Lizzo's Former Dancers Claim They Were Weight-Shamed, Faced Sexual and Racial Harassment

The lawsuit alleges that dancers faced sexual, religious and racial harassment.

Lizzo's former dancers have filed a lawsuit against her. According court docs obtained by ET, Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez claim they faced sexual, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment, among other allegations.

The women filed the lawsuit against Lizzo, whose legal name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. (BGBT), and Shirlene Quigley, the captain of Lizzo's dance team. ET has reached out to Lizzo's rep, as well as BGBT and Quigley, for comment.

"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," the women's attorney, Ron Zambrano, said in a press release.

According to the documents, Davis and Williams met Lizzo while preparing to be contestants on her 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.

The suit additionally alleges that, as part of the show, Davis and Williams were told they'd be doing a nude photoshoot, which was "particularly distressing" to the women.

"Ms. Davis broke down in tears on set while struggling to choose between a once in a lifetime career opportunity and putting her body on display against her will," the lawsuit claims. "This experience foreshadowed the sexually charged and uncomfortable environment Lizzo's employees would be forced to endure."

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 told they participated in "unacceptable and disrespectful behavior while on tour," though specifics of such behavior were allegedly never explained.

When the group traveled to Amsterdam for a show, the suit alleges that Lizzo invited the dancers to the Red Light District, and claims they went on the outing out of fear of losing their jobs.

"The main event of the night was a club called Bananenbar, where patrons are allowed to interact with completely nude performers. While at Bananenbar, things quickly got out of hand," the lawsuit claims. "Lizzo began inviting cast members to take turns touching the nude performers, catching dildos launched from the performers' vaginas, and eating bananas protruding from the performers' vaginas."

"Lizzo then turned her attention to Ms. Davis and began pressuring Ms. Davis to touch the breasts of one of the nude women performing at the club," the suit alleges. "Lizzo began leading a chant goading Ms. Davis. Ms. Davis said three times, loud enough for all to hear, 'I'm good,' expressing her desire not to touch the performer."

Davis eventually acquiesced, fearing it may harm her future on the team, the suit claims.

Later that night, the women allege, Lizzo badgered a member of her security team to get on stage where she pulled down his pants and hit him with whips, yelling "Take it off!"

A week later after performing a show in Paris, the women allege Lizzo again invited the dancers out and tricked them into going to a nude cabaret bar, thus "robbing them of the choice not to participate," the suit claims.

Months later, after BGBT agreed to the dancers' 50 percent request, the relationship between management and the dancers allegedly became very strained.

"BGBT management treated the Black members of the dance team differently than other members," the lawsuit claims. "BGBT's management team consisted entirely of white Europeans who often accused the Black members of the dance team of being lazy, unprofessional, and having bad attitudes."

"Only the dance cast -- comprised of full-figured women of color -- were ever spoken to in this manner," the suit alleges, "giving Plaintiffs the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic animus."

Shortly thereafter, Davis claims that Lizzo and choreographer Tanisha Scott accused her of not being committed to her role.

"Lizzo's and Ms. Scott's questions about Ms. Davis' commitment to the tour were thinly veiled concerns about Ms. Davis' weight gain, which Lizzo had previously called attention to after noticing it at the South by Southwest music festival," the suit claims. "Although Lizzo and Ms. Scott never explicitly stated it, these questions, accompanied by Lizzo's statements made after the South by Southwest music festival, gave Ms. Davis the impression that she needed to explain her weight gain and disclose intimate personal details about her life in order to keep her job."

Then, the suit alleges, came an "excruciating" 12-hour rehearsal where dancers were made to re-audition for their spots. Davis was so fearful she'd lose her job if she went to the bathroom that she soiled her pants, the suit claims.

Not long later Williams was fired in a hotel lobby "under the guise of budget cuts," the suit claims.

Next, Davis 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.

Rodriguez was so bothered by how Williams and Davis were treated that she resigned, according to the suit.

"Lizzo aggressively approached Ms. Rodriquez, cracking her knuckles, balling her fists, and exclaiming, 'You're lucky. You're so f**king lucky!'" the suit claims, before additionally alleging, "Ms. Rodriguez feared that Lizzo intended to hit her and would have done so if one of the other dancers had not intervened. Neither security nor management did anything to de-escalate the situation. As Lizzo left the room, she raised both her middle fingers and yelled, 'Bye, bitch!'"

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.

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.

Bethany Holloway, Hollinquest's mom, also addressed the situation on her Instagram Story, writing, "As her parents on the receiving end of the phone calls during all those years I can unequivocally confirm that the mental abuse our daughter was put through was and still is traumatic. We are proud of her for undergoing therapy to work through her past with this individual."