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Lizzo sued over alleged sexual harassment and hostile work environment by former dancers

US singer is known for promoting body positivity and standing up for women’s rights

Tom Murray
Wednesday 02 August 2023 03:59 BST
Lizzo plays Lord of the Rings theme on recorder at Hobbiton

Three of Lizzo’s former dancers have filed a lawsuit against the singer accusing her of sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday (1 August), also alleges that Lizzo (real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson) pressured one of the plaintiffs into touching a nude performer at an Amsterdam strip club and orchestrated a humiliating 12-hour audition process for her dancers.

Lizzo’s representatives did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

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The accusations fly in the face of the 35-year-old star’s public persona. As a performer, she is known for promoting body positivity, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, and anti-bullying.

The 44-page suit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by The Independent, further alleges that Lizzo and her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring are responsible for assault, racial and religious harassment, fat-shaming, disability discrimination, and false imprisonment.

“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 demoralising,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Ron Zambrano, said in a statement.

Lizzo attends the 2023 Met Gala in New York on 1 May (Getty for Karl Lagerfeld)

Two of the plaintiffs, Arianna Davis and Crystal Williams, began dancing for Lizzo after competing on her Amazon Prime Video reality show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, in 2021. The third plaintiff, Noelle Rodriguez, was hired in the same year after her performance in Lizzo’s “Rumors” music video.

Davis and Williams have since been fired, according to the suit, and Rodriguez resigned earlier this year.

Davis alleges that Lizzo and her choreographer told her she seemed “less committed” to her role after an appearance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in April, which she took to be a “thinly veiled” comment about her weight.

During a trip to Amsterdam strip club Bananenbar earlier this year, the lawsuit alleges that Lizzo “hounded” her employees to engage with nude performers.

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She allegedly “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”.

The suit alleges that Lizzo pressured Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women and led a chant goading her to do so when she refused.

Lizzo performs at Glastonbury Festival in June (AFP/Getty)

“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,” the complaint reads.

In a separate incident, the suit alleges that Lizzo subjected her dancers to an “excruciating” 12-hour audition after accusing them of drinking before performances.

After hitting back at the singer’s assertion, Williams claims she was fired days later.

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During the audition, Davis claims that she soiled herself as she was fearful of using the restroom during the process. She was allegedly given a see-through outfit with no undergarments to finish the performance, the suit says.

“As a proximate result of Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional distress, anxiety, pain and suffering, physical injuries, physical sickness, medical expenses, future medical expenses, attorneys’ fees, and other damages to be determined at trial according to proof,” the suit says.

Just last week, a clip from one of Lizzo’s recent concerts went viral after she brought a young Australian fan onstage who professed to the singer that she was being bullied online.

“The words that we say have a long-lasting effect on people,” Lizzo told the fan.

Last year, Lizzo spoke about having been called “fat” for her “entire life” in an interview with The Cut where she urged fans to stop commenting on her body.

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