Lizzo in metalic costume and sunglasses on stage.

Lizzo in metalic costume and sunglasses on stage.

Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage.

Can Lizzo Recover From Allegations Of Fat-Shaming And Sexual Harassment?

More complaints have been filed in the past week, and fans are torn.

It’s been just a week since a lawsuit surfaced from three of Lizzo’s former dancers—Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez—accusing the artist, her production company, BIG GRRRL BIG TOURING INC., and current dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, and more.

Being that the Grammy and Emmy winner’s brand was built around her being a body-positive/inclusive representation and self-love advocate, the heinous allegations, including those of fat-shaming, came as a shock to the public. Despite having released a statement deducing the claims to be nothing more than “sensationalized stories” which called her character, work ethic, and morals into question, the plaintiffs’ legal team, led by Ron Zambrano, is vetting new complaints from at least six more former employees “with similar stories”—who reportedly worked for Lizzo on tour and on the Amazon Prime reality show, Watch Out For The Big Grrrls.

“The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publicly, while privately she weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralizing,” Zambrano said in a statement.

As these claims continue to surface, critics have spewed fatphobic rhetoric as an attempt to tear down fat, Black women who may not have the palatable perception as one predicted, while fans of the Special artist have rallied behind the global superstar in an effort to explain away the lawsuit to fit the narrative of who they believed Lizzo to be.

All in all—it’s a lot to process and unpack.

Does an artist do more harm than good when cultivating an uber-positive brand that’s seemingly impenetrable and became known for calling out those who attack or are against their unproblematic stance? The answer is nuanced and layered.

The simple answer would be no, if said artists were actually walking that walk and talking that talk—privately and publicly. In the age of cancel culture, there are those unwavering fans who remain steadfast in their commitment to an artist regardless of what negativity comes to light about them. In turn, news, opinions, and rumors travel at the speed of light causing a rift in deciphering fact versus fiction as many sway with the general consensus of the court of public opinion. It’s been considered a groupthink mindset where one would rather go with what’s being said by a majority as opposed to alienating themselves with an alternative thought.

With that being said, the fatphobic bandwagon needs to cease immediately. It’s despicable that someone who is a fat, Black woman is allegedly belittling someone else of similar stature and contributing to a debilitating, anxiety-inducing work environment. Especially being known for her empowerment anthems and heated declarations against trolls who have fat-shamed her in the past as she, herself, toed the line of quitting and fleeing from it all.

Back in May, a tweet of Lizzo performing read, “How is Lizzo THIS fat when she’s constantly moving this much on stage?! I wonder what she must be eating.”

To which the 35-year-old replied, “I JUST logged on [this] app and this is the type of sh*t I see about me on a daily basis. It’s really starting to make me hate the world. The Love definitely [does] not outweigh the Hate on social media… all because I’m fat???? Y’all don’t know how close I be to giving up on everyone and quitting and enjoying my money and my man on a F**KING FARM…”

In a separate tweet, she added, “...I’m tired of explaining myself all the time and I just wanna get on this app w/out seeing my name in some bulls–t.”

It’s sadistic and disturbing that someone as vocal as this has such substantial allegations against them, but this isn’t the first time a seemingly unproblematic celebrity has had similar accusations come to light against them. Case in point, the reports about Ellen DeGeneres festering a “racially insensitive” workplace with testimony of sexual harassment and bullying by 36 of her former employees from July 2020 had the former talk show host embroiled in said scandal for months. However, as history has told us, grace is often extended more fluidly to those like DeGeneres.

With Lizzo, she’s been labeled arrogant, self-centered, unkind, and a thief over the past week, but that’s very different from being called a predatory abuser.

Sophia Nahli Allison, a filmmaker who worked briefly with Lizzo on a documentary, quit after two weeks when witnessing “how arrogant, self-centered, and unkind” Lizzo was. Allison later claimed that Lizzo “creates an extremely toxic and hostile working environment and undermines the work, labor and authority of other Black and brown womxn in the process.”

Yes, Lizzo is held to a higher standard because of what she represents, making it tough to separate the art from the artist because she embodies her work. However, that doesn’t make Quigley’s routine and non-consensual mention of Davis’ virginity a topic of discussion for reality show fodder. The latter also claims that Quigley “luridly detailed stories about her masturbatory habits and sexual fantasies, occasionally taking breaks to publicly practice her oral sex skills on bananas.”

Following a performance in Amsterdam earlier this year, Lizzo hosted an afterparty at Bananenbar in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, where she reportedly pressured her dancers into partaking in several acts despite their disinterest. The lawsuit mentions that Lizzo “began inviting cast members to take turns touching the nude performers, catching dildos launched from the performers’ vaginas, and eating bananas protruding from the performers’ vaginas.” The women were appalled with “how little regard Lizzo showed for the bodily autonomy of her employees and those around her, especially in the presence of many people whom she employed.”

Will this be a situation where an actual apology will suffice? No. There are at least nine reported victims and counting. Plus, Lizzo has already stated the dancers were told their behavior on tour was “inappropriate and unprofessional,” despite the claims mentioning she fueled a “sexually charged environment.” The dancers felt Lizzo’s statement was “dismissive” and an “utter lack of empathy.”

Like any human, Lizzo is entitled to be flawed and her biggest critic. In many ways, she’s still healing her inner child, but is that limited to her professional career and public persona?

In a December 2022 interview, she explained, “There is a little girl, a little 12-year-old girl inside of me, who had big dreams of being in a philharmonic or being a virtuosic soloist and I’d like to fulfill that dream. And I never thought it’d be possible rapping and singing, because I thought the flute was so dorky that nobody would ever let me do it. And I’m doing it.”

Still, some of her lyrics are already starting to backfire against her. “Had to cut some hoes loose, yeah/ NDA, no loose lips/Now them hoes tryna sue me/ B***h, I don’t give two s***s,” she rapped in “Rumors.”

For someone that’s considered to be the dominating, Black plus-size artist who fans related to in an “I see you/I understand/I got you” type of way, many question if she can recover from these allegations. That’s a catch-22.

If it gets taken to trial, video evidence surfaces corroborating the dancers’ statements, more demeaning claims arise, or criminal charges are brought against Lizzo, people will continue to reel over this, and she may stand to lose more than 250,000 Instagram followers. Her reputation will never be the same. She will be more intensely scrutinized for how she handles this.

Lizzo may choose to take a hiatus, double down on her high standards and sexual liberation, put her feelings into a song, and allow the scandal to dissipate on its own. Even if she simply settles with a monetary gain for the plaintiffs, the court of public opinion will still consider her to be guilty. Either way, the dust has to settle for all parties involved.


Mya Abraham is a Queens-born, Los Angeles-based music and culture journalist with a passion for R&B and entertainment.