Lizzo performs in front of backup dancers.

Former Lizzo Dancers Are Suing Over Alleged Sexual Harassment and Other Claims

Lizzo is making headlines today for the worst reason. According to NBC News, three of her former dancers are filing suit against the singer, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, and her dance captain Shirlene Quigley for a variety of issues including creating a hostile work environment; sexual, religious, and racial harassment; false imprisonment; body-shaming and more. Although the suit names three defendants, not every claim is brought against each of them.

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The dancers named in the suit are Watch Out for the Big Grrrls alumni Crystal Williams and Arianna Davis, both of whom were fired on separate occasions, as well as Noelle Rodriguez, who was hired the same year after performing in the video for “Rumors” and resigned earlier this year.

“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,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ron Zambrano, in a statement.

What are the claims against Lizzo?

Lizzo and her choreographer allegedly body-shamed Davis after a performance at SXSW, which was the first of many problems to come for the dancer. According to the lawsuit, Lizzo later pressured Davis into physically interacting with a nude performer at an Amsterdam burlesque club after she repeatedly declined. During an “excruciating” 12-hour rehearsal after Lizzo accused the dancers of drinking before performances in April, David was allegedly so scared of losing her job that she soiled her pants rather than ask to go to the restroom. Following that, she says she was provided with a see-through ensemble with no undergarments in which she was expected to finish performing.

Following that rehearsal, which Lizzo said was a new audition for them all, Williams responded to repeated claims from the singer that dancers were drinking on the job. Five days later, on April 26, Williams was fired by Lizzo’s tour manager in a hotel lobby. According to the lawsuit, her dismissal was attributed to “budget cuts,” but no one else was let go.

Rodriguez complained about Williams’s firing to the tour manager, leading to an all-hands meeting with Lizzo the following day during which the singer “repeatedly” brought up the complaint. Davis, who has an eye condition that caused disorientation when she was stressed, recorded the April 27th meeting. This led to an additional, “emergency” meeting held days later in which Lizzo had security confiscate all of the dancers’ phones.

“Lizzo became furious, hurling expletives at the group and stated that she was going to go around the room, person-by-person until someone told Lizzo who made the recording,” according to the suit. When Davis said she recorded the meeting and had since deleted the video, Lizzo allegedly said, “There is nothing you can say to make me believe you.” The suit claims Davis was berated by both Lizzo and Quigley, who in addition to her dance captain duties had served as a judge on Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. Davis was then fired in front of the rest of the dancers.

After the meeting, Davis was allegedly held in the room by security so her phone could be thoroughly searched for the video, which is the basis for the “false imprisonment” allegation in the lawsuit. Also after the meeting, Rodriguez resigned, saying she felt disrespected, to which Lizzo allegedly responded by “cracking her knuckles” and “balling her fists,” then hurled an expletive at Rodriguez as she walked away.

What are the allegations against Shirlene Quigley?

In addition to claims brought against Lizzo and her production company, dance captain Quigley is accused of frequently proselytizing her Christian beliefs to dancers, then pressuring those—like Rodriguez—whom she considered to be “non-believers.” According to the lawsuit, when dancers asked her to specifically stop pressuring Rodriguez, Quigley responded, “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.”

The suit claims that Quigley derided anyone who had premarital sex while also sharing her own sexual fantasies, which included simulating oral sex. Additionally, Quigley spoke publicly about Davis’s virginity after learning of it, going so far as to mention it in interviews and talk about it on social media.

What happens next?

In addition to all of the above, the suit also claims that when dancers asked the production company for 50 percent of their weekly pay for downtime, an accountant allegedly replied with an offer of 25 percent and a comment about the dancers being “unacceptable and disrespectful” for their request. The suit says that only dancers, all “full-figured women of color—were ever spoken to in this manner.” The suit seeks damages of an unspecified amount for emotional distress, unpaid wages, loss of earnings, and attorney’s fees.

NBC News reached out for comments from Lizzo, her production company, and Quigley, but did not receive responses as of Tuesday afternoon. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday morning, meaning it will likely make headlines for some time. Hopefully, these dancers get everything they’re owed and significant changes are made for those remaining in Lizzo’s employment.

(featured image: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)


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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.