Popstar Lizzo, 35, has earned respect and admiration from fans across the globe for her body-positive messages and championing of self-love and acceptance. However, her career is now hanging in the balance after being sued by three of her former backup dancers.
Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez all claim that the feminist icon sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment during their time working together. The allegations paint a stark contrast to the usually gregarious public image Lizzo has portrayed, during which time she relentlessly promoted body positivity and inclusion.
Born Melissa Jefferson, Lizzo’s career began in Minneapolis with legendary artist Prince offering her support and guidance for her musical endeavours. Most of Lizzo’s songs – from Juice to Good As Hell – became chart-topping hits, thrusting her into the limelight of the music industry. Yet despite the almighty success of her music career, Lizzo just three years ago had considered quitting music completely, as her 2017 single Truth Hurts struggled to find an audience.
Openly discussing her mental health struggles, sessions with a psychologist helped give the singer newfound confidence in her music-making abilities. Soon after, Truth Hurts was relaunched and soared to number one in the US charts.
Lizzo’s success over the years has seen her lauded as a body positive icon, frequently wearing revealing and sexy looks and promoting body positivity no matter size or shape. But after being on the receiving end of trolls, Lizzo has grown less tolerant of any body-shaming comments.
This was the case in May 2023, when Lizzo posted an angry statement on Twitter after author Layah Heilpern wrote: ‘How is Lizzo still THIS fat when she’s constantly moving this much on stage?! I wonder what she must be eating.’ Criticising the toxicity of the online world, Lizzo vowed to spend more of her time responding to positive comments from her fans.
The singer has also challenged a common double standard for women in the industry, slamming the use of the word ‘brave’ when speaking about her body. ‘When people look at my body and be like, “Oh my God, she’s so brave,” it’s like, “No, I’m not,”’ Lizzo said. ‘I’m just fine. I’m just me. I’m just sexy.’
Lizzo’s Amazon Prime series, Watch Out For The Big Grrls, was seen as groundbreaking television, as the series saw her look to hire non-conventional, curvy dancers. She was praised for the show’s celebration of body positivity and kindness.
However, these allegations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment come as a shock. Her ex-dancers accuse the star of inviting backup dancers to take turns touching a nude performer, catching dildos from the performer’s vagina, and expecting dancers to wear a see-through outfit without undergarments.
The plaintiffs are suing for Hostile work environment, sexual harassment, religious harassment, racial harassment, disability discrimination, and failure to prevent or remedy the harassment. Lizzo’s tour company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. is also named as a defendant.
Two more women, dancer Courtney Hollinquest and director Sophia Nahil Allison, have since come forward with similar claims.
At present, Lizzo has not addressed the lawsuit publicly.
The outcome of the case remains to be seen, but it’s clear fans of the YouTuber scintillating star have an uneasy wait ahead.