LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lizzo said she’s “not the villain” three of her former backup dancers falsely accuse her of being, in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
The civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles 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 said 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.”
Plaintiffs Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez made numerous allegations including sexual, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment. They accuse the Grammy winner and her production company of creating a hostile work environment.
The legal complaint seeks unspecified damages from 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.
“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 criticized,” Lizzo said in the statement. “Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed.”
She said the “sensationalized stories” were coming from former employees “who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
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 notorious Red Light District where “Lizzo began inviting cast members to take turns touching the nude performers” and led a chant pressuring Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club.
“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.”
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.
“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,” Lizzo said. “I’m hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this.”
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.”
Earlier this year, Lizzo won the Grammy for record of the year for her hit single “About Damn Time.” A global tour supporting her fourth studio album, 2022’s “Special,” wrapped up last month.