Three ofagainst the singer alleging they were sexually harassed and subjected to a toxic work environment while on tour. In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, two of the plaintiffs — Arianna Davis and Crystal Williams — detailed some of the allegations made in their lawsuit – including being forced to touch a nude performer – and said they feared for their jobs.
The women say dancers were not treated the same as other staff and crew on the tour.
“I just think, the standard for dancers in this camp was much more stringent and more strict,” Davis said. “Things that the other cast members could do, and get away with, essentially, the dancers were not allowed to engage in any of that activity.”
The plaintiffs say they were falsely accused of drinking before shows, which they told CBS News “was never the case.”
“In fact, alcohol was never even allowed in our dressing room or on our rider, which is the food and drinks provided to us. So, it was physically impossible for us to do that,” Davis told CBS News. “But we were the ones that were blamed for drinking on the job. It was stated to us, by Lizzo, she was like, ‘It doesn’t matter if I am doing it, doesn’t matter if the band, or anyone else is doing it, you guys can’t do it.'”
They said they denied the accusations to Lizzo, but Davis and Williams were soon let go from their jobs.
The singer’s company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, and dance team captain, Shirlene Quigley, were both named as defendants in the suit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. In their complaint, Davis, Williams and Noelle Rodriguez accuse Lizzo of disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment. Rodriguez resigned from her position.
The women allege Quigley was adamant about “sharing her faith in the workplace,” pushed her religion on the dancers and criticized those who did not believe what she believed.
They also said Quigley and Lizzo pressured them into going to a show in Amsterdam’s red light district, where prostitution is legal and there are many sex shows and shops. Davis alleges she and Rodriguez were pressured into engaging with a nude performer during the show.
“At that time, we had been fearing for our jobs and being ostracized,” Davis said. “So, it’s an understanding in the camp, if you don’t participate, try to get in with Lizzo, you will not be booked on as many jobs. She won’t like you as much. You will be ostracized later. So, we went and stayed in the corner.”
Davis said she tried to ignore what was happening during the explicit show, but says Lizzo singled her out.
“She was kind of going around, inviting people to touch the nude performers. And I guess it was my turn.”
Davis said Lizzo was chanting her name and pressuring her to touch the performer, even though Davis said “no” multiple times. Davis said she eventually gave in and did it.
“I briefly touched (the performer), and everyone started laughing. It was funny to them, because me, of all people, they see me as a very modest person. Me touching a nude person was hilarious to them,” Davis said, adding that she was “mortified.”
Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson,and encouraging women to love themselves as they are. Davis, however, claims the star acted hypocritically.
Davis alleges that when she expressed that she was “proud” of herself for her work on the tour, Lizzo said she was “worried” about her at one point because Davis had gained weight.
“I believe she was trying to allude to the fact that I was gaining weight in a way that she wouldn’t get canceled, if that makes sense,” Davis said. “It was not a like, ‘you’re fat, you’re fired.’ It was never ‘you’re gaining too much weight,’ it was never blatant, it was very nuanced.”
Davis claims Lizzo and a choreographer alluded to the fact that she gained weight and veiled the comments as concern for her, and that Lizzo told the dancers they should be grateful because dancers typically would get fired if they gained weight.
Williams said that Lizzo’sand equality for different races and genders is one she identifies with, so when the opportunity to work for her came up, it was her “absolute dream job.”
“We had this high start, and then over time, as reality kind of sets in and you’re seeing that everything is not the way seems, that there’s a lot of things that go on behind-the-scenes, your ideas of things quickly start to shift,” she told CBS News.
Williams said this was her first professional tour and it was a lot to process when things “spiraled out of control.”
“Everything that she stands for as an artist is a big reason as to why I think people stand behind her as much as they do,” she said. “To me, I just couldn’t sit with the fact that this was happening behind the scenes, and this is a big part of her fan base, but she’s kind of contradicting everything she stands for behind-the- scenes.”
The suit alleges that the work environment is “overtly sexual” and hostile, and says Lizzo’s abusive behavior contributed to “emotional distress” for the dancers.
“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,” the dancers’ lawyer, Ron Zambrano, said in a statement.
CBS News has reached out to Lizzo for comment and is awaiting response.