Artist News Legal Top Stories
By Chris Cooke | Published on Thursday 24 August 2023
Lizzo intends to countersue the former members of her dance team who have accused her of inappropriate and unfair conduct, one of the lawyers representing the musician has said.
The lawsuit filed by three former members of Lizzo’s Big Grrrls dance outfit is a “sham”, according to attorney Marty Singer, who reckons that photos and videos already in circulation counter many of the claims made in that litigation.
As a result, he adds, he expects the case to be dismissed, after which Lizzo will likely pursue her own legal action in order to protect her reputation.
Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez make a number of allegations in their lawsuit against Lizzo and her Big Grrrl Big Touring company.
Among other things, they claim that their former employer made false allegations of unprofessional behaviour against her dancers and then forced them to go through a “brutal” twelve hour re-auditioning process, while also weight-shaming members of her team in contrast to public statements about body positivity.
Elsewhere, they say that “Lizzo pressured plaintiffs and all her employees to attend outings where nudity and sexuality were a focal point and disregarded any apprehension from plaintiffs”.
On one such occasion, at a club in Amsterdam, the lawsuit adds: “Lizzo hounded Davis to touch a performer despite Davis repeatedly expressing she did not want to. This work environment would shock the conscience of anyone as it did for plaintiffs”.
However, Singer insists that those latter claims are countered by photos that have surfaced of the three dancers backstage during another team outing at the Crazy Horse club in Paris, which seem to show the plaintiffs “happily carousing” with performers from a topless cabaret show.
According to the Daily Mail, the lawyer says of those photos: “As the old saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. The photos and videos of plaintiffs Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez happily carousing backstage with the performers after the topless cabaret show at the Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris speak volumes”.
“In their lawsuit, the three plaintiffs claim that they were forced to go to the show at the Crazy Horse against their will on 5 Mar 2023”, he continues. “In fact, after they watched the topless dance show, they went backstage with the other Big Grrrls dancers to meet the performers”.
Singer also references a video already in circulation that Davis recorded earlier this year for the second series of Lizzo’s ‘Watch Out For The Big Grrrls’ TV show, in which she said that working with the musician had “been amazing” and “such a beautiful journey”.
Davis has already commented to TMZ on that video, stating: “Right up until the last minute I didn’t realise how bad it was and how much I was being taken advantage of. I just genuinely wanted to save my job. This video further explains how much I was trying to please Lizzo”.
But Singer states: “These irrefutable photos and videos, along with additional substantial evidence, prove the glaring contradictions between what the plaintiffs claim in their bogus lawsuit and what is actually proven by the facts. The lawsuit is a sham. Lizzo intends to sue for malicious prosecution after she prevails and these specious claims are dismissed”.
Legal reps for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez have, unsurprisingly, hit back at Singer’s remarks. “Our clients aren’t afraid of Singer or his empty threats or his victim shaming”, states attorney Neama Rahmani. “I’ve handled thousands of cases, including prosecuting drug cartels, so we have no plans to back down. Let’s see if Singer can actually try a case in a courtroom instead of the media”.
“We’ve addressed all these instances where the plaintiffs appear to be happy alongside Lizzo during their time working with her”, he goes on. “Of course, they wanted to keep their jobs. They had bills to pay just like everyone else, but they finally had enough of the abuse. We stand by every claim in the lawsuit and look forward to trial”.
Meanwhile, his colleague Ron Zambrano adds: “We feel extremely confident in this case and expect to be filing additional lawsuits against Lizzo as more potential plaintiffs come forward sharing similar stories of harassment and abuse”.
“We’ve heard from more than a dozen former employees and are currently reviewing their claims”, he continues. “Some of them will most certainly be actionable. Crystal, Noelle and Arianna stepped out of the shadows to share their stories and now others are feeling empowered to do the same”.
The latest back and forth between Team Lizzo and legal reps for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez comes as the LA Times reports on an earlier dispute between the musician and her dancers.
It seems that earlier this year a legal settlement was reached with fourteen members of Lizzo’s dance team after they complained that footage recorded during a rehearsal for the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards appeared in last year’s documentary ‘Love Lizzo’.
According to the LA Times, the dancers said that they were not aware that the footage, which saw them “talk candidly about what it means to be a female, plus-size black dance artist”, would be made public.
A representative for the dancers sent an email to Boardwalk Pictures, a co-producer of the documentary, which stated: “After seeing all of the videos, I’m sure you realise how sensitive and private the dialogue was for the talent involved”.
“This was supposed to be a safe space to express and share with the principal talent”, the email went on, “so by sharing this unauthorised footage to the public, without their approval/permissions, has truly exploited these women and violated the emotional safety they had in those moments”.
Although a legal rep for Boardwalk Pictures stressed that the dancers were fully aware that they were being filmed during that rehearsal, a deal was subsequently done in February in which the dancers gave their consent for the footage’s inclusion in the documentary in retrospect and received a payment.
The legal team working for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez also note the new LA Times report in their response to Singer’s latest comments yesterday.
“As seen in the LA Times article today about how Lizzo used intimate footage of her dancers without their approval in the 2022 HBO Max ‘Love Lizzo’ documentary, we’re seeing even more of a pattern of just how much Lizzo thinks of those who work for her”, they claim, before adding: “Clearly, not very much”.
But for his part, Singer says about the documentary and the inclusion of the rehearsal footage in it: “Lizzo had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it”.