The Lizzo allegations and fallout

Unpacking the claims against the singer and ongoing backlash

The singer has been accused of sexual harassment and creating a toxic workplace.
(Image credit: Dave Simpson / WireImage)

Three of Lizzo's former dancers have come forward to level some serious allegations against her. The "Truth Hurts" singer is facing a damning lawsuit that alleges sexual harassment, fat-shaming, and more. Since the claims were made public, several other people have spoken out to allege they had similar experiences, and Lizzo has broken her silence to address the scandal.

What has Lizzo been accused of?

Three former dancers for Lizzo — Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis, and Noelle Rodriguez — sued the singer in Los Angeles, accusing her of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, per Deadline. The lawsuit names Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson, as a defendant, as well as production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. and dance captain Shirlene Quigley. Williams and Davis were contestants on Lizzo's reality show "Watch Out for the Big Grrrls," while Rodriguez was initially hired for Lizzo's "Rumors" music video.

The dancers were "exposed to an overtly sexual atmosphere that permeated their workplace" throughout their employment, the suit alleges. In one incident after a 2023 show in Amsterdam, Lizzo allegedly invited the dancers to a strip club, where she "hounded her employees to engage with nude performers" and "catch dildos ejected from performers' vaginas." She allegedly pressured Davis to touch a nude performer and "badgered" a security guard "to get on the club's stage," where his pants were pulled down. On another occasion, Lizzo allegedly invited dancers out but failed to mention they were going to a nude cabaret bar. Additionally, Davis and Williams claim they were "pressured to participate in a nude photoshoot" on "Watch Out for the Big Grrrls."

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The plaintiffs also allege dance captain Shirlene Quigley "took every opportunity to proselytize" about her religious beliefs, "routinely" brought up Davis' virginity, and made people uncomfortable with "sexually inappropriate behavior," including by simulating oral sex on a banana and "sharing her masturbatory habits with the dance cast." Dancers were made uncomfortable by sexually inappropriate interactions with tour bus drivers, but "nothing was done" about this, the suit goes on to allege. The management at Big Grrrl Big Touring also "treated the Black members of the dance team differently than other members," the plaintiffs claim.

What else?

After accusing dancers of drinking before shows in April 2023, the lawsuit alleges Lizzo made them go through an "excruciating re-audition" lasting almost 12 hours, during which they weren't allowed a break, and Davis "lost control of her bladder" but continued "dancing in soiled clothes" because she was afraid she would be fired if she left the stage. Lizzo and choreographer Tanisha Scott allegedly expressed "thinly veiled concerns about" Davis' weight gain, "which Lizzo had previously called attention to." (Davis told TMZ that Lizzo said she was "worried about" her when the only way she was noticeably different was that she gained weight, and Lizzo allegedly said during a meeting, "You know, dancers get fired for gaining weight.")

In May 2023, Lizzo allegedly became "furious" and began "hurling expletives" after learning someone recorded a meeting. After Davis admitted it was her — the suit states she makes audio recordings to review later because she becomes "disoriented in stressful situations" due to an eye condition — Lizzo allegedly fired her. Williams, meanwhile, was fired "under the guise of 'budget cuts,'" while Rodriguez resigned after objecting to how Lizzo handled the situation with Davis, according to the lawsuit. After she did so, Lizzo allegedly "aggressively approached" Rodriguez while "cracking her knuckles" and "balling her fists," so Rodriguez "feared that Lizzo intended to hit her and would have done so if one of the other dancers had not intervened."

Has anyone else backed up the allegations?

Shortly after news of the lawsuit broke, dancer Courtney Hollinquest shared the allegations on Instagram, clarifying that she is not part of the suit but saying "this was very much my experience in my time there." Hollinquest also applauded "the dancers who had the courage to bring this to light."

Lizzo's former creative director, Quinn Wilson, also shared the story on social media, writing that she hasn't been part of "that world for around three years, for a reason." Wilson added, "I very much [applaud] the dancers' courage to bring this to light. And I grieve parts of my own experience."

Director Sophia Nahli Allison additionally alleged on Instagram that she traveled with Lizzo in 2019 to be the director of a documentary for the singer but "walked away after about 2 weeks" after being "treated with such disrespect" by her. "I witnessed how arrogant, self-centered, and unkind she is," Allison wrote, adding that she was "not protected and was thrown into a s--tty situation with little support" and "felt gaslit." Allison also said that "reading these reports made me realize how dangerous of a situation it was," and "this kind of abuse of power happens far too often."

In a follow-up post on her Instagram story, Allison said that since she spoke out, she has "had others privately share their very similar experiences" and has also "been affirmed by people who witnessed what I went through." She added, "Lizzo creates an extremely toxic and hostile working environment and undermines the work, labor, and authority of other Black and brown womxn in the process." She is also a "narcissistic bully and has built her brand off of lies," Allison claimed.

In a concert hours after the lawsuit was made public, Beyoncé seemed to omit Lizzo's name during a performance of "Break My Soul (Queen's Remix)," which fans saw as a potential response to the claims. TMZ also resurfaced a video of Lizzo talking about wanting to go to a live Amsterdam sex show in a 2019 radio interview, seemingly fitting with that claim in the suit.

How has Lizzo responded?

In a statement on Thursday, Lizzo responded to the "false allegations," calling them "as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed."

She said the claims were being made by "former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional," continuing that she is "very open with my sexuality and expressing myself" but "cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not." Lizzo also refuted the fat-shaming allegation. "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," she said.

"I'm hurt but I will not let the good work I've done in the world be overshadowed by this," Lizzo added.

Dance captain Shirlene Quigley also posted an Instagram video telling followers that "God is so, so good." While she didn't address any of the lawsuit's claims, she added that she had "such an amazing time on tour."

The plaintiffs told CNN this response was "incredibly frustrating," while attorney Neama Rahmani told Deadline, "Given Lizzo is denying that any of this happened, let's take it to trial."

For Lizzo fans, the allegations have hit hard especially given she is a celebrated advocate for body positivity, raising the question of whether her reputation can recover. "Everything that she stands for as an artist is a big reason as to why people stand behind her as much as they do," Williams told CBS News, adding that she couldn't "sit with" the fact that Lizzo was "contradicting everything that she stands for behind the scenes."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.