The Lizzo Lawsuit, and Why I No Longer Co-Sign The Body Positivity Movement


I used to be a part of the Body Positivity movement. To paraphrase a Ronald Reagan quote, “I didn’t leave the Body Positivity movement, the Body Positivity movement left me.” It went from embracing oneself just as you are for who you are and living out a healthy lifestyle within that framework, to demanding special attention for being fat, even if your health (mental, emotional, or physical) is in jeopardy. Part of the push back of the Body Positive movement was the insistence that embracing the diet industry and weight loss had to be a part of body acceptance. In my world, lifestyle changes always lead to weight loss anyway, so my goal in life has never been a certain size, and I always wanted to promote that, even after some lifestyle changes where I lost a significant amount of weight. My focus was not a number on the scale, it was health, and discovering ways that incorporated healthy lifestyle choices that best suited me individually.

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But with the advent of Lizzo and other personalities like her who supposedly represent this movement, the whole thing went off the rails. Full disclosure: I have never liked this singer. I don’t care how “talented” she is, walking around in skin tight body suits, whether you are fat or skinny, is neither attractive or emotionally or psychologically healthy. This appears to be Lizzo’s main draw. Her songwriting about badassery and breakups is Taylor Swift for the Hip-Hop crowd. If you haven’t recognized it yet, I don’t care for that one either, but at least she doesn’t strip and twerk as part of her schtick.

If Lizzo were fully clothed most of the time and didn’t have the theatrics in her shows, I doubt anyone would give her the time of day. Fifty years from now, I doubt we’ll be hailing Lizzo in the same way we hail Aretha Franklin.

Enough said.

Apparently the icon is being accused of creating a hostile work environment through a lawsuit filed on August 1 from three former background dancers.

 Three of Lizzo’s former dancers have accused the singer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment in a lawsuit filed Tuesday. They also allege that she pressured one of them to touch a nude performer at an Amsterdam club and subjected the group to an “excruciating” audition after leveling false accusations that they were drinking on the job.

The dancers accused Lizzo — a performer known for embracing body positivity and celebrating her physique — of calling attention to one dancer’s weight gain and later berating, then firing, that dancer after she recorded a meeting because of a health condition.

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez are the former dancers who filed a total of nine charges against Lizzo, her management company, and her dance captain Shirlene Quigley spanning from May 2021 to May 2023.

NPR breaks that down,

During that time the dancers were “weight-shamed, forced to endure sexually denigrating behavior and preaching about sexuality and Christianity, and were pressured into participating in disturbing sex shows,” according a statement from West Coast Employment Lawyers, who are representing the plaintiffs.

Weight-shamed? That’s kind of hilarious, like the pot calling the kettle black. Part of Lizzo’s brand is her sexualized shows, so one wonders why the plaintiffs were under any illusion that they would not have to be subjected to these types of displays at some point in their time working with her.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and provided to NBC News by the plaintiffs’ law firm, also accuses the captain of Lizzo’s dance team of proselytizing to other performers and deriding those who had premarital sex while sharing lewd sexual fantasies, simulating oral sex and publicly discussing the virginity of one of the plaintiffs.

The suit does not say if Lizzo knew about the allegations linked to the dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, but the plaintiffs believed the singer was aware of their complaints about her, according to their lawyer, Ron Zambrano.

The suit names Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, her production company and Quigley as defendants. In addition to accusations of a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, the suit brings claims for religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, interference with prospective economic advantage and other allegations. Not every claim was brought against each defendant.

I will hereinafter refer to this lawsuit as The Case of Cognitive Dissonance (CCD). You have a celebrity who traffics in overt sexuality and fantasy on stage and from social media and the entertainment reporting, off stage. So, what exactly were these plaintiffs expecting to encounter in terms of a workplace environment? These plaintiffs were chosen to dance with Lizzo as part of a reality show called Lizzo’s Watch Out for The Big Grrrls which aired on Amazon Prime Video. The CCD pleading discusses one instance where a nude photo shoot was part of the requirements of the contest, and one of the plaintiffs was uncomfortable with this to the point of anxiety and fear.

Once again, what, exactly was she expecting?!

The most bizarre claim is the religious harassment. Apparently dance captain Shirlene Quigley would proselytize about her “Christian faith,” while subsequently talking about her masturbation fantasies and even performing fake fellatio with a banana in the dancers’ presence. The entire team would pray before rehearsals and performances, and individual dancers were asked to participate in leading the prayer time, whether they believed or not.

From the tortured CCD pleading:

In or about April 2022, Plaintiffs began rehearsing in preparation for LIZZO’s “The Special Tour”. During this time, Plaintiffs worked closely with Ms. QUIGLEY as she was captain of the dance cast. Ms. QUIGLEY continued to preach at everyone in her surroundings, especially about her beliefs regarding Christianity and sexuality. Ms. QUIGLEY often made comments deriding people who engaged in pre-marital sex, knowing that some members of the dance cast did not share her views. Ms. QUIGLEY also had a party trick in which she would simulate oral sex on a banana in front of the rest of the dance cast. These instances were always unprompted and made Plaintiffs uncomfortable.

Ms. QUIGLEY’s sexually inappropriate behavