Three of Lizzo‘s former backup dancers filed a lawsuit against the singer on Tuesday, citing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The complaint also mentioned additional accusations, including forced sexual activity at an Amsterdam club, “excruciating” auditions and false claims of alcohol use on the job.
The dancers filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, which stated Lizzo called out one of the dancers, Arianna Davis, over weight-gain comments and later fired her after she recorded a dance session due to a health condition, according to an NBC News exclusive.
Lizzo’s dance team captain Shirlene Quigley was among the defendants mentioned in the complaint along with Lizzo’s production company. She reportedly used her religion to criticize those who engaged in premarital sex while sharing sexual fantasies and publicly sharing personal information about Davis being a virgin, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs believe Lizzo, born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, was aware of the complaints she received about Quigley’s behavior. Their lawyer, Ron Zambrano, said the 35-year-old seemingly went against everything she stood for, and her treatment against the dancers was “illegal.”
“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, per the outlet.
The suit states Lizzo commented about Davis’ weight after a South by Southwest music festival appearance. She claimed the former dancer was “less committed” to her role due to alleged weight issues.
Davis and another dancer, Crystal Williams, had initially joined the “It’s About Damn Time” artist on her Amazon reality show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” in 2021. However, they were fired. Meanwhile, Noelle Rodriguez, hired after appearing in the “Rumors” video, resigned earlier this year after witnessing how they were being treated.
There were additional claims of “religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, interference with prospective economic advantage and other allegations,” though not every claim was brought against the defendants, according to NBC News.
In the suit, Lizzo is accused of forcing Davis to participate in lewd acts with a nude dancer at an Amsterdam strip club. The singer routinely did afterparties with dancers she favored and had “good job security” after performances in different cities. According to the complaint, the Detroit native wanted the plaintiffs to engage in sexual acts using foods and sex toys.
She allegedly “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 suit says. “Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women.”
Davis was uncomfortable with the request and declined multiple times before Lizzo initiated a chant, forcing her to interact with the nude performer. After she complied, the group reportedly laughed, and Lizzo called for a security member to strip on stage.
“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,” the complaint states.
In addition to club accusations, the suit also mentioned racial harassment claims from the touring company employees. They allegedly referred to the dancers using remarks “charged with racial and fat-phobic animus,” according to the suit.
The complaint states the dancers asked for their downtime pay at 50% of their weekly income. Instead, NBC News reported an accountant “[scolded] them for being unacceptable and disrespectful” and offered 25%.
“Only the dance cast — comprised of full-figured women of color — were ever spoken to in this manner,” the suit says.
Additionally, Lizzo began firing dancers around April and May. The complaint states Williams was fired on April 26 after she challenged Lizzo in a meeting, claiming the dancers were drinking before their performances. The singer would engage the dancers in “excruciating” 12-hour rehearsals if she were “dissatisfied” with their routines.
Davis was later fired after she recorded a meeting due to having an eye condition that left her disoriented in varied situations. Rodriguez resigned and informed Lizzo of feeling “disrespected,” to which she held up two middle fingers and hurled a slur at the plaintiff, the suit says.