Lizzo faces lawsuit of alleged sexual harassment and weight-shaming from former dancers

Three former dancers file lawsuit against Lizzo.

Three former dancers working for Grammy-Award-winning artist Lizzo have filed a lawsuit accusing the singer of allegedly creating a “hostile work environment”.

The lawsuit was filed against Lizzo – whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson – her company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc and dance captain Shirlene Quigley on Tuesday (1 August) in Los Angeles, according to NBC News.

The three plaintiffs, Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, alleged a series of incidents took place between 2021 to 2023, involving sexual, racial and religious harassment, although not every claim was brought against each defendant.

Lizzo, her production company and Quigley are yet to release a statement responding to the lawsuit.

Quigley has, however, spoken on Instagram to thank God, stating: “All things work together for those that are called together according to his purpose.”

Davis and Williams joined Lizzo’s troupe after participating in her Amazon Prime dancing competition Watch Out for the Big Grrrl in 2021.

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The lawsuit has also encouraged fellow former employees – not currently part of the lawsuit – to speak up about their experiences while working with the singer, who has been widely praised for her message of body-positivity and progressive platform.

Lizzo performing in June this year.
Lizzo has been named in the lawsuit. (Astrida Valigorsky/Getty)

“The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publically, while privately she weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralising,” Ron Zambrano, the trio’s lawyer, said in a statement.

What are the accusations against Lizzo, Big Grrrl Big Touring and Quigley?

The major incident detailed in the lawsuit is said to have reportedly occurred in an Amsterdam club earlier this year. It alleges that 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,” it claims.

“A visibly uncomfortable” Davis was forced to decline four times as Lizzo goaded her with a chant that “grew louder and more strident”.

When Lizzo finally stopped, she is alleged to have briefly touched the performer before the group burst out laughing.

Lizzo then turned her attention to a security staff member and pressured him to take his suit off on stage, according to the lawsuit.

“[The] 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,” it says.

The plaintiffs also detailed their alleged experiences of racial harassment “charged with racial and fat-phobic animus”. After the dancers asked to be compensated for their downtime at 50 per cent of their weekly pay, they were scolded by an accountant and offered 25 per cent, it is claimed.

Lizzo at the Watch Out For The Big Grrls watch party. (JC Olivera/Getty/Amazon Studios)

“Only the dance cast, comprised of full-figured women of colour, were ever spoken to in this manner,” the plaintiffs allege.

Quigley is also at the centre of religious harassment claims. According to the lawsuit, she preached her Christian beliefs and “took every opportunity to proselytise to any and all in her presence, regardless of protestations”.

She also disparaged pre-marital sex, simulated oral sex, shared lewd sexual fantasies and discussed one performer’s virginity.

According to NBC News, the lawsuit does not say whether Lizzo knew about Quigley’s alleged behaviour.

Davis and Williams are also claiming unfair dismissal. In April, Lizzo allegedly accused the dancers of drinking before a performance and subjected them to an “excruciating” 12-hour audition. Davis was so fearful of losing her job she claims she soiled herself, to avoid going to the toilet.

Two dancers were fired in April and May. According to the suit, Williams lost her job just days after she spoke up at a meeting in which she challenged the claim about drinking.

On 26 April, Lizzo’s tour manager fired Williams in a hotel lobby, the lawsuit says. The manager attributed the action to budget cuts, said the lawsuit, which noted that no one else was fired.

Rodriguez complained to a manager about the decision to fire Williams, a move that Lizzo “repeatedly” raised with the dancers during a meeting on 27 April, during which she told the group that she had “eyes and ears everywhere,” according to the suit.

Davis recorded the meeting because she claimed she suffers from an eye condition that leaves her disoriented when stressed.

“Ms. Quigley and Lizzo then took turns berating Ms. Davis,” the lawsuit reads. “After castigating Ms. Davis, Lizzo fired Ms. Davis on the spot.”

Rodriguez quit in response to the treatment of her colleagues and as she left Lizzo allegedly “raised both her middle fingers and yelled a slur.”

The production company is accused of false imprisonment by Davis for refusing to let her leave after the meeting ended so they could search her phone.

What have Lizzo’s former employees not involved in the lawsuit said?

So far, three of Lizzo’s ex-employee’s have come out in support of the plaintiffs and spoken about their own experiences.

Dancer Courtney Hollinquest wrote on her Instagram story that this was “very much my experience in my time there… big shoutout to the dancers who had the courage to bring this to light”.

This prompted Lizzo’s former creative director Quinn Wilson to reply on her own Instagram story.

“I haven’t been a part of that world for around three years, for a reason. I very much applaud the dancers courage to bring this to light. And I grieve parts of my own experience. I’d appreciate space to understand my feelings,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison, claimed she “walked away” from directing a Lizzo documentary after only two weeks in 2019 due to ill treatment by the singer.

“I was treated with such disrespect by her,” she wrote in a statement. “I witnessed how arrogant, self-centred and unkind she is. I was not protected and was thrown into a s***ty situation with little support.

“My spirit said to run as fast as you f**king can and I’m so glad I trusted my gut. I felt gaslit and was deeply hurt.”

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