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Singer Lizzo says she's 'not the villain' after her former dancers claim sex harassment

Lizzo has been sued by three former dancers who accuse the Grammy winner of sexual harassment - pictured here on stage at the United Center on 17 May 2023, in Chicago
Lizzo has been sued by three former dancers who accuse the Grammy winner of sexual harassment - pictured here on stage at the United Center on 17 May 2023, in Chicago Copyright Rob Grabowski/2023 Invision - AP
Copyright Rob Grabowski/2023 Invision - AP
By David MouriquandAP
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Lizzo has responded to her three former dancers who are accusing her of sexual harassment and are suing for damages over emotional distress, unpaid wages and disability discrimination.

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Celebrated US singer Lizzo has been sued by three former dancers who accuse the Grammy winner of sexual harassment and allege the singer and her production company created a hostile work environment.

The civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday 1 August in Los Angeles County Superior Court claims Lizzo pressured the dancers to engage with nude performers at a club in Amsterdam and shamed one of them for her weight gain before firing her.

“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,” Lizzo says in a statement posted on social media. 

“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.”

She continues, “These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticised." 

“I’m hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this" she added. 

What is Lizzo been sued for?

Amy Harris/2023 Invision
Lizzo performs at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival on 27 May 2023Amy Harris/2023 Invision

Plaintiffs Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez are suing for damages over emotional distress including unpaid wages, loss of earnings, and attorney’s fees, as well as make numerous charges including sexual, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment.

The legal complaint seeks unspecified damages and names Melissa Viviane Jefferson, known professionally as Lizzo, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., and Shirlene Quigley, captain of the performer’s dance team.

The court filing claims that after performing a concert in Amsterdam, Lizzo and her crew attended a sexually themed show at a club in the city's Red Light District where “Lizzo began inviting cast members to take turns touching the nude performers.” During the show, Lizzo led a chant pressuring Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club, the filing states.

“Finally, the chorus became overwhelming, and a mortified Ms. Davis acquiesced in an attempt to bring an end to the chants,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs were aghast with how little regard Lizzo showed for the bodily autonomy of her employees and those around her, especially in the presence of many people whom she employed.”

The lawsuit also claims Lizzo encouraged dancers to “catch dildos launched from the performers’ vaginas and eat bananas protruding from the performers’ vaginas.”

Lizzo, who routinely champions body positivity, is also accused of calling out Davis for her weight gain after accusing the dancer of not being committed to her role. Davis was fired in May for recording a meeting during which Lizzo had given out notes to dancers about their performances, according to the complaint.

Davis claims Lizzo was “relentless” in asking her to disclose which “personal issues” she was dealing with, and therefore, Davis disclosed that she was struggling with anxiety, depression, and had been diagnosed with binge eating disorder. 

Quigley, who served as a judge on the singer's reality show “Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” is accused in the lawsuit of pushing her Christian beliefs onto dancers. The court filing claims Quigley referred to Davis as a “non-believer" and told co-workers that “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.”

The plaintiffs also allege Lizzo and the production company team did not pay them fairly while on parts of Lizzo's European tour. They claim they were offered only 25% of their weekly compensatory pay during their time not performing on the tour, while other performers received 50% and they also claim they were told not to work on other projects while on tour.

Earlier this year, Lizzo won the Grammy for record of the year for her hit 'About Damn Time'. A global tour supporting her fourth studio album, 2022's 'Special', wrapped up last month.

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