She’s outwardly a champion of size inclusivity and diversity, so it comes as a shock to hear why Lizzo is 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.”
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 reason why Lizzo is being sued will shock many fans.
Why is Lizzo being sued?
Why is Lizzo being sued? 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.
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 has not responded to the lawsuit nor requests for comment at this stage. This story is developing.
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.
“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.”
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