US pop star Lizzo has said allegations by three of her ex-dancers, including sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, are "false".

The singer called the last few days "gut-wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing".

"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 dancers told the BBC Lizzo is "less of a villain and more of an anti-hero".

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez are the former dancers bringing the case against the singer, her dance captain and her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring (BGBT).

The lawsuit also includes accusations of religious and racial harassment, along with discrimination, assault and false imprisonment.

The legal action, filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday, includes allegations the dancers were pressured into attending sex shows and interacting with the dancers at the shows between 2021 and 2023.


What did Lizzo say?

"These last few days have been gut wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing. My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized.

Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed. 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.

Lizzo performing on stage at Roskilde festival Denmark last monthImage source, REX/ShutterstockImage caption, Lizzo won record of the year at the Grammy Awards in February for About Damn Time

"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.

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. 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.

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."


Responding to Lizzo's statement saying she had been "portrayed" as "the villain", Ms Davis told the BBC: "She's less of a villain and more of an anti-hero to me… a villain is someone with no redeemable qualities. They are just bad and evil and terrible.

"But an anti-hero is someone who does bad things but had redeemable qualities. Do I think Lizzo can take this, and change and be who she says she is? Yes, absolutely.

"I want her to be who she said she was when I first met her, I don't we don't want this to be some sort of tear-down campaign for her, we want justice to be served, people to be heard and then we want change to be made. I do believe she's capable of that change."

Ms Rodriguez added: "I don't think she's a villain necessarily, but I do think she needs to be held accountable for all the things she has done, or enabled, and created this environment. I think it's time that we start holding people accountable for that – it happens way too often."

Ms Williams responded by saying she want "conversations to be had not about who's the villain – what was done is what was done – we went through a traumatic experience, it's something that happens way too often in the entertainment industry, especially in regard to dancers.

"Change needs to be made, so I'm hoping that with this, accountability can be had, and things will be put in place to ensure this kind of thing hopefully doesn't happen."

The dancers also spoke about why they made went public with their complaints, and Ms Williams said it had been "a last resort" and was a "worst-case scenario".

"There were several attempts made to try to handle this privately," she told the BBC. "I know that the dance cast as a collective attempted to hold meetings not only with her [Lizzo] but with management to bring forth our grievances. And it was met with 'we can't do it today' or cancellation, so it wasn't that we didn't make an effort.

"We tried to handle this in-house as much as we possibly could. But nobody wanted to hear us out so this was absolutely a last resort."

Ms Davis said that "management promised to have a Zoom meeting with us after we left Europe – never happened", while Ms Rodriguez added: "It is our last resort."

Lizzo on the Pyramid StageImage source, PA MediaImage caption, Lizzo performed on the Pyramid Stage at this year's Glastonbury Festival

Among the claims against Lizzo – whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson – are that she "pressured Ms Davis to touch the breasts" of a performer in a nightclub in Amsterdam, and Ms Davis – after resisting – eventually acquiesced "fearing it may harm her future on the team" if she didn't do so.

Ms Davis and Ms Williams were fired from the dance team, while Ms Rodriguez later resigned over the alleged treatment of her fellow colleagues.

Lizzo – who is known for celebrating her body and self-love – is also accused, along with dance choreographer Tanisha Scott, of fat-shaming Ms Davis on tour.

"In professional dance, a dancer's weight gain is often seen as that dancer getting lazy or worse off as a performer. Lizzo's and Ms Scott's questions about Ms Davis's commitment to the tour were thinly veiled concerns about Ms Davis's weight gain," the documents allege.

The dancers allege that "only the dance cast – comprised of full-figured women of colour – were ever spoken to in this manner, giving [the dancers] the impression that these comments were charged with racial and fat-phobic animus".

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the dance team's captain, Shirlene Quigley, pushed her Christian beliefs on performers and derided those who engaged in premarital sex.

She is also accused of openly discussing one of the former dancers' virginity, and posting about it on social media.

Accusations including racial discrimination are also levelled at BGBT's management team.

It alleges black members of the dance troupe were "treated differently" from other members of the team.

Ms Quigley has been contacted for comment by the BBC.

On Wednesday Ms Williams told CBS she wanted to ensure that other dancers who work with Lizzo "don't have to go through that same experience".

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