit
Lizzo has since publicly rejected the claims put forward in the lawsuit, saying they “are as unbelievable as they sound”.
“These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticised. Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed,” Lizzo wrote and shared on her Instagram.
“These sensationalised stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behaviour on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.
“As an artist I have always been very passionate about what I do. I take my music and my performances seriously because at the end of the day I only want to put out the best art that represents me and my fans. With passion comes hard work and high standards. Sometimes I have to make hard decisions but it’s never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren’t valued as an important part of the team.
“I am not here to be looked at as a victim, but I also know that i am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days. 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. 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 criticise or terminate an employee because of their weight.
“I’m hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this. I want to thank everyone who has reached out in support to life me up during this difficult time.”
Lizzo is currently on a world tour with her ‘Special Tour’. She is an active body positivity campaigner, and previously documented her search for back-up dancers in the documentary Watch Out For The Big Grrrls. Another feature documentary, Love, Lizzo, shares the “inspirational story behind [Lizzo’s] humble beginnings to her meteoric rise with an intimate look into the moments that shaped her hard-earned rise to fame, success, love and international stardom.” Per Australian streaming service BINGE, it looks specifically at Lizzo’s activism in self-love, body positivity and the recognition of black women for their contributions.
This article originally appeared on ELLE Australia.
Lizzo Has Hired Johnny Depp’s Lawyer To Fight Lawsuit
Lizzo has reportedly enlisted the services of attorney Marty Singer, who previously worked with other Hollywood personalities including Johnny Depp and Bill Cosby, in the lawsuit.
He has already released a statement, via TMZ, in regard to comments made by Arianna Davis.
The comments were captured back in April 2023 on video, with Davis saying, “It’s been so amazing and such a beautiful journey. I look up to her so much. I just want to follow in her footsteps, and I just want to share that with the Queen Lizzo herself.”
Singer said, “These do not sound like the words of someone who was harassed or discriminated against by someone they described as ‘THE QUEEN’.
“They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and here a video shows that there are no legitimate claims in this lawsuit. We are confident that Lizzo will be completely vindicated in this matter.”
Davis has since responded via TMZ, “Right up until the last minute I didn’t realize how bad it was and how much I was being taken advantage of. I just genuinely wanted to save my job. This video further explains how much I was trying to please Lizzo.”