Lizzo is being sued by three former backup dancers for creating a hostile work environment and engaging in sexual harassment among other allegations.
NBC News named the dancers involved as Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez. Davis and Williams both competed on the reality show Watch Out For The Big Grrrls to win the chance to join her troupe of backing dancers, while Rodriguez started dancing with Lizzo after appearing in the ‘Rumors’ video. According to the suit, they all danced for Lizzo until earlier this year, when Davis and Williams were fired and Rodriguez resigned shortly after.
The suit names Lizzo, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. and her dance team captain Shirlene Quigley as defendants.
The alleged incident of sexual harassment mentioned in the suit supposedly took place in a strip club in Amsterdam, which they visited after a show earlier this year. The dancers claim Lizzo allegedly bullied Davis into touching a nude performer, to the point where she led a chant goading her into doing so until she eventually gave in, despite declining multiple times.
The suit states 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,” continuing: “Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women.”
“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 continues.
The suit also alleges that Lizzo subjected the group to an “excruciating” audition, following 12 hours of rehearsal, after falsely accusing them of drinking on the job.
They also claimed that, in contradiction to the singer’s body positive ethos that she promotes in her music, she called attention to Davis’ weight gain by telling her she was “less committed” to her role and later berating and firing the dancer for recording a meeting because of a health condition.
Meanwhile, it accuses Quigley of proselytising to other performers and deriding those who had premarital sex while also discussing her sexual fantasies, simulating oral sex and publicly discussing the virginity of one of the plaintiffs. The suit does not say if Lizzo knew about the allegations linked to Quigley but according to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ron Zambrono, she was aware of the dancers’ complaints about her.
The suit also includes allegations of religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, interference with prospective economic advantage and more, but those allegations do not apply to all the defendants in the case.
The suit does not specify a specific amount for damages that cover emotional distress including unpaid wages, loss of earnings and legal fees.
In a statement provided to NBC, the dancers’ lawyer Ron 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.”