Lizzo countered the “false allegations” and “sensationalized stories” levied against her this week in a lawsuit by former dancers with a lengthy statement defending her work ethic, standards, and sexuality.
“These last few days have been gut-wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing,” the 35-year-old said Thursday in a statement posted on her official Instagram account. “My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed.”
The “Truth Hurts” and “About Damn Time” singer, who has built an empire on her message of body positivity, was accused in a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court of subjecting three of her former dancers — Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis and Noelle Rodriguez — to sexual harassment and hostile working conditions. The performers worked with the “Juice” artist from 2021 to 2023.
Among the allegations were claims that the dancers were pressured to touch nude dancers at a club in Amsterdam, ridiculed for their weight, and forced to participate in “excruciating” re-audition processes. Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. (BGBT) and a person described as “dance cast captain” were named as defendants in the suit.
In her Thursday statement, the Grammy and Emmy Award winner said that the “sensationalized” stories are coming from former employees “who have publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
“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.
“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,” she added.
The Yitty shapewear co-creator and flutist said that she is “very open” with her sexuality and expressing herself but “cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not.
“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 criticize 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.”
Following news of the lawsuit, dancer Courtney Hollinquest, who said she was once a member of Lizzo’s dance team, described having a similar bad experience while working for Lizzo. (She is not a party in the lawsuit). And Oscar-nominated documentarian Sophia Nahli Allison also said she “walked away” from directing a Lizzo documentary in 2019 after allegedly experiencing poor working conditions.
Lizzo’s social media following has taken a dip in the wake of the allegations too: The singer shed more than 123,000 followers on Instagram since Tuesday, bringing her total down to 13.4 million followers on the platform by Thursday, according to metrics tracker Social Blade. She lost nearly as many on TikTok — roughly 100,000 since Tuesday — where she now has 26.9 million followers.
The dancers involved in the lawsuit responded to Lizzo’s statement Thursday in an appearance with their attorney on “CNN This Morning.”
“I want to say that reading [Lizzo’s statement] just kind of furthered my disappointment in regards to the situation, just because the facts are the facts. What we experienced and what we witnessed is absolutely what happened,” Williams said. “There’s nothing sensationalized about it. So all that I can hope is that people focus more so on the facts rather than the court of public opinion.”
Davis added: “Personally, looking at the response from Lizzo was so disheartening because she was there. She was there, and to fix your hand, to write on a piece of paper that you discredit everything we’re saying, is incredibly frustrating.”
Times fellow Carlos de Loera contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.