What’s going on with Lizzo?

A dark-stained wooden gavel with strips of gold colouring lying on top of a similarly coloured sound block.
Treating people with simple human decency is an accommodation some are unable to make. QuinceCreative via Pixabay

In court for harassing and assaulting dancers, but what else? 

We all know Lizzo as the sassy, body-positive, fun musician known for hit songs like “Truth Hurts,” “Good as Hell,” and “Pink” from the new Barbie movie.  She dances, she plays the flute, and she’s confident. 

But is this image she’s presenting the truth? 

In August 2023, a lawsuit was brought against Lizzo and her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., for harassment, discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, and for the hostile work environment Lizzo allegedly created. In addition, with the same charges, Lizzo’s dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, is involved in the lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs of the case are Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis, and Noelle Rodriguez, former dancers for Lizzo. The case is being tried in California, where all three plaintiffs, Lizzo, and Quigley live. Big Grrrl Touring Company (BGTC) is based in Delaware, but can still be involved in the lawsuit. 

Rodriguez was first hired by Lizzo in May 2021 to film a music video and by July 2021 she was booked for several music festival performances. 

Davis and Williams first met Lizzo in March of 2021. They were on the Amazon Prime show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” (WOFTBG) which was a competition reality show where the winner received a job as a back-up for Lizzo. Davis claims that she had to complete a psychological examination to make sure she could handle the “strain.” Part of the examination was signing a “Waiver of Privilege of Confidentiality and Consent to Evaluation” which stated that information given during the examination would only be given to Lizzo and those involved in the production of the show if the doctor who performed the evaluation believed it was necessary. Davis has stated that she believes her mental struggles were told to Lizzo and BGTC. 

Shirlene Quigley was a judge of WOFTBG, and that’s how Davis and Williams met her. Quigley is religious and her website states her mission as: “Being a woman of God and a leader in the entertainment industry, she hopes to use the gifts God has given her to inspire, motivate, and build other great leaders to step into their dance dreams and purpose.” Quigley frequently spoke about religion with Davis and brought up Davis’ virginity status frequently, including in interviews and on social media, without Davis’ permission. 

By the time WOFTBG finished filming in September 2021, Davis and Williams were chosen to be backup dancers for Lizzo and joined Rodriguez for festival performances from September 2021 to April 2022. 

Quigley’s religious comments continued during rehearsals for Lizzo’s “The Special Tour.” Quigley made negative comments about premarital sex, imitated oral sex on a banana, and talked about herself masturbating. Quigley had so many sexually charged comments that many, if not all, of the dancers knew of her sexual fantasies. Quigley preached frequently to the dancers, wanted to make sure Davis remained a virgin, and targeted Rodriguez with her ministering. She is allegedly quoted as saying “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.” Beyond Quigley’s actions, there was a compulsory engagement for the dance team to pray together before rehearsals and performances. Rodriguez felt pressured and judged for not wanting to lead the prayer when it was her turn. 

According to the plaintiffs, Lizzo frequently hosted after-party events for her shows. They were not required to go to these events, but if they did, they allegedly got more performances and higher job security. One such night in February 2023 was in Amsterdam, where Lizzo took them out to the Red-Light District, to a club named Bananenbar. At Bananenbar, Lizzo allegedly pressured Davis to touch one of the nude performers, which was allowed at the club, even going to the point of chanting at Davis. Davis stated multiple times loudly that she did not want to, but the chanting did not cease, and she gave in, touching a performer’s breasts. That same night, Lizzo pressured a security guard to go on the stage, where his pants were pulled down. 

A similar experience occurred in March 2023 in Paris at a nude cabaret bar called Crazy Horse, but the Plaintiffs were not informed it was a nude cabaret bar. 

The dancers had to re-audition for their roles in April 2023 after a scheduled eight-hour rehearsal was extended to 12 hours ,and Lizzo accused the dance cast of drinking and not performing at the expected level. During these re-auditions, dancers did not get a break, to the point that Davis soiled herself during a run-through and still had to continue. The only available clothes for her to change into was a transparent pair of shorts, leading her to wear the shorts with no underwear in front of coworkers. 

Williams was fired in late April 2023. The reason was budget cuts, or at least that’s what she was told. Davis was fired in early May 2023 because she recorded a meeting so she could review performance notes. Lizzo allegedly found out about the recording and furiously berated the dancers. When she found out it was Davis, Davis was fired on the spot. Rodriguez resigned shortly after because she felt disrespected by Lizzo’s actions. Allegedly, “Lizzo aggressively approached Ms. Rodriguez, cracking her knuckles, balling her fists, and exclaiming, ‘You’re lucky. You’re so fucking lucky!’” When Rodriguez went back to her hotel room, she was escorted by other dancers because she feared for her safety from Lizzo. 

The Plaintiffs were supported by Sophia Nahli Allison, a filmmaker who left a Lizzo documentary due to treatment from Lizzo. Allison claims that Lizzo is “arrogant, self-centered, and unkind.” 

On August 3, Lizzo responded to the news of the lawsuit on her social media. She claimed the allegations were false, outrageous, unbelievable and sensationalized. Quigley also responded, saying that the allegations were baseless, false, and hurtful. Some in the comments of the post have stated how Lizzo never denied anything in the statement. 

Lizzo’s lawyer, Martin Singer, shared a statement on August 23 saying that Lizzo was going to sue the Plaintiffs for malicious prosecution. He stated that after the Paris incident at the Crazy Horse, all three of the Plaintiffs returned to the tour to continue work, which makes them appear contradictory to their suit. Singer also represented Bill Cosby, Chris Brown, and Johnny Depp, among other celebrities. 

Many people have been showing their support for either the dancers or for Lizzo. Lizzo’s former creative director sided with the dancers and shared support for them on Instagram. Jameela Jamil, Rich Lux, Perez Hilton, Marc Jacobs, Kristen Vangsness, and Kristen Chenoweth all shared their support for Lizzo on her Instagram. Beyoncé stated that she loves Lizzo while on stage at a performance for her Renaissance Tour. Singer Grimes tweeted her support of Lizzo and defended her. The Plaintiff’s attorneys have confirmed to media outlet Page Six that there were added complaints from six people at minimum reminiscent of the Plaintiff’s stories. 

Lizzo has had previous controversies for supporting Chris Brown, making sexually charged comments about Chris Evans, and accusing a Postmates driver of stealing her food. 


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