ShowBiz Minute: Lizzo, Swift, Strikes
Lawsuit by former dancers accuses Lizzo of sexual harassment, creating hostile work environment; Politicians urge Taylor Swift to postpone LA concerts; Striking writers and studios will meet this week. (Aug. 2)
“These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing,” Lizzo said in an Instagram post Thursday. “My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized.”
The singer said she typically doesn’t address “false allegations,” but said “these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous not to be addressed.”
In the suit, obtained by USA TODAY after it was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, plaintiffs Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis and Noelle Rodriguez claim they were victims of sexual, racial and religious harassment, assault, false imprisonment and disability discrimination, in addition to other allegations.
Lizzo’s response to lawsuit allegations: ‘I am not the villain’
In her post, a carousel of text-only screenshots, Lizzo said the allegations “are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
She added: “As an artist I have always been very passionate about what I do. I take my music and performances seriously because at the end of the day I only want to put out the best art that represents me and my fans. With passion comes hard work and high standards. Sometimes I have to make hard decisions but it’s never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren’t valued as an important part of the team.”
Lizzo said she is open with self-expression and her sexuality and said there isn’t anything she takes more seriously than the respect women deserve. “I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolutely never criticize or terminate an employee because of their weight.”
The 35-year-old said she feels hurt but refuses to let the allegations overshadow the “good work I’ve done in the world.”
“I am not here to be looked at as a victim, but I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days,” Lizzo said.
What are the Lizzo allegations? Dancers sue Lizzo for alleged weight shaming, assault
Lizzo (born Melissa Viviane Jefferson), Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., along with Shirlene Quigley, who is Lizzo’s dance team captain and judge on her Amazon series “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” are named as defendants, though not all the allegations pertain to each of them.
Ron Zambrano, the attorney for the dancers, said in a release that the allegations against the “Good as Hell” singer are “stunning in nature.”
“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,” Zambrano said.
The lawsuit details a night out in Amsterdam in February during which the dancers and Lizzo visited a club in the Red Light District called Bananenbar, a location at which patrons are allowed to interact with nude performers. There, the suit alleges, Davis was pressured into interacting with a performer after repeatedly insinuating she didn’t want to. Lizzo also coerced a security guard to take off his pants on stage, the suit alleges.
Elsewhere in the suit, the “Special” singer is accused of having a toxic work environment. In a few instances, Lizzo allegedly accused dancers of “not performing up to par and repeatedly accused the dancers of drinking alcohol before shows even though the dance cast had never partaken in such a practice.”
Lizzo is also accused of questioning Davis’ commitment to the tour, which she believed was “thinly veiled concerns about (her) weight gain, which Lizzo had previously called attention to after noticing it at the South by Southwest music festival.”
Dance team captain Quigley is accused in the lawsuit of simultaneously berating the dancers “who engaged in pre-marital sex” based on her religious views and also acting out sex acts and making “sexually explicit comments.”
‘Narcissistic bully’: Lizzo’s former documentary director slams singer amid lawsuit
Filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison says Lizzo treated her with ‘disrespect’
Inspired by the damning allegations of Lizzo’s former dancers, filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison – who claims she was previously hired to direct a documentary on the singer – shared her negative experience working with Lizzo on her Instagram stories Tuesday.
“In 2019, I traveled a bit with Lizzo to be the director of her documentary. I walked away after about two weeks,” Allison wrote. “I was treated with such disrespect by her. I witnessed how arrogant, self-centered and unkind she is.”
Lizzo was the subject of two documentaries in 2022: “Love, Lizzo,” directed by Doug Pray, and “Lizzo: Blame It on My Juice,” directed by Roxane Schlumberger. Allison, who doesn’t specify the name of the project in her allegations, added she was “not protected” during the work experience and received little support from those around her.
Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Edward Segarra