All of the claims made against Lizzo, and why they matter

All of the claims made against Lizzo, and why they matter

The singer faces claims of harassment and of creating a hostile work environment

Noam Galai/Getty Images for Youtube

Since her breakthrough album in 2019, Lizzo has been a vocal advocate of body positivity and self love – but now the pop star has been hit with a lawsuit claiming that she weight-shamed her backing dancers.

The singer, real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson, is also facing claims of sexual harassment, and of creating a hostile work environment via racial and religious harassment, in a suit filed by three of her backing dancers.

The claims, which are not all against Lizzo personally, have taken many fans by surprise. The singer has not commented on the allegations.

Here are the details, and why they matter.

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Who is making the claims?

Two of the claimants are Arianna Davis and another former dancer, Crystal Williams, who began performing with Lizzo after competing on her Amazon reality show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, in 2021.

They were fired earlier this year, the suit says.

The third dancer involved in the lawsuit, Noelle Rodriguez, was hired the same year after performing in the video for “Rumors”. She resigned earlier this year.

What are the claims?

The suit accuses Lizzo of calling attention to the weight of one of her dancers, Arianna Davis, after an appearance at South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in 2022.

The singer allegedly told the dancer that she seemed “less committed” to her job. The suit describes the comment as a “thinly veiled” concern about Davis’ weight.

Lizzo performs live in MiamiBryan Bedder/Getty Images for American Express

Amsterdam strip club incident

Earlier this year, the suit claims, Lizzo and her dancers went to an Amsterdam strip club called Bananenbar, where the singer 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”.

Lizzo then allegedly pressured Davis to touch one of the strippers’ breasts. Davis eventually did, despite being “visibly uncomfortable”, the suit says.

A week later, after a performance in Paris, Lizzo allegedly invited her dancers to a club so they could “learn something”, but failed to mention that it was a “nude cabaret bar”.

The suit described the performance as “artful,” but the dancers were “shocked that Lizzo would conceal the nature of the event from them, robbing them of the choice not to participate”.

Racial harassment claims

The racial harassment claim is aimed at comments made by employees of Lizzo’s touring company, which the suit describes as “charged with racial and fat-phobic animus”.

The former dancers say they asked to be paid for their downtime at 50 per cent of their weekly pay, but an accountant allegedly declined, offering half of that and calling their request “unacceptable and disrespectful”.

“Only the dance cast — comprised of full-figured women of color — were ever spoken to in this manner,” the suit said.

‘Religious harassment’

Meanwhile, Lizzo’s dance captain Shirlene Quigley allegedly harassed the dancers with her religious beliefs. According to the suit, she preached her Christianity and “took every opportunity to proselytize to any and all in her presence regardless of protestations”.

After discovering that Davis was a virgin, Quigley discussed the subject in interviews and posted about it on social media, the suit says.

When cast members asked her to stop pressuring Rodriguez – who Quigley regarded as a “non-believer,” according to the suit – about her faith, Quigley responded: “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord”.

Fractious firings

Two of the dancers were fired in April and May 2023. According to the suit, Williams lost her job first, after speaking up in a meeting where Lizzo had allegedly claimed the dancers were drinking before performances.

The previous day, Lizzo had forced the group to audition for their jobs again, which resulted in an “excruciating” 12-hour rehearsal.

Five days later, on April 26, Lizzo’s tour manager fired Williams in a hotel lobby, the suit says, putting the move down to budget cuts. The suit noted that nobody else was fired in that instance.

The next day, Lizzo allegedly raised the incident with the dancers in a meeting, telling them she had “eyes and ears everywhere”.

The suit continues that Davis recorded the meeting on her phone, which made Lizzo “furious” when she later found out.

When Davis told the singer she hadn’t meant any harm, Lizzo allegedly responded “There is nothing you can say to make me believe you,” and fired Davis.

Before Lizzo left the meeting, Rodriguez then told her that she felt disrespected and would resign. As she left, the singer allegedly raised both her middle fingers and yelled a slur.

Why it matters

Lizzo has long been a beacon of hope for the body positivity movement, and has spoken out against bullying multiple times in public.

Earlier this year, she said online videos which fat shamed her were “starting to make me hate the world.”

“I’m tired of explaining myself all the time,” she added.

She also said that all the talk of her weight made her feel like quitting her music career.

Meanwhile, songs including the hit 'Good As Hell' feature lyrics about valuing oneself, which has prompted Lizzo's live performances to be themed around boundless positivity.

That is why the claims have taken fans aback.

The dancers’ lawyer, Rob Zambrano, said: “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.”

The lawsuit doesn’t say whether Lizzo knew about the behaviour of Quigley, the dance captain.

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