By Riley Dauber
Grammy-award winning pop star Lizzo is known for many things: her commercially and critically successful third album “Cuz I Love You,” her impressive flute performances, and her messages about body positivity.
The third aspect, and what Lizzo has built her brand around, was called into question when three former backup dancers sued the pop star on Aug. 3.
The dancers – Arianna Davis, Noelle Rodriguez, and Crystal Williams – started working for Lizzo in 2021. Davis and Williams were originally contestants on Lizzo’s reality show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” which follows Lizzo’s search for backup dancers.
Concerns allegedly began when Lizzo invited her dancers to a cabaret show in Amsterdam, which the dancers felt they needed to attend so they would not lose their jobs. She did not tell them the show was a nude performance beforehand, and during the outing, some dancers were pressured “to eat bananas placed in nude dancers’ genitals and…to touch a dancer’s breast,” according to Vox.
Following the cabaret show, the already-hired dancers were forced to re-audition. The audition was 12 hours long, and Davis was so worried she would get in trouble for taking a break that she ended up soiling herself and was given a transparent cover-up to wear for the remainder of the audition, according to Vox.
Other issues included in the lawsuit revolve around Lizzo’s dance team captain, Shirlene Quigley. During rehearsals, Quigley would share her religious beliefs in an attempt to indoctrinate the other dancers, and would mention Davis’ virginity, according to Deadline.
The lawsuit made waves on social media, with many fans and critics calling Lizzo out for promoting body positivity while also allegedly treating her dancers poorly. This incident also marks a recent trend of employees fighting for better wages and workplace environments.
The workplace dynamic, which saw dancers spending time with Lizzo and other members of her team outside of rehearsal, crossed boundaries between boss and employees. Dancers were unsure when they were officially off-the-clock, so they attended events, like the nude cabaret show in Amsterdam, to avoid losing their jobs.
In response to the lawsuit and the allegations, Lizzo wrote and released a screenshot of an apology on the Notes app on her Instagram on Aug. 3, the same day the lawsuit information was announced to the public.
“There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world,” Lizzo said. “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.”
Comments are currently limited on the post, but most express disappointment in the pop star’s alleged mistreatment of her employees, as well as the written apology compared to a video or public statement.
“Sorry, but this is an awful statement to put out…it’s diminishing the victims’ claims while also shifting the blame to the victims…no owning, no explaining, and no good promises. This is just smoke and mirrors, empty and hollow,” Instagram user @sylvia_stephen commented on the post.
Then, on Aug. 23, Lizzo’s lawyer, Marty Singer, announced that the pop star was counter-suing the dancers for “alleged hypocritical behavior,” according to People.
Singer is relying on photos of the dancers smiling and having fun at clubs in Amsterdam and Paris. These photos may contradict the dancers’ statements about being uncomfortable at the nude cabaret shows while on tour, according to Singer’s statement.
“The lawsuit is a sham. Lizzo intends to sue for malicious prosecution after she prevails and these specious claims are dismissed,” Singer said in a statement to People.
Lizzo’s decision to countersue is the most recent piece in the ongoing situation; a court date has yet to be set.
The situation is ongoing, but is still a hot topic in the news as the dancers discuss their mistreatment.
“The plaintiffs merely wanted to keep their jobs until they finally had enough,” the dancers’ attorney Neama Rahmani said. “Arianna, Noelle, and Crystal were brave enough to come out with their stories and they don’t plan to back down in the face of these bullying tactics by Lizzo’s attorney. Our clients remain steadfast and look forward to their day in court.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Fans are unsure how to feel about Lizzo’s recent lawsuit involving three of her backup dancers.