Lizzo's Ex Backup Dancers Address Her Response to Lawsuit: '[She's] Essentially Gaslighting Us' (Exclusive)

The three dancers who have filed a lawsuit against Lizzo discuss the singer's recent response to their claims.

The three dancers who have filed a lawsuit against Lizzo are addressing her response to their allegations.

On Thursday afternoon, ET spoke with Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, the former backup dancers who filed a lawsuit against the 35-year-old GRAMMY winner, her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. (BGBT), and Shirlene Quigley, the captain of her dance team.

"I think for me; it's just very interesting to be so open and genuine about the trauma that we experienced and to be open about the hurt that she caused us, for her to [respond back by] essentially gaslighting us," Williams tells ET's Denny Directo about the singer's statement published to Instagram on Thursday morning. 

She continues, "She never acknowledged any of the claims [directly] that we have brought forward to the table. And so for it to be met with that, it just kind of solidifies the pattern that every time we bring up an issue, every time we advocate for ourselves, every time we speak up for ourselves, we're met with retaliation instead of 'OK, you experienced this. As an artist and what I represent, I don't want you to feel like I don't care about you. I don't want you to feel like I don't want to include you. I don't want you to feel like I'm body-shaming you. If this is what you're feeling, I might completely disagree with you but, I can at least try to hear you out to see how we can go moving forward.'"

"But we weren't met with that," Williams laments. "We were constantly being gaslit, and she's constantly deflecting. So it just further proves our point and solidifies the claims that we're making."

According to court docs filed on Tuesday and obtained by ET, the trio claim they faced sexual harassment, as well as religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment, among other allegations. Davis, Williams and Rodriguez are asking the courts for damages, including unpaid wages, loss of earnings, deferred compensation, employment benefit, emotional distress, medical expenses and attorneys' fees.

In her statement, Lizzo called the allegations "outrageous" and "sensationalized."

"These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing," the singer wrote on Thursday. "My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized."

She added, "It's never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren't valued as an important part of the team." 

Saying she didn't want to be viewed as a "victim," Lizzo added, "I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days." 

Despite embracing being "very open with my sexuality," Lizzo shared, "There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world."

"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," said the singer, who is known for her messages of body positivity. 

Lizzo concluded the post by thanking those who have shown her support and vowing, "I will not let the good work I've done in the world be overshadowed by this." 

The women's attorney, Ron Zambrano tells ET that he believes Lizzo's statement is both a public admission that supports his clients' claims as well as a failed defense.

"Part of her statement [was] like, 'You know [I'm] very open about my sexuality,' which I thought that was an odd thing to say when you're talking about allegations [concerning] such blatant sexual conduct. So it's kind of she's [saying], 'Listen, I'm sexual and I told you about it, so you have to deal with it,' right? It's about her," he says. "And I also think it's a failure because she had the opportunity to be like, 'My brand is about inclusivity [and] empathy, and I empathize with these women's feelings even though I disagree with our versions of the same event.'"

For those who may be skeptical of their claims, Davis says she understands finding it all hard to believe, considering Lizzo's reputation for being a source of love and light in the face of negativity in the media.

"I know that it's outrageous to hear this, I know Lizzo said it herself; it's outrageous. It's so outrageous to not address," Davis notes, asking that critics take a moment to "put yourself in our shoes."

She adds, "We have trained our entire lives to be a dancer, we train like athletes but we also have to have the creative freedom of an artist and then we are seen in this industry as people who don't even deserve to be paid for what they do. It's hard, we fight tooth and nail to get paid. It's a whole thing. So imagine that and then being put in this environment and your hero, or someone you looked up to, not being who they say they are but then continuing to be looked at as this amazing person and knowing that it's all performative."

Calling it the "most excruciating pain to be silenced," Davis -- who alleges that during an "excruciating" 12-hour rehearsal where dancers were made to re-audition for their spots, she was so fearful she'd lose her job if she went to the bathroom that she soiled her pants -- asks for the public to consider her position as "a grown woman that was pushed to the point of going to the bathroom [on] myself in the middle of a rehearsal."

"You have to think to yourself, how much abuse did it take to get there?," she muses. "So I mean, just take a moment and put yourselves in our shoes and please just have empathy."

According to the court documents, Davis and Williams met the "Truth Hurts" singer while preparing to be contestants on her Emmy-winning reality TV show, Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, in March 2021. When filming began five months later, they met Quigley for the first time.

