Body-Positivity Icon Lizzo Accused of Weight-Shaming, Disability Discrimination and Threats: Lawsuit
Lizzo "privately ... weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralizing," a lawyer for the plaintiffs said in a statement.
Grammy-award winning singer Lizzo is being accused in a lawsuit of creating and fostering a hostile work environment by three former dancers who performed on her recent Special Tour.
Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis and Noelle Rodriguez allege that the singer and her touring production company created "a hostile, abusive work environment and making their working conditions intolerable," in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The woman are seeking damages from Melissa "Lizzo" Jefferson, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. and Shirlene Quigley, the tour’s dance captain.
"The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publicly," Ron Zambrano, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
He went to allege that Lizzo "privately ... weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralizing."
The woman claim they were subject to multiple forms of harassment including racial harassment by the touring production company, who accused the Black dancers of being "lazy, unprofessional, and having bad attitudes," according to the lawsuit.
Davis claims that after one performance, both Lizzo and Quigley told her she seemed “less committed” after she gained weight. The lawsuit alleges that the dancer, who says she has been diagnosed with binge-eating disorder, then felt like she “needed to explain her weight gain and disclose intimate personal details about her life in order to keep her job.”
Another allegation involves an alleged trip to an after-hours club in Amsterdam.
"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," claims the lawsuit. "Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts one of the nude women performing at the club."
The lawsuit alleges that Davis repeatedly said she did not wish to touch the performer but eventually felt as though she had no choice.
At one point, Lizzo allegedly made the dancers re-audition for their jobs after accusing them of drinking before performances, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says that all three dancers say that they "had never partaken in such a practice."
"The re-audition was brutal as the dancers were not allowed a break. During the run-through of the show Ms. Davis felt she needed to excuse herself to use the restroom, however, she was afraid that if she left the stage at any point during the audition she would be fired," says the lawsuit. "Ms. Davis pressed on as long as she could until she eventually lost control of her bladder. Still fearing the repercussions of exiting the stage during the run through, Ms. Davis remained on stage, dancing in soiled clothes until there was a brief segment of the show where the dance cast was not part of the onstage performance and were allowed a short break."
Davis also accuses Lizzo of disability discrimination, saying she was fired after she decided to record a meeting. The lawsuit says that Davis only made the recording because she has an eye condition that causes her to "sometimes become disoriented in stressful situations as a result."
Lizzo allegedly learned of this and called an emergency wardrobe fitting, according to the lawsuit.
"Security took each dancer’s phone as they entered the room. Once all were in the room and their phones were collected, Lizzo entered. Lizzo stated she knew that one of the dancers recorded their meeting on April 27, 2023. 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," according to the lawsuit.
Davis then confessed and explained that she "wanted to have a copy of the notes Lizzo had given them about their performances," the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Davis said that she deleted the recording after viewing the video.
Lizzo allegedly responded, “there is nothing you can say to make me believe you.”
Davis says she was fired on the spot.
After witnessing Davis' very public termination by Lizzo, Rodriguez quit on the spot, according to the lawsuit.
"This resignation drew both Ms. Quigley’s and Lizzo’s ire," says the lawsuit. "Ms. Quigley sscreamed at Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Davis, calling them disrespectful. Then Lizzo aggressively approached Ms. Rodriquez, cracking her knuckles, balling her fists, and exclaiming, 'You’re lucky. You’re so fucking lucky!'"
The lawsuit continues: "Ms. Rodriguez feared that Lizzo intended to hit her and would have done so if one of the other dancers had not intervened. Neither security nor management did anything to de-escalate the situation. As Lizzo left the room, she raised both her middle fingers and yelled, 'Bye, bitch!'"
Davis said she was then detained by Lizzo's security team and forced to watch as they went through her entire phone, ultimately finding no recordings of any meetings, claims the lawsuit.
Quigley meanwhile is accused of allegedly espousing her religious beliefs on dancers and expressing her strong view of virginity during the tour, says the lawsuit.
She responded to the allegations on Instagram, posting a video of herself in the car saying: "I just wanted to get on here really quick and say that God is so, so good. God loves you so, so, so, so, so much. Not matter what you’re going through, even if you don’t love him, he loves you.”
Reps for Lizzo, who has built her very lucrative brand on body positivity, female empowerment and self-love, did not respond to requests for comment.
The dancers who filed the lawsuit are seeking a jury trial with an unspecified amount in damages.
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