Three of Lizzo’s former dancers are suing the singer, accusing her of creating a hostile work environment and allegedly pressuring them to participate in a nude photoshoot, Us Weekly can confirm.
The dancers — Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez — filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, August 1, against Lizzo, 35, for a hostile work environment, religious harassment, disability discrimination, sexual harassment and more. The suit names Lizzo (whose real name is Melissa Jefferson), Lizzo’s tour company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. (BGBT) and dance captain Shirlene Quigley. (Davis and Williams were participants on Lizzo’s show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls while Rodriguez was cast in the “Rumors” music video.)
According to court docs obtained by Us, the group alleged that Quigley displayed sexually inappropriate behavior towards the team. The trio claimed that Quigley made them “uncomfortable” when she would “simulate oral sex on a banana in front of the rest of the dance cast,” and she allegedly made several comments about Davis being a virgin.
While Davis and Williams were competing on the reality series, they were allegedly told they were required to participate in a nude photo shoot. Davis did not want to do the challenge but feared she would be sent home if she refused.
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“Ms. Davis broke down in tears on set while struggling to choose between a once in a lifetime career opportunity and putting her body on display against her will,” the lawsuit states. “This experience foreshadowed the sexually charged and uncomfortable environment Lizzo’s employees would be forced to endure.”
The dancers also alleged that during a trip to Amsterdam, Lizzo invited the dancers to the Red Light District. While it wasn’t a mandatory event, the dancers felt “obligated” to attend out of “fear of losing their jobs.”
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“While at Bananenbar, things quickly got out of hand. 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,” the documents stated. “Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club.”
Before jetting off for the European portion of Lizzo’s tour, the dancers had a three-month hiatus. During the break period, the dancers looked for additional work in the off time since they only received payment while on tour.
However, Lizzo preferred the dancers not take another job during the in-between period. The dancers asked for compensation for the period between tour legs after learning that other members of the team were receiving 50 percent of their weekly pay in the offseason. The group claimed they were offered 25 percent and scolded for “unacceptable and disrespectful behavior while on tour,” according to the docs.
Davis and Williams were fired due to “budget cuts.” However, Davis claims she was fired after she recorded a dance team meeting, which allegedly upset Lizzo. Prior to her firing, Davis alleged that the dancers were called into an emergency wardrobe fitting and their cell phones were collected by security. The docs claim that Lizzo called out the dancers after learning one of them recorded a previous meeting and interrogated all of them until Davis came forward and was fired on the spot.
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Rodriguez resigned following the “appalling behavior,” per a press release from the trio’s attorneys. Rodriguez allegedly got into a disagreement with Lizzo after the two other dancers were fired.
“Lizzo aggressively approached Ms. Rodriguez, cracking her knuckles, balling her fists, and exclaiming, ‘You’re lucky. You’re so f—g lucky!’ Ms. Rodriguez feared that Lizzo intended to hit her and would have done so if one of the other dancers had not intervened,” the docs claim. “Neither security nor management did anything to de-escalate the situation. As Lizzo left the room, she raised both her middle fingers and yelled, ‘Bye, bitch!’”
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Lizzo is well-known for using her platform to fight for social justice and promote body positivity. However, the trio’s lawyers stated the group’s accusations against the singer do not align with the values she chooses to portray.
“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,” said attorney Ron Zambrano in a statement.
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