"Ms. Quigley was not only vocal about her religious belief but took every opportunity to proselytize to any and all in her presence regardless of protestations. Ms. Quigley discovered that Ms. Davis was a virgin and Ms. Davis' virginity became a topic of extreme importance to Ms. Quigley," the lawsuit claims, additionally alleging that Quigley mentioned Davis' virginity in conversations, in interviews and on social media.

When Davis and Williams were selected for the dance team, they began working closely with Quigley, who allegedly continued preaching Christianity and sexuality, while discussing her masturbatory habits and sex life with her husband, the suit alleges.

As for Rodriguez, she was hired in May 2021 for Lizzo's music video and remained on as part of the dance team. The lawsuit alleges that Quigley singled out Rodriguez as a "non-believer.''

When the U.S. tour wrapped in November 2022, the women claim they asked to be paid at 50 percent of their working rate until the European leg of the tour began three months later. The suit claims that the women were offered 25 percent by BGBT and Lizzo, and were told they participated in "unacceptable and disrespectful behavior while on tour," though specifics of such behavior were allegedly never explained.

Meanwhile, Lizzo's attorney, Marty Singer, calls the lawsuit "specious and without merit."

"Evidence of this being a sham lawsuit is confirmed by one of the plaintiffs Ariana Davis in her own words in her video interview for Season 2 of Watch Out for the Big Grrrls in April 2023, which she made after the European Tour, after virtually all of her alleged claims referred to in her lawsuit had already occurred," he tells ET. "Notwithstanding her claims in the lawsuit that it was so horrible to work with Lizzo as a dancer, after being on tour with Lizzo, she actually auditioned to continue working with Lizzo as a singer on an upcoming tour as part of a girl group."

In the video, obtained by ET and first TMZ, Davis gushes over Lizzo and pitches herself as a singer after serving as the star's backup dancer. She says she's auditioning for season 2 of the Prime Video reality series after working with Lizzo for "close to a year now."

"It's been so amazing and such a beautiful journey," Davis says. "My voice has gone quiet for too long and I think that I have a story that people need to hear because I think they can relate to it and it can help change lives and do what Lizzo is doing! I look up to her so much... I just want to follow in her footsteps, and I just want to share that with the Queen Lizzo herself."

According to Singer, the video was shot after the European leg of Lizzo's tour and season 1 of Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, which is also after the alleged incidents in which Davis claims Lizzo pressured her to "touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club" after tricked them into going to a nude cabaret bar, thus "robbing them of the choice not to participate."

It was also filmed after Davis alleges Lizzo and choreographer Tanisha Scott accused her of not being committed to her role and weight-shamed her, and she was fired "for innocently recording a meeting the dancers had with Lizzo about their performances," something she says she did because she suffers from an eye condition that sometimes leaves her disoriented in stressful situations, the suit alleges. Davis additionally alleges that she was "detained in the room where the meeting had taken place by a member of Lizzo's security detail" so he could search for the video on her phone.

"These do not sound like the words of someone who was harassed or discriminated against by someone they described as 'THE QUEEN,'" Singer declares. "They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and here a video shows that there are no legitimate claims in this lawsuit. We are confident that Lizzo will be completely vindicated in this matter."

Davis reiterates her written statement in response to the video's release, telling ET that Singer is being misleading when it comes to the date of the video's filming. 

"That video was shot and submitted for Watch Out For The Big Grrls [season 2] before the majority of the claims that we are alleging," she says. "It's disappointing because just from [the] outside looking into their damage's like he's grasping at straws to state lies about the timeline of things just to kind of discount and victim-blame us. it's really upsetting."

She continues to say that the video is evidence to how much she wanted to "please" Lizzo, saying she had been told that she wasn't "good enough" as a dancer and wanted to be better for the singer by offering her services as a backup singer. 

"I was still trying to please her and make her think that I was good enough," she continues. "Of course I said I had a beautiful journey, who's gonna say [differently], especially when you're in the situation and you're still trying to save your livelihood?"

After news of the lawsuit broke, more of Lizzo's former dancers spoke out on social media in support of Davis, Williams and Rodriguez.

On her Instagram Story, Courtney Hollinquest shared a screenshot of a news article about the lawsuit before addressing it directly on the next slide.

"I'm not a part of the lawsuit -- but this was very much my experience in my time there," she wrote. "Big shoutout to the dancers who had the courage to bring this to light."

Quinn Wilson shared Hollinquest's post on her own Story, writing, "I haven't been a part of that world for around three years, for a reason. I very much applaude [sic] the dancers' courage to bring this to light. And I grieve parts of my own experience. I'd appreciate space to understand my feelings."

Hollinquest reposted Wilson's message, calling her fellow dancer "my sister forever."

"Only a few know what we've been through... love u Quinn," she wrote.