Former Dancers Sue Lizzo, Accusing Her Of Sexual Harassment And Forcing Cast Members To "Eat Bananas Protruding From Performers' Vaginas"

The queen of body positivity is apparently known for shaming her dancers' bodies and encouraging them to engage in toxic behavior.

By Gina Florio3 min read
Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer

In an unexpected turn of events, three former dancers of the popular musician Lizzo, known for her loud messages on body positivity and fat acceptance, have accused the singer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. This lawsuit, as reported on by NBC News, was filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and further alleges that she pressured one of the dancers to touch a nude performer in Amsterdam and subjected the group to a stressful audition on the back of false accusations about drinking while on the job.

Former Dancers Sue Lizzo, Accusing Her of Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Lizzo has long been known for her messages about body positivity and accepting your figure for the way it is now, rather than trying to change it. Her social media is often riddled with half-naked videos and photos of herself, which she pairs with a message about how women should feel confident in their own skin. Her new shapewear brand, Yitty, was supposedly designed to help women feel more comfortable with their physique. But she is now being sued by former dancers who claim that Lizzo has mistreated them in the past.

The plaintiffs in the suit are Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez, who have all previously performed with Lizzo. Their attorney, Ron Zambrano, shared the lawsuit with NBC News. It targets not only Lizzo, whose legal name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, but also her production company and her dance captain, Shirlene Quigley.

Among the allegations are accusations of religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, interference with prospective economic advantage, and more, with the lawsuit stating, "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."

Specifically, the dancers allege that Lizzo called attention to Davis's weight after a performance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival, which they argue amounts to weight-shaming. Lizzo and her choreographer subsequently told Davis that she seemed “less committed” to her role — a comment interpreted by the plaintiffs as an attack on Davis' weight.

The suit also highlights an incident in an Amsterdam club, Bananenbar, where Lizzo allegedly encouraged cast members to engage in explicit activities with nude performers. The dancers were pressured into attending these events with the understanding that their job security was linked to participation, leading to a situation where Davis was pressured into touching a performer despite her initial refusals.

A later club invite by Lizzo was likewise framed as an opportunity to be inspired by a performance, with the suit alleging that Lizzo failed to disclose the event was a nude cabaret bar, effectively robbing the dancers of their choice to not participate. One particularly troubling claim in the suit relates to the dance captain, Quigley, who is accused of proselytizing her Christian beliefs to the performers, discussing the virginity of one of the plaintiffs, and simulating oral sex.

The racial harassment claim is linked to comments made by touring company employees which were deemed racially charged and fat-phobic, the suit states. This came after the dancers requested to be compensated for their downtime at a rate 50% of their weekly pay, leading to a condescending response and a lower offer.

Two of the dancers were fired in April and May, and Rodriguez resigned after feeling disrespected by Lizzo during a meeting. Williams was fired after she challenged Lizzo's accusation that the dancers were drinking before performances. Davis, fearing job loss, recorded one of the meetings due to a health condition that left her disoriented in stressful situations. She was subsequently fired by Lizzo after admitting to making the recording.

The suit alleges false imprisonment against Lizzo’s production company because a security member allegedly forced Davis to stay in the room after the meeting so he could search her phone for the video. It does not specify a dollar amount for damages, but claims include emotional distress, unpaid wages, loss of earnings, and attorney’s fees. Lizzo's representatives have not yet spoken publicly about this lawsuit.

It's ironic that Lizzo is receiving these accusations, as she has created an entire persona and brand around celebrating women's bodies, even if they are morbidly obese. Lizzo's "Big Grrrls" dance search in 2020 was an initiative to find and celebrate talented plus-sized dancers. She announced a casting call through her social media, seeking full-figured dancers and models to join her performance team, affectionately named the "Big Grrrls." The initiative was not just about finding dancers for her shows but also about supposedly promoting body positivity and inclusivity in the entertainment industry. But her former dancers claim that this is not actually Lizzo's goal in the end, and in fact it seems as though she and her team would rather treat their employees with disdain and disrespect.

The internet is having a field day with this development, pointing out how hypocritical the whole situation is, considering Lizzo's size. Many people are pointing out that she perpetually pretends to be the victim online when it turns out that she may actually be the bully. It certainly wouldn't be the first time this has happened (ahem, Chrissy Teigen).

"Carbs for me, but not for thee," @harmfulopinion tweeted in response to the news.

Once again, Lizzo proves that the body positivity movement has nothing to do with empowering women or making them feel more confident about their bodies. It's all about making profit, gaining clicks and views, and feigning compassion. At the end of the day, most people touting fat acceptance and body positivity tend to be the most unkind to women.

Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.