Lizzo is speaking out in the wake of sexual harassment and hostile work environment charges leveled against her by former dancers.
“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,” wrote the Grammy-winning singer in a lengthy statement on Instagram (below) on Thursday. “There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world.”
Lizzo’s former dancers accused the pop star and her staff of grilling them about their weight and forced them to perform sexually explicit activities at sex shows this week. The dancers, two of whom participate on Lizzo’s reality program, claimed they were subjected to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, and that they were even pressured to engage with nudists.
The trio of dancers — Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez — sued Lizzo (real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson), her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. and Shirlene Quigley, captain of the singer’s dance team.
When addressing the claims on Thursday, Lizzo called the past few days “gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing,” saying her work ethic, morals and character have been questioned and criticized.
“These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional,” Lizzo claimed. “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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
In response to Lizzo later on Monday, Ron Zambrano, the Los Angeles attorney for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez, said, in part, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “Her denial of this reprehensible behavior only adds to our clients’ emotional distress. The dismissive comments and utter lack of empathy are quite telling about her character and only serve to minimize the trauma she has caused the plaintiffs and other employees who have now come forward sharing their own negative experiences. While Lizzo notes it was never her intention ‘to make anyone feel uncomfortable,’ that is exactly what she did to the point of demoralizing her dancers and flagrantly violating the law.”
After performing for years as an indie, underground artist, Lizzo broke on the major music scene in 2019 with the No. 1 smash “Truth Hurts.” She earned a strong fan base thanks to her brimming messages about self-love, body positivity and inclusivity. She’s won four Grammy Awards, collaborated with Ariana Grande, Cardi B, SZA and Missy Elliott and was even name-dropped in Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” remix alongside iconic musicians like Madonna, Nina Simone, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Grace Jones and Aretha Franklin. Earlier this year she won the record of the year Grammy for “About Damn Time,” another No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
For years Lizzo said it was hard to find plus-size women as background dancers for her live shows and music videos. She then launched Watch Out for the Big Grrrls in 2022, which searched for dancers to join her world tour.
It was a hit for Prime Video and won three Emmy Awards, including best competition program for Lizzo, an executive producer on the show. It also won outstanding directing for a reality program for Nneka Onuorah and outstanding picture editing for a structured reality or competition program.
Amazon said in April that it had begun auditioning singers and dancers for season two. Lizzo is also returning to the Emmys with another nomination: Her HBO Max special, Lizzo: Live in Concert, is up for outstanding variety special (prerecorded), pitting her against a slew of comedians, including Norman Lear, Carol Burnett, Trevor Noah, John Mulaney, and Wanda Sykes.