February 23, 2024

Lizzo’s Ex-Dancers Say They Could No Longer Stand Her ‘Big Facade’

Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis, and Noelle Rodriguez, the three dancers who sued Lizzo this week, are opening up more about the alleged “hostile and unsafe work environment” they experienced during their time with the pop star.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Lizzo and her team of racial, religious, and sexual harassment, as well as fat-shaming and an instance where Lizzo allegedly threatened Rodriguez with physical violence. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the women described in greater detail the alleged harassment they faced, which they noted goes against everything Lizzo publicly stands for, including body positivity and inclusivity, self-love, and mutual respect.

“I think people that grow up being hurt have so much potential to be the person who hurts,” Davis told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “I think that an accumulation of that, and all of the money, fame, and power that [Lizzo] has received—and being in this light, this positive light, like she can do no wrong—that anything people say about her is just fatphobic and absolutely absurd and has nothing to do with her character.”

According to their lawsuit, Davis, who began working for Lizzo after competing on the singer’s reality show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls in 2021, was fired after she was confronted for recording a meeting in which Lizzo was giving feedback to her dancers. Rodriguez alleges that when she, aghast at Davis’ abrupt firing, went to Lizzo with the intent to resign, the pop star “approached Ms. Rodriguez aggressively, yelling profanities, cracking her knuckles, and balling her fists, apparently preparing herself [to] attack.”

Preceding the alleged threat of assault, “I [told Lizzo], ‘I can’t take it anymore,” Rodriguez told The Daily Beast. “I can’t stay in an environment like this, and have this big facade of standing behind a woman that is a representative of so many things—you know, body positivity, self-love, mental health—when she really doesn’t have any regard for those things behind closed doors.

“Within telling her that, she proved all of those things right about it being a hostile and unsafe work environment by then getting physical,” Rodriguez continued. “She did raise her fist up at me. She started cracking her knuckles, saying, ‘You’re so effing lucky that I don’t hit you.’ Our fellow dancer, which is also her best friend, got up, jumped over the couch, and proceeded to hold her back and was like, ‘It’s not worth it.’ Meaning, it’s not worth it to hit me, and [she] was pulling [Lizzo] and driving her out of the room as Lizzo proceeded to put up her middle fingers and say, ‘Bye, bitch,’ yelling like a maniac.”

The dancers also described a fear-based professional environment where sexually inappropriate conduct from superiors happened randomly and frequently. In particular, they spoke about Lizzo’s tour dance captain Shirlene Quigley, who was allegedly rigid and vocal in her religious beliefs and interrogated the dancers about their faith. Quigley also allegedly had a habit of performing fellatio on a banana as a “party trick,” without warning, in front of the dance crew, causing deep discomfort.

Davis told The Daily Beast that Quigley was obsessed with the fact that Davis was a virgin. The dancer said, “It seemed to me that she was trying to live vicariously through me, because I upheld some sort of moral standard that I guess she wasn’t able to hold for herself.”

“Whenever I would express any type of sexuality, or feeling confident in my sexuality, she’d be like, ‘Oh, but you’re still a virgin, right?’” Davis told The Daily Beast. “For some reason, I guess it just was hard in her head to understand that someone that had never had sex can express sexuality.”

Having that be a veil to protect you, knowing that you have power and you can do no wrong in the public eye, you get comfortable and then you start taking being a diva to the next level.

Arianna Davis

The three women also recalled a night out in Amsterdam, where they watched as Lizzo observed her boyfriend eat a banana protruding from a club performer’s vagina. Lizzo’s boyfriend also rubbed a completely nude performer down with oil while the pop star stroked his leg, all of which took place in front of the dancers, they told The Daily Beast.

After news of the women’s lawsuit broke this week, other former Lizzo collaborators, including filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison and the singer’s former creative director Quinn Wilson, spoke out about their own negative experiences working with the Grammy winner.

Meanwhile, Lizzo staunchly denied the allegations in a statement posted to social media early Thursday. She wrote in part: “Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound. These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”

“I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these past few days,” Lizzo added. “I am hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this.”

According to the three women who spoke to The Daily Beast, however, that “good work” may not be indicative of her true character.

“Her character has always been, ‘Lizzo’s a good person. She advocates for people. She’s so nice. She’s this, she’s that,’” Davis told The Daily Beast. “Having that be a veil to protect you, knowing that you have power and you can do no wrong in the public eye, you get comfortable and then you start taking being a diva to the next level.

“Things that people used to do to her, she now does to other people, and I think that is probably why she is the way she is.”

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