Lizzo Sued for Sexual Harassment by Former Dancers

One of three complainants also claimed the pop star weight-shamed them, contributing to a hostile work environment

Photo: Raph_PH

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Aug 1, 2023

Lizzo has been sued for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment by three of her former dancers, NBC News reports.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today; it was obtained by the outlet from the plaintiffs' law firm. It lobs a slew of accusations against the pop star, including one of the dancers' allegations of having been pressured to touch a nude performer at a strip club in Amsterdam, subjecting the group to an "excruciating" audition after levelling false allegations that they had been drinking on the job, and calling attention to one dancer's weight gain — then berating and firing her after she recorded a meeting due to a health condition.

UPDATE (8/2. 9:51 a.m. ET): Filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison has revealed that, in 2019, she travelled with Lizzo to direct her documentary. "I walked away after about two weeks," she wrote. "I was treated with such disrespect from her." Allison called the pop star "arrogant, self-centred and unkind," noting that this kind of abuse of power "happens far too often."

UPDATE (8/1, 4:44 p.m. ET): Another former backup dancer for Lizzo, Courtney Hollinquest, has clarified that she's not involved with the lawsuit — but voiced her support for it — on social media. "This was very much my experience in my time there," she wrote on her Instagram Story. "Big shoutout to the dancers who had the courage to bring this to light."

Her story was reposted by Lizzo's former creative director, Quinn Wilson, who added, "I haven't been apart [sic] of that world for around three years, for a reason. I very much applaud the dancers' courage to bring this to light."

The following article contains potentially triggering material relating to sexual assault and violence. If you believe you have experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct and are looking for support, consult the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime to find resources in your area.

The filing also accuses Shirlene Quigley, Lizzo's dance team captain, of attempting to convert other performers while mocking those who had had premarital sex and publicly discussing the virginity of one plaintiff. Quigley also allegedly shared lewd sexual fantasies and simulated oral sex around the dancers. The plaintiffs' lawyer, Ron Zambrano, said they believe Lizzo was aware of their complaints about the dance captain.

Quigley, Lizzo (born Melissa Viviane Jefferson) and her production company are all named as defendants in the suit, which also brings forth claims of racial and religious harassment, false imprisonment, interference with prospective economic advantage and more — although not every claim was brought against each defendant.

After an appearance at SXSW, plaintiff Arianna Davis was told by Lizzo and her choreographer that she seemed "less committed" to her role. The lawsuit describes the comment as a "thinly veiled" jab at Davis's weight.

Davis and another of the former dancers, Crystal Williams, were hired after competing on the musician's reality show, Watch Out for the Big Grrls, in 2021 before eventually being fired. The third, Noelle Rodriguez, was hired the same year after appearing in the "Rumors" music video. She resigned earlier this year.

It was also earlier in 2023 that the alleged incident at Bananenbar in Amsterdam took place following a performance. According to the lawsuit, Lizzo's afterparties are non-mandatory, but those who did attend were favoured by the singer and had greater job security.

At the strip club, Lizzo is accused of "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 reads, going on to claim that Davis was specifically targeted and pressured to touch one of the nude women's breasts.

Although the lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount, the plaintiffs are seeking damages to cover their emotional distress, including unpaid wages, loss of earnings and attorney's fees.

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