Lizzo has issued her first response to a bombshell lawsuit from three tour dancers who claim that they were subjected to sexual harassment and weight-shaming, calling them “false allegations” and “sensationalized stories.”
In a statement posted Thursday morning to her Twitter account, the star said the allegations in the lawsuit – that she and her company created a hostile work environment that also included religious and racial discrimination – were as “unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed.”
“I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days,” Lizzo wrote. “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.”
The star paid particular attention to a claim in the lawsuit that she had “called attention” to a dancer’s weight gain – an especially loaded allegation against an artist who has made body positivity a central aspect of her personal brand.
“There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world,” Lizzo wrote. “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.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles by dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, accuses Lizzo (real name Melissa Jefferson) and her Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. of a wide range of legal wrongdoing and included dozens of pages of detailed factual allegations.
In one particularly vivid allegation, the lawsuit claims that Lizzo pushed the dancers to attend a sex show in Amsterdam’s famed Red Light District and then pressured them to engage with the performers, including “eating bananas protruding from the performers’ vaginas.” After Lizzo herself led a chant “goading” Davis to touch one performer’s breasts, the lawsuit says, Davis eventually did so.
The dancers also detailed alleged outbursts by Lizzo, including an “excruciating re-audition” in April after she accused the dancers of “drinking alcohol before shows”; one dancer claims the ordeal continued for so long that she wet herself because she feared she would be fired if she left the stage. The case also claims Lizzo repeatedly told dancers “none of their jobs were safe” and raised “thinly veiled concerns” about a dancer’s weight gain.
In her statement on Thursday, Lizzo did not address the lawsuit’s individual accusations, but said they were “sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.” And she broadly defended herself against what she called an attack on her “ethic, morals and respectfulness.”
“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,” Lizzo said. “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.”