She’s outwardly a champion of size inclusivity and diversity, so it comes as a shock to learn about what did Lizzo do and why she’s being sued.

Born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, the rapper-singer-songwriter has been outspoken on body image from the beginning. “I think it’s lazy for me to just say I’m body positive at this point,” Lizzo told Vogue in 2020. “It’s easy. I would like to be body normative. I want to normalize my body.”

She continued: “Now, you look at the hashtag ‘body positive,’ and you see smaller-framed girls, curvier girls. Lotta white girls. And I feel no ways about that, because inclusivity is what my message is always about. I’m glad that this conversation is being included in the mainstream narrative,” she said. “What I don’t like is how the people that this term was created for are not benefiting from it. Girls with back fat, girls with bellies that hang, girls with thighs that aren’t separated, that overlap. Girls with stretch marks. You know, girls who are in the 18-plus club.”

Lizzo, Jack Black

About Damn Time

Indeed, she has a catalog of songs dedicated to loving oneself, with lyrics like “Thick thighs save lives” in her song “Tempo” and “Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me what you see / It’s that, oh my God, it’s lookin’ heavenly” in “Scuse Me”. So the answer to the question of what did Lizzo do will shock many fans.

What did Lizzo do?

What did Lizzo do? Three of Lizzo’s former dancers have accused the singer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on August 1, 2023, and provided to StyleCaster by the plaintiffs’ law firm.

(back row L-R) Makiah Green, Jasmine Morrison, Sydney Bell, Arianna Davis, Jayla Sullivan, Isabel Jones, Grace Holden, Guest, Lizzo, Chawnta’ Marie Van, Shirlene Quigley, Charity Holloway, Kiara Mooring, Moesha Perez, Asia Banks, Ashley Williams, Crystal Williams, Kevin Beisler, and Alana Balden attend Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrls Watch Party. Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images for Amazon Studios

The complaint was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Melissa Viviane Jefferson, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. (BGBT), and Shirlene Quigley, the captain of Lizzo’s dance team. Plaintiffs Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez allege sexual, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment, among other shocking allegations.

“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,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Ron Zambrano, a partner and Employment Litigation Chair at West Coast Employment Lawyers.

In March 2021, Davis and Williams met Lizzo while preparing to be contestants on her reality TV show, Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls to compete for a chance to join the artist live on stage. Separately, Rodriguez was hired in May 2021 to perform in Lizzo’s “Rumors” music video and stayed on as part of the dance team.

According to the lawsuit, contestants on the rapper’s show were told they would be required to participate in a nude photo shoot, something that was particularly distressing to Davis, who feared she would be sent home if she refused to do so. “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 states. “This experience foreshadowed the sexually charged and uncomfortable environment Lizzo’s employees would be forced to endure.”

Hostilities allegedly reached another high point in February 2023 after the plaintiffs performed a show with Lizzo in Amsterdam. The lawsuit claims that Lizzo invited her dance crew to the infamous Red Light District, which is home to sex workers, strip clubs, and other forms of adult entertainment. It wasn’t a requirement to attend but the plaintiffs felt obligated 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,” the lawsuit states. “While at Bananenbar, things quickly got out of hand. 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. 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.”

Included in the lawsuit are also allegations of racism. “BGBT management treated the Black members of the dance team differently than other members. 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,” it read. “Not only do these words ring familiar as tropes used to disparage and discourage Black women from advocating for themselves, but the same accusations were not levied against dancers who are not Black.” In addition, the complaint continues, “Only the dance cast—comprised of full-figured women of color—were ever spoken to in this manner, giving Plaintiffs the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic animus.”

Lizzo responds to lawsuit

Lizzo’s brand Yitty is already making strides in size-inclusive apparel options. Image: Supplied Courtesy of Yitty.

On Thursday, August 3, 2023, Lizzo responded to the lawsuit with a statement shared on Instagram, having lost 123,489 followers on the platform since the news broke, according to KingsCasinoBonus.

“Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed,” Lizzo said in a statement posted on social media. “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.”

The statement continued: “As an artist, I have always been very passionate about what I do. I take my music and my performances seriously because, at the end of the day, I only want to put out the best art that represents me and my fans. With passion comes hard work and high standards. Sometimes I have made 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.

“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. 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. There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world. 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. I am hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this. I want to thank everyone who has reached out in support to lift me up during this difficult time.”

What has Lizzo said about body positivity?

In March 2022, the Grammy winner was the cover star of People‘s Women Changing the World Issue. “I think I have a really hot body! I’m a body icon, and I’m embracing that more and more every day,” she said at the time.

STYLECASTER | Floral Applique Trend
Getty Images.

“It may not be one person’s ideal body type just like, say, Kim Kardashian might not be someone’s ideal, but she’s a body icon and has created a modern-day beauty standard. And what I’m doing is stepping into my confidence and my power to create my own beauty standard. And one day that will just be the standard.” She continued: “I deserve the attention. I’m talented, I’m young, I’m hot. You know? And I’ve worked hard.”

That same year, Lizzo launched Yitty shapewear, made for “EVERY. BODY. PERIOD.” according to the marketing materials.  “I’m selling that more than I’m selling thongs, more than I’m selling bodysuits or I’m selling shapewear,” she told the New York Times. “I’m selling a mentality that ‘I can do what I want with my body, wear what I want and feel good while doing it.’” That whatever body you are showing off, it’s not, “‘Oh, how brave.’ “No. No more of that. Nothing to see here but a body, just like your body.”

Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission from the sale.