Lizzo Settled Separate Dispute with 14 Dancers Prior to Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

The dancers claimed that they didn't consent to the use of intimate 2019 Video Music Awards rehearsal footage in 2022's 'Love, Lizzo'

Photo: AB+DM

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Aug 23, 2023

A new Los Angeles Times report has revealed that this month's sexual harassment lawsuit against Lizzo isn't the first time she has run into legal trouble with her dancers. Six months prior to former backups Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez suing the pop star, 14 of Lizzo's dancers reportedly received a separate settlement relating to the use of intimate rehearsal footage in the 2022 documentary, Love, Lizzo.

The dancers' manager, Slay Smiles, raised the dispute in January over footage the documentary-makers shot at rehearsal for the 2019 Video Music Awards (VMAs), where they discussed how misogyny, racism and weight-shaming affect them. According to Smiles, no contract was offered to her clients for the behind-the-scenes shots, which were not covered by their union contract for the VMAs.

"After seeing all of the videos, I'm sure you realize how sensitive and private the dialogue was for the talent involved," Smiles wrote in an email reviewed by the publication. "This was supposed to be a safe space to express and share with the Principal talent [Lizzo], so by sharing this unauthorized footage to the public without their approval/permissions, has truly exploited these women and violated the emotional safety they had in those moments."

Alan Brunswick — an attorney for Boardwalk Pictures, one of the doc's co-producers — claimed that the footage was "captured openly" with the dancers' consent. "They all knew the cameras were there," he told The Times. "I don't think the documentary was even contemplated at that point."

Apparently the dancers only learned that the footage would appear in the documentary when a clearance producer sent them each an email offering to pay them $350 USD (plus a 10 percent agency fee) each for their appearances. Smiles reportedly advocated for the dancers and secured a payout of between $7,092 and $7,545 for each of them from Boardwalk Pictures, Greenway Pictures, Warner Music Group Productions, Live Nation Productions and a "Lizzo entity."

The attorney representing Lizzo, Martin Singer, said the pop star "had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it."

After the three complainants came forward at the beginning of August, several people previously employed by the artist voiced their support for the lawsuit — and some with "similar stories" even approached their lawyer with complaints of their own. Meanwhile, Lizzo's current Big Grrrls dance crew have voiced their support for the singer, as did Beyoncé.

"I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days," Lizzo said in response to the "outrageous" allegations. "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."

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