Two of the dancers suing Lizzo over claims of weight-shaming and sexual and racial harassment have told Sky News they feel the US singer is “gaslighting” and “victim blaming” them by denying their allegations.
Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, along with a third dancer, Arianna Davis, have filed a lawsuit against the Grammy-winning star and her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring (BGBT), which also includes claims of religious harassment, disability discrimination, assault, and false imprisonment.
In a new interview, Ms Williams and Ms Rodriguez said they have proof their claims are true and that other dancers – for Lizzo and other stars – have been in touch to share their own stories since they went public with their claims.
After news of the lawsuit emerged, Lizzo issued a statement on social media saying she was “not the villain”. The singer, who is known for championing body positivity, described the allegations as “unbelievable” and “too outrageous to not be addressed”.
In response, Ms Williams said: “Her statement is just confirming the pattern of every time somebody speaks up or advocates for themselves, like we’re doing now, we get victim-blamed, we get gaslighted. And she likes to point the finger instead of addressing the issues that are being brought up.”
This is something that happens on an “everyday basis” when working with stars, she said. “Sadly, we’ve already experienced not only dancers that have worked with her directly, but dancers that are just in the entertainment industry in general, they’ve already come out and they’ve shared their stories.
“They feel brave enough to share their experiences… before people were just silent about it, they didn’t feel comfortable enough. They didn’t feel protected enough to call these artists out, to call these management teams out, and let them know, hey, what you’re doing is wrong.”
‘These are our experiences – this really happened to us’
Ms Rodriguez acknowledged that the claims against Lizzo may seem “outrageous” to some, but added: “I think why it may seem sensationalised or just outrageous, well, one is because it is outrageous. We were shocked by all of these things that happened to us…
“Unfortunately, this treatment by management, artists, you know, it’s normal in the entertainment industry, but it sounds so outrageous because I feel this is the first time something like this has been brought to light so publicly. So, yes, it’s outrageous. Yes, all of these claims seem outlandish. But these are our experiences and this really happened to us.
“So to just kind of deny and victim blame and not even take accountability for, ‘I’m sorry if this is even the way I might have made you feel’… it’s just so insensitive and kind of invalidates our experience as a whole. We have proof of these things happening to us time and time again. So everything has been documented over time.”
Lizzo is a four-time Grammy winner who was named Time’s entertainer of the year in 2019. She is best known for hits including Truth Hurts, Juice, Good As Hell and About Damn Time.
Ms Davis and Ms Williams began dancing with the star after competing on her Amazon reality show Watch Out For The Big Grrrls in 2021, but were both later fired. Ms Rodriguez was hired in the same year after performing in the video for the song Rumours, but resigned earlier this year over the “appalling behaviour”.
In her statement responding to the women’s lawsuit, Lizzo said: “Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed.”
She added: “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.”
The dancers’ allegations include the accusation that Lizzo pressured one of them into touching a nude performer at a club in Amsterdam’s red light district.
They also allege the captain of Lizzo’s dance team, Shirlene Quigley, attempted to convert the performers’ religious beliefs and derided those who had premarital sex, also allegedly sharing lewd sexual fantasies and publicly discussing the virginity of one of the complainants.
‘I cannot allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not’
Lizzo has described the claims as “sensationalised stories” coming from disgruntled former employees.
“As an artist I have always been very passionate about what I do,” she said in her statement last week. “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 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.”
Lizzo went on to say she is open about her sexuality and expressing herself, “but I cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not”.
She added: “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 criticise or terminate an employee because of their weight.
“I’m 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.”
Sky News has contacted representatives for Lizzo for comment.