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Lizzo hits back at harassment and toxic work place allegations made by former dancers

By | Published on Friday 4 August 2023


Lizzo responded yesterday to the allegations made by three former members of her dance team who accuse the musician and her touring company of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. These “false allegations”, Lizzo said in a social media post, “are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous not to be addressed”.

But the three dancers and their legal representatives are standing by the claims made in a recent lawsuit, with one attorney telling reporters that additional witnesses have come forward in recent days to back up the allegations that his clients have made. “Given Lizzo is denying that any of this happened”, that lawyer added, “let’s take it to trial”.

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez filed a lawsuit with the courts in California earlier this week targeting Lizzo – real name Melissa Jefferson – and her dance team captain Shirlene Quigley, as well as the Big Grrrl Big Touring company.

Quigley is accused of constantly pushing her Christian beliefs in the workplace and criticising those who had premarital sex, but at the same time simulating oral sex, sharing lewd sexual fantasies and discussing one performer’s virginity.

Jefferson, meanwhile, is accused of acting inappropriately at social events that her employees were strongly encouraged to attend. That included clubs where “nudity and sexuality were a focal point”. On once occasion, it’s alleged, Jefferson “hounded Davis to touch a performer despite Davis repeatedly expressing she did not want to”.

Meanwhile, back in the work place, Jefferson is accused of falsely accusing her dancers of unprofessional behaviour and then forcing them to go through a “brutal” twelve hour re-auditioning process. And it’s also alleged that the musician, despite being an advocate for body positivity and self-love, openly criticised a dancer’s recent weight gain.

In her social media post yesterday, Jefferson confirmed that, following the filing of the lawsuit, “these last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticised”.

While she doesn’t usually response to false allegations, she then stated, these claims “are too outrageous not to be addressed. These sensationalised stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behaviour on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional”.

“With passion comes hard work and high standards”, she went on. “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”.

“I am not here to be looked at as a victim”, she continued, “but I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days. I am very open with my sexuality and expressing myself but I cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not”.

On the specific allegation she criticised a dancer’s weight gain, she also added: “There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world. I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolute never criticise or terminate an employee because of their weight”.

As Jefferson took to social media to respond to this week’s lawsuit, her accusers gave some media interviews about the dispute. On Channel 4 News they were asked about Jefferson’s statement.

According to NME, Williams said: “It was very disheartening to read … especially when she stands for what she stands for in regards to women’s empowerment – being an advocate for mental health, being an advocate for body positivity – and to just further prove that that’s not [really] the case … nothing was acknowledged in that statement”.

The lawyer that responded to Jefferson’s social media post by declaring “let’s take it to trial” was Neama Rahmani, President at West Coast Employment Lawyers. He added: “More witnesses are coming forward every day corroborating the plaintiffs’ allegations, so we’re looking forward to facing Lizzo and her team in court”.