Lizzo sued by ex-dancers for sexual harassment, accused of weight-shaming

Lizzo, here performing in June 24, 2023, has been sued by three former tour dancers for sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment and weight-shaming.

Lizzo, here performing in June 24, has been sued by three former tour dancers for sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment and weight-shaming. (Photo: AP)

Lizzo is being sued by three former dancers for alleged sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. According to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday that was obtained by Yahoo Entertainment, one woman claimed she was weight-shamed by the Grammy-winning singer. Two allege they were pressured into nude photo shoots. One woman claimed to be nearly assaulted by Lizzo.

The complaint was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Lizzo (born Melissa Viviane Jefferson), her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. (BGBT), and Shirlene Quigley, the captain of Lizzo’s dance team. In various allegations by the defendants, they claim sexual and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault 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 demoralizing,” attorney Ron Zambrano, a partner and employment litigation chair at West Coast Employment Lawyers, says in a statement on behalf of the three women.

Yahoo reached out to a rep for Lizzo, but did not immediately receive a response. Here’s what you need to know about the lawsuit.

Who are the plaintiffs?

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez are suing Lizzo, BGBT and Quigley. Not every allegation was brought against each defendant and it’s unclear what, if anything, Lizzo knew about alleged inappropriate behavior levied against the other defendants.

Davis and Williams met the “About Damn Time” singer in March 2021 as they prepared to compete on her reality TV show Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. They were ultimately selected for the dance team, but later fired. Rodriguez was hired in May 2021 to perform in Lizzo’s “Rumors” music video and went on tour with the singer. She resigned earlier this year.

Amsterdam and Paris incidents

In February 2023, the dancers went out with Lizzo after a show in Amsterdam.

“These invitations were not unusual, and attendance was not mandatory, but it was well known that dance cast members were expected to endear themselves to Lizzo,” the complaint reads. “Lizzo often mentioned that she had ‘eyes and ears everywhere,’ and only wanted ‘good people with good energy’ around her.”

The women claim people who attended after-parties with Lizzo were favored and would usually get more work outside the tour, so they felt they needed to go. The singer planned a night out in Amsterdam’s red light district, which is known for sex shows. The group went to a club where patrons are supposedly encouraged to interact with nude performers, and things “quickly got out of hand,” according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges Lizzo encouraged her crew to touch “the nude performers” and engage in other explicit sexual acts with them.

“Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women,” the lawsuit reads. Davis declined, but Lizzo allegedly led a chant encouraging her to do it. Davis “briefly touched the performer’s breasts” and was “mortified.”

That same night, Lizzo supposedly pressured a member of her security team to get on stage and “his pants were pulled down, exposing his buttocks.”

“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 lawsuit says.

About a week later, Lizzo invited her dancers out in Paris, allegedly telling them they were going to a place with “live dancers performing and that they would be able to learn something or be inspired by the performance.” The venue was Crazy Horse, which is “a nude cabaret bar.”

“Plaintiffs [were] under the same pressure as before to go out with Lizzo after the performance, but this time the fact that they would be attending a show where nudity was prominently featured was hidden from them; making them completely surprised when the curtain was drawn, and nudity was yet again on display,” the lawsuit states, claiming the women were “shocked that Lizzo would conceal the nature of the event from them, robbing them of the choice not to participate.”

Another sexual harassment claim

Davis and Williams allege they were “pressured to participate in a nude photo shoot as contestants” on Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.

Racial harassment

After the European leg of the tour, the dance team requested a retainer of 50% percent of their weekly rate during downtime. (Lizzo purportedly preferred the dance cast not take on other jobs in the interim.) A BGBT accountant countered with 25% and apparently scolded “the dancers for ‘unacceptable and disrespectful’ behavior while on tour, stating that it was cause for termination.” However, no examples of unacceptable behavior was given.

“Only the dance cast — comprised of full-figured women of color — were ever spoken to in this manner, giving plaintiffs the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic animus. This email marked the beginning of a strained relationship between the dancers and management,” the lawsuit reads.

Ultimately, BGBT agreed to a 50% retainer, but the complaint alleges Black dancers were treated differently moving forward.

“BGBT’s management team consisted almost entirely of white Europeans who often accused the Black members of the dance team of being lazy, unprofessional, and having bad attitudes. Not only do these words ring familiar as tropes used to disparage and discourage Black women from advocating for themselves, but the same accusations were not levied against dancers who are not Black,” the complaint says.

According to the lawsuit, BGBT’s management derided Williams, Davis and the other Black members of the dance team as lazy, unprofessional, “snarky” and generally having bad attitudes.

In April 2023, Williams was fired in a hotel lobby under the guise of “budget cuts,” but was the only one let go. Rodriguez purportedly confronted Lizzo’s tour manager, Carlina Gugliotta, that the firing was unprofessional.

“Ms. Gugliotta responded, ‘We’ve never had any problems with you,” seeming to imply that Ms. Rodriguez, one of the few members of the dance cast who is not Black, was not painted with the same generalized and unfounded criticisms as the Black members of the dance cast,” the lawsuit reads.

Weight-shaming and disability discrimination

After the European tour, the dancers had to reaudition. During that “grueling” process, Davis lost control of her bladder as she was too afraid to leave the stage. According to the lawsuit, Davis claimed she previously disclosed to Lizzo and BGBT she struggled with anxiety, depression and binge eating. Days later, Davis said she was called into a private meeting with Lizzo and the choreographer, Tanisha Scott, who questioned why she “seemed less bubbly and vivacious than she did prior to the tour starting.”

“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 Ms. 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 says.

“Ms. Davis explained her diagnoses and struggles but made it clear that in spite of her mental health struggles, she was still committed to the tour and performing to the top of her capabilities. In response, Lizzo and Ms. Scott dismissively offered Ms. Davis time off of rehearsals to attend therapy,” the complaint continues. Davis felt if she were to accept the offer, she’d lose her job, so she declined and continued to perform.

False imprisonment

In May 2023, Davis was “fired on the spot” after Lizzo believed she privately recorded a meeting. (“Ms. Davis has a habit of making audio recordings of stressful interactions so she can review them later in less stressful environments,” the lawsuit says.)

“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,” it continues. “Ms. Davis admitted that she had recorded the meeting and explained it was because she wanted to have a copy of the notes Lizzo had given them about their performances. Ms. Davis also explained that she never intended to harm Lizzo with the recording and had even deleted it the day after recording.”

The complaint alleges Lizzo and Quigley “took turns berating” Davis before she was fired. Davis claimed she “was confined to a room against her will” as a security team searched her phone. She claims to have suffered emotional distress as a result.


During the incident mentioned above, Rodriguez apparently approached Lizzo and said she didn’t appreciate how Davis was fired. Rodriguez resigned.

“Lizzo approached Ms. Rodriguez aggressively, yelling profanities, cracking her knuckles and balling her fists apparently preparing herself attack Ms. Rodriguez. Lizzo exclaimed, ‘You’re lucky. You’re so f***ing lucky!’ Ms. Rodriguez feared Lizzo intended to hit her and would have done so if one of the other dancers had not intervened,” the lawsuit claims. “Lizzo was restrained and pulled away before she could contact Ms. Rodriguez.”

Rodriguez claims she has suffered severe emotional distress, as Lizzo seemingly intended to inflict assault.

The three women are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and have requested a jury trial.

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