Practice what you preach: Can Lizzo’s reputation recover from the sexual harassment lawsuit?

Lizzo has already received celebrity backlash and her silence on the accusations by former dancers does not help her cause
Lizzo has already received celebrity backlash and her silence on the accusations by former dancers does not help her cause Copyright AP
By David Mouriquand
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Beyoncé has already 'weighed in' and Lizzo's silence on the matter is only making things worse. What's at stake for Lizzo and will fans be able to stand by the artist?

Pour one out for Lizzo’s PR team, because the situation doesn’t look good right now.


The celebrated US singer, who is known as an outspoken advocate for body positivity and self-love, has yet to publicly comment on the accusations levelled against her by some of her former dancers, who are suing the pop star for sexual, religious and racial harassment, as well as fat-shaming.

They have also claimed that they are not alone, and that others are scared to speak out.

While not dignifying allegations of the sort with a response might often be a tactic, the longer Lizzo waits to make an official comment, the worse it becomes and the more glaring the hypocrisy seems.

Considering the 35-year-old singer’s self-love mantras (“Thick thighs save lives”; “If I’m shining, everybody gonna shine”, to name but a few) and lyrics celebrating inclusivity and body positivity have cast her as something of a progressive spokesperson for a positive culture linked to self-care, fans are understandably shocked.

Will they be able to stand by her?

Harmful accusations

Arianna Davis, 24, and Crystal Williams, 26, said they had filed the claim hoping to prevent colleagues from suffering. Both toured with Lizzo - who’s real name is Melissa Jefferson - after featuring on her Amazon Prime Show, but say they were subsequently sacked.

In the legal claim, Davis alleges she was pressured to attend sex shows while on tour in Europe with the star, even though it was against her religious beliefs.

She also alleges that earlier this year Lizzo organised a night out for the dancers in a strip club in Amsterdam and said she felt pressured into touching a naked performer's breasts.

She went on to say that "nobody speaks up because they're so scared for their jobs," adding: "I was terrified for my job."

Davis also claims Lizzo had implied the dancer had gained weight. In the legal documents, the same dancer also claimed Lizzo weight-shames dancers behind the scenes.

The two dancers, along with a third former dancer, 25-year-old Noelle Rodriguez - who resigned over the alleged treatment of the other two - filed a lawsuit against Lizzo, her production company and her dance captain Shirlene Quigley for allegedly creating a hostile work environment; which included sexual harassment, fat-shaming, and accusations of drinking before the shows. 

AP Photo
Lizzo: a “narcissistic bully”AP Photo

“A narcissistic bully”: Celebrity backlash

It remains to be seen whether fans will stand for it. Beyoncé, for her part, seems to have made a statement of her own.

She ‘responded’ to the lawsuit by dropping Lizzo’s name from the list of past and present music icons she names in her song, 'Break My Soul (The Queens Remix)', which she regularly performs on her Renaissance Tour.

In the original lyrics, Beyoncé mentions Lizzo alongside other music industry stars, singing: “Betty Davis / Solange Knowles / Badu / Lizzo / Kelly Rowl’.”

Now, videos have been circulating online after her show on 1 August, with fans noticing that Lizzo’s name had been dropped from the song, replaced by Erykah Badu’s.

There’s also filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison, whose short film A Love Song for Latasha (2019) was nominated at the Oscars for best documentary short subject, who revealed on her social media pages that she exited her role as the director of a Lizzo documentary in 2019 after only two weeks because she “was treated with such disrespect” by the Grammy-winning pop star.


Allison’s post went live several hours after the former dancers filed the lawsuit against the singer.

“I usually do not comment on anything pop culture related,” Allison wrote in her post. “But, in 2019, I travelled a bit with Lizzo to be the director of her documentary. I walked away after about two weeks. I was treated with such disrespect by her. I witnessed how arrogant and unkind she is. I was not protected and was thrown into a shitty situation with little support. My spirit said to run as fast as you fucking can and I’m so grateful I trusted by gut. I felt gaslit and was deeply hurt but I’ve healed.”

She continued by saying that “reading these reports made me realize how dangerous of a situation it was,” she added. “This kind of abuse of power happens far too often. Much love and support to the dancers.”

Allison later posted a second Instagram story where she elaborated on her claims against Lizzo, claiming the singer “creates an extremely toxic and hostile working environment and undermines the work, labor and authority of other Black and brown women in the process.” 

She added that Lizzo is a “narcissistic bully” who “has built her brand off lies.”


Can Lizzo recover from these accusations?

The allegations have already damaged Lizzo’s public image.

While it is vital that no one draws any iron-cast conclusions regarding these accusations just yet, as they remain allegations that have not been tested in court, huge doubt has been cast on the singer’s tailored brand of “self-love” empowerment.

Indeed, the accusations (and the celebrity reactions) give the impression, especially with Lizzo’s deafening silence on the matter, that she contradicts behind the scenes everything she supposedly ‘stood for’ in front of the cameras and audiences. And because her brand has been built on self-love, the disconnect feels stronger, and the fall even more spectacular. 

Right now, Lizzo finds herself in a similar position to Ellen, whose brand of “Be kind” was destroyed by bullying accusations.

Should the allegations be proven, and Lizzo revealed to not practice what she has been preaching, her empowerment anthems will be tarnished and relegated to cynically strategic platitudes to better promote a brand. Nothing more.

Worse though, because she has cast herself as an advocate of the body positivity movement, there is a genuine risk that these allegations will harm the cause and give trolls the window they need to declare open season on a cause and people who deserve a better representative.

With this in mind, there is one verse, off of 2021’s ‘Rumors’, that seems a little damning in light of the lawsuit: “Had to cut some hoes loose / NDA, no loose lips / Now them hoes tryna sue me / Bitch, I don’t give two shits”.

Right now, Lizzo should be giving a shit. Two shits, in fact. 

These accusations go beyond her celebrity image. And her fans are waiting for a response.

Additional sources • Variety

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