Popstar Lizzo took to social media on Thursday to deny claims made by three former dancers in a lawsuit this week that she sexually harassed and bullied them.
Former Lizzo Dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez allege sexual, religious, and racial harassment; disability discrimination; assault and false imprisonment, among other things. Specific accusations include Lizzo allegedly “pressuring” the dancers to go to a strip club in Amsterdam and touch naked performers on stage. Staff members of the touring company are being sued for allegedly making comments “charged with racial and fat-phobic animus.”
The suit also cites that two dancers were fired between April and May 2023, detailing one incident where Davis secretly recorded a meeting with Lizzo. The singer allegedly “became furious, hurling expletives at the group and stated that she was going to go around the room, person-by-person until someone told [her] who made the recording.”
In a post to Instagram, Lizzo said the suit’s accusations are lies.
“These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed,” Lizzo said in the statement. “These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
Lizzo added, “Sometimes I have to make hard decisions but it’s never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren’t valued as an important part of the team.”
The defendants in the lawsuit include Lizzo, who is referenced by her full name, Melissa Jefferson; her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc.; and Shirlene Quigley, the tour’s dance captain, who the plaintiffs say discriminated against them for their religious beliefs.
“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,” Lizzo’s statement said. “There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world. I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolutely never criticize or terminate an employee because of their weight.”
Lizzo concluded her statement writing, “I am not here to be looked at as a victim, but I also know I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days.”
Davis and Williams were contestants on Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls reality show on Prime Video. Rodriguez joined the dance team afterward.
In response to Lizzo’s post, the former dancer’s lawyer, Ron Zambrano, released a statement saying Lizzo has “failed.”
“Lizzo has failed her own brand and has let down her fans. Her denial of this reprehensible behavior only adds to our clients’ emotional distress. The dismissive comments and utter lack of empathy are quite telling about her character and only serve to minimize the trauma she has caused the plaintiffs and other employees who have now come forward sharing their own negative experiences. While Lizzo notes it was never her intention ‘to make anyone feel uncomfortable,’ that is exactly what she did to the point of demoralizing her dancers and flagrantly violating the law,” Zambrano said.
Oscar-nominated director Sophia Nahli Allison, best known for 2019’s A Love Song for Latasha, was originally attached to helm the Love, Lizzo documentary released on (née HBO) Max. She left the project, she said, because of the way Lizzo treated her.
Disability rights activist Ola Ojewumi also spoke about her experience with Lizzo.
“I hesitated to discuss my personal experience with her and her team at a concert. I was trampled by a man in my wheelchair at her DC show in 2017. They saw it and brought him on stage with her anyway," she tweeted.
She added, “Lizzo DM-ed me a standard legal note taking no responsibility denying she saw a man in platform heels climb on my legs while seated in my wheelchair. Her dancers pulled him off me and brought him on stage to dance with her. Lizzo said she’d meet me in DC and never followed through.”