Lizzo has spoken out in response to several of her tour dancers levelling allegations of sexual harassment against her, calling their claims “sensationalized stories”.
Earlier this week, a lawsuit filed by three of the singer’s tour dancers alleged that Lizzo had sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment through sexual, racial and religious harassment in various incidents between 2021 and 2023.
In a lengthy statement shared on social media on Thursday, Lizzo said the “last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing”.
“My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized,” she said, adding that she was only speaking out because “false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous not to be addressed.
“These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behaviour on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional,” she continued.
The 35-year-old emphasized it was never her “intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren’t valued as an important part of the team”.
“I am not here to be looked at as a victim, but I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days,” she said.
The lawsuit includes many claims, including that Lizzo allegedly pressured a dancer to touch a nude performer at a club and forced several dancers to take part in an “excruciating” 12-hour audition; it also alleges that the singer’s dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, pushed her Christian beliefs on performers and denigrated those who had premarital sex. The suit also says that Quigley simulated oral sex, talked about a performer’s virginity, and overshared “her masturbatory habits and sex life with her husband”.
The dancers also alleged they experienced racial harassment from Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc management, who “treated the Black members of the dance team differently than other members”.
In one particularly troubling passage, the suit describes a night at a club called Bananenbar, “where patrons are allowed to interact with completely nude performer”.
“While at Bananenbar, things quickly got out of hand. 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. Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms Davis and began pressuring Ms Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club,” the suit said. “Lizzo began leading a chant goading Ms Davis. Ms Davis said three times, loud enough for all to hear, ‘I’m good,’ expressing her desire not to touch the performer.”
The plaintiffs in the case are the dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, who are represented by lawyer Ron Zambrano.
Per the suit, Davis and Williams both competed on Lizzo’s 2021 Amazon reality show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, before performing alongside the star. Both were later fired.
Rodriguez, who resigned in 2022, was also hired in 2021 after performing in Lizzo’s video for Rumors.
Lizzo, whose legal name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc and Quigley are all labeled as defendants.
In a statement about the suit, Zambrano said: “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.”
Also on Thursday, Davis, Williams, and Rodriguez appeared on CNN This Morning alongside Zambrano and pushed back on Lizzo’s denial of wrongdoing. Davis specifically called the artist’s statement “so disheartening”.
“The facts are the facts,” Davis told host Phil Mattingly. “Was I pressured to touch a nude performer? Yes. Was I brought into a private meeting where I was kind of interrogated about my personal matters and ended up having to share very personal, personal things about myself regarding my weight? Yes … I mean, the list goes on.
“Were we pressured to do an excruciatingly long rehearsal that turned into a reaudition for the job that we already booked because, apparently, we weren’t doing good enough? Yes, that is true … During that excruciatingly long reaudition process, was I under the impression that if I left the stage I would be fired? Yes. Did I, unfortunately, go to the bathroom on myself at one stage because I was so terrified? Yes – … I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know anything, but I know that if you ask someone to tell the truth, these things will come out of her mouth,” she continued.