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Lizzo sued by former backup dancers for alleged s.e.x.ual, racial harassment

Three of Lizzo’s former dancers are suing the singer for sexual and racial harassment, as well as allegedly creating a hostile work environment.

The lawsuit, provided to PEOPLE by the plaintiffs’ law firm, was filed Tuesday morning in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the singer, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson; her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc.; and Lizzo’s dance team captain, Shirlene Quigley.

In it, the dancers — Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez — alleged that they were pressured by Lizzo into touching nude performers while at a club in Amsterdam and were forced to endure weight shaming.

The dancers claimed in their complaint that at a club called Bananenbar, where attendees can interact with the nude performers, “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 “About Damn Time” singer, 35, then allegedly “began pressuring” Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude performers, despite the dancer “expressing her desire not to touch the performer.”

According to the suit, that same night Lizzo allegedly “badgered the security guard to get on the club’s stage until he submitted to her demands.”

“When he got on the stage, his pants were pulled down, exposing his buttocks. Lizzo then began yelling, ‘Take it off!’ while a club performer hit the security guard with whips,” it stated.

The suit also accuses Quigley of proselytizing everyone around her, shaming those who engaged in premarital sex and “oversharing her masturbatory habits and sex life with her husband.”

Lizzo — who is known for embracing body positivity — was also accused of weight shaming by Davis.

“Lizzo and Ms. Scott questioned whether Ms. Davis was struggling with something as she seemed less committed to her role on the dance cast. Lizzo and Ms. Scott pressed Ms. Davis for an explanation why she seemed less bubbly and vivacious than she did prior to the tour starting. In professional dance, a dancer’s weight gain is often seen as that dancer getting lazy or worse off as a performer,” the lawsuit claims.
It continued, “Lizzo’s and Ms. Scott’s questions about Ms. Davis’ commitment to the tour were thinly veiled concerns about Ms. Davis’ weight gain, which Lizzo had previously called attention to after noticing it at the South by Southwest music festival.”

While Lizzo and Scott never explicitly said those words, Davis felt that “she needed to explain her weight gain and disclose intimate personal details” to keep her job.

The dancers also claimed they faced racial harassment from BGBT management, which they allege “treated the Black members of the dance team differently than other members.”

“BGBT’s management team consisted entirely of white Europeans who often accused the Black members of the dance team of being lazy, unprofessional, and having bad attitudes,” the lawsuit says. “Not only do these words ring familiar as tropes used to disparage and discourage Black women from advocating for themselves, but the same accusations were not levied against dancers who are not Black.”

The lawsuit also includes additional allegations including false imprisonment and interference with prospective economic advantage. However, not all of the claims pertain to all of the defendants.

“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,” Zambrano said in a statement.

Davis and Williams, began performing with Lizzo after competing on her Amazon reality show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls in 2021, the suit says. They were later fired.

Rodriguez was hired after performing in Lizzo’s video “Rumors” the same year, according to the suit, but she resigned earlier in 2022.

A rep for Lizzo has not yet replied to a request for comment. Quigley did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A rep for Lizzo’s production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., could not be reached for comment.

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