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Three Dancers Sue Lizzo for Sexual Harassment and Creating a Hostile Environment

Updated: Jul 5

The “Truth Hurts” singer, her production company, and her dance captain face a lawsuit that features countless allegations, prompting a statement from both the singer and dance captain.

Lizzo, Arianna Davis, Noelle Rodriguez, amd Crystal Williams posing for photos posted on their respective Instagram pages
Lizzo has built her platform on body positivity and bringing positivity in general to the music industry. Due to this, such allegations come as a shock (Photo Courtesy: @aridavis5678 on Instagram/@freakin_noelle on Instagram/@cryssiedenise on Instagram/ @lizzobeeating on Instagram)

Three of Lizzo’s former dancers filed a lawsuit against the singer for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

Lizzo, real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson, along with her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring (BGBT) and the singer’s dance captain Shirlene Quigley were named in the civil lawsuit. The plaintiffs featured Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, two of which came from Jefferson’s Amazon Prime show, “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.”

The suit alleges that Quigley not only stated sexually charged statements that made the dancers uncomfortable, her religion also became a point of discomfort.

“Despite her staunch beliefs in opposition to pre-marital sex, she had no problem sharing her masturbatory habits with the dance cast, often stating things to the effect, ‘Masturbating is against my religion, [but today] I had an oopsie.’ Ms. Quigley’s sexually explicit comments were so pervasive the entire dance team knew about her sexual fantasy of having ten penises in her face,” the suit read.

Quigley’s pervasive nature didn’t stop there as she began to focus on Davis’ virginity. During the filming of “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrl,” Quigley found out that Davis was a virgin. She would routinely bring up the subject in conversations with Davis as well as in interviews.

She eventually posted about Davis’ virginity to social media, broadcasting the topic in such a public manner. The suit alleges that Davis didn’t give Quigley permission to post about the topic to social media.

Her alleged sexual statements and her focus on Davis’s virginity were often intertwined with her stances in religion.

“…Ms. Quigley thought the only way one could be a proper Christian was through similar abstinence. Ms Quigley also singled out Ms. Rodriguez as a ‘non-believer,’ and made it her mission to preach at Ms. Rodriguez,” the suit read.

Quigley told the other dancers about her plans to minister to Rodriguez. Once she found out about Quigley’s plan, Rodriguez asked the dance captain to refrain from preaching and ministering.

Quigley’s alleged religious crusade didn’t end there as she asked about Davis’ religious beliefs ahead of a show during Jefferson’s “The Special Tour.” When Davis expressed different beliefs than Quigley, the dance captain became visibly upset. The suit alleges that Quigley expected complete conformity to her beliefs.

In another instance, the dance team would pray together before each rehearsal and performance. Even though these prayers weren’t “an official requirement,” it soon became clear that these prayers were mandatory.

Not only were the dancers subject to uncomfortable sexual situations and religious ministry, they were persuaded not to take work outside of the tour or the business of Lizzo in general.

Around May 2021, Rodriguez was hired by Jefferson and BGBT to participate in the singer’s “Rumors” music video. She later remained with the performance group to support Jefferson in her live performances.

Rodriguez was approached for another job opportunity, though, it would have conflicted with rehearsals for live shows and tour. When these shows were postponed, Rodriguez approached Jefferson’s tour manager, Carolina Gugliotta, about the one-day opportunity.

“Ms. Gugliotta responded, ‘Do you want the job or not?’ Implying that if Ms. Rodriguez wanted to keep her position as a tour dancer, she could not take any other position,” the suit alleged.

This was the case for all of the dancers as they weren’t able to take other jobs, even during the break between the North American and European legs of the tour. BGBT put the dancers on a “soft hold,” meaning they weren’t paid during this break nor could they take on other opportunities.

Dancers learned that the musicians and other members of the tour were on a retainer, meaning they were paid a portion of their rate during breaks. Going into the European leg of the tour, dancers discussed how they would negotiate a retainer for themselves.

Around March 9, 2023, they submitted their request for a retainer of 50 percent of their weekly rate. About a week later, BGBT accountant Ashley Joshi sent an offer that would only give 25 percent.

At this moment, Joshi allegedly scolded the dancers for their “unacceptable and disrespectful” behavior. The suit alleges that only the dancers, a team of full-figured women, were spoken to in such a manner.

This gave the dancers the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic sentiment.

During the European leg of the tour, Jefferson invited the dancers for a night out in Amsterdam. These nights out happened often, and just like the prayers before rehearsals and performances, they were not mandatory. But, those who participated were often favored for extra performances outside of the tour, which provided extra income.

The suit alleges that not only would dancers risk losing out on the extra income by not attending the after parties, they were ostracized by the rest of the group.

After the Amsterdam show, Jefferson invited the dancers out to the city’s infamous Red Light District that night. They attended Bananenbar, a bar with its main event featuring nude performers.

The night at Bananenbar allegedly got out of hand. Jefferson pushed for the dancers to touch the nude performers as well as catch dildos launched from the performers’ vaginas. She also invited the dancers to eat bananas from the same region.

At this moment, Jefferson turned her attention to Davis and pressured her to touch the breast of one of the nude performers. Despite repeatedly refusing, the collective chant from the rest of the group became too much.

The dancers were subject to a similar situation after their Paris show. Jefferson invited them to a performance, presenting it as a learning opportunity. The group was in for a surprise because the performance was a nude cabaret.

Jefferson allegedly forgot to mention that the performance was a nude cabaret, taking away their choice to participate.

After the lawsuit went public and garnered headlines, Quigley posted a video to her Instagram repeatedly praising God, saying that “God is so, so, so good.”

“God loves you, so, so, so, so, so much, no matter what you’re going through. Even if you don’t love Him, He loves you,” Quigley said.

Quigley doesn’t specifically mention the lawsuit nor address the allegations directly.

Jefferson released a statement of her own to social media, writing that her morals and work ethics were being questioned. She notes that she usually doesn’t respond to false allegations, but these allegations were “too outrageous not to be addressed.”

Later in the statement, Jefferson said she’s not trying to be seen as a victim, but she knows that she isn’t the villain the press and social media has portrayed her to be.

“I’m hurt, but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world to be overshadowed by this,” Jefferson said in the statement.

As the plaintiffs embark on their own press tour, and everyone has released their own statements, it appears that Jefferson is gearing up to defend herself in court. According to Forbes, she obtained Marty Singer as the attorney to represent her in the case.

Singer previously defended the likes of Bill Cosby before the allegations of drugging and raping women, Charlie Sheen during his battle with Warner Bros and executive producer Chuck Lorre relating to his exit from “Two and a Half Men,” John Travolta during his 2012 lawsuit from two massage therapists who alleged he propositioned them and inappropriately touched them and many more.

As of right now, no court or trial date has been set for the suit. It’s unclear what the steps are going to be regarding the lawsuit.

The complaint damages are as listed:

  • Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment (All Plaintiffs against All Defendants)

  • Failure to Prevent and/or Remedy Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment [All plaintiffs Against All defendants]

  • Religious Harassment [All Plaintiffs Against Quigley and Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc.]

  • Failure to Prevent and/or Remedy Religious Harassment [All Plaintiffs Against All Defendants]

  • Racial Harassment [Williams and Davis Against Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc.]

  • Disability Discrimination [Davis Against Big Grrrl Touring, Inc and Jefferson]

  • Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage [All Plaintiffs Against Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc]

  • Assault [Rodriguez and Davis Against Jefferson]

  • False Imprisonment [Davis Against Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc.]

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