Business News Legal Top Stories

Lizzo’s former dancers say hostile work environment was “illegal” and “absolutely demoralising”

By | Published on Wednesday 2 August 2023


Lizzo and her touring company have been accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment in a lawsuit filed by three dancers who previously performed with the star.

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez filed a lawsuit with the courts in California yesterday making a number of allegations against Lizzo, real name Melissa Jefferson, as well as her dance team captain Shirlene Quigley and the Big Grrrl Big Touring company.

Among the allegations are that “Lizzo pressured plaintiffs and all her employees to attend outings where nudity and sexuality were a focal point and disregarded any apprehension from plaintiffs”.

“Lizzo hounded Davis to touch a performer despite Davis repeatedly expressing she did not want to”, it’s claimed. “This work environment would shock the conscience of anyone as it did for plaintiffs”.

The three performers concede that attending such outings was not compulsory when working for the musician, but allege that those who did subsequently received preferential treatment.

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.

Elsewhere in the lawsuit, it is claimed that Lizzo, despite being an advocate for body positivity and self-love, criticised a dancer’s recent weight gain.

Davis and Williams were given the opportunity to join Jefferson’s dance team after competing on the Amazon reality TV show ‘Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls’. Meanwhile, Rodriguez was originally hired to perform in one of Jefferson’s music videos and was then offered a job on the dance team.

The lawsuit claims that earlier this year Jefferson started accusing her dancers of unprofessional behaviour, including drinking before shows, even though there was no evidence of that.

The whole dance team was then forced to take part in a “brutal” twelve hour re-auditioning process, during which there weren’t even bathroom breaks.

Williams says that she confronted Jefferson about the allegations that had been made about the team and was then dropped from said team a few days later “under the guise of budget cuts”.

Davis was then fired because she recorded a meeting with Jefferson, even though she insisted the recording was so that she had a record of the feedback she was being given about her performance.

Rodriguez claims that she then confronted Jefferson about the sacking of Davis, resulting in an altercation. She quit the next day.

Commenting on the legal action, which claims violations of California’s Fair Employment And Housing Act, a representative of the three dancers, Ronald Zambrano, told reporters: “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 demoralising”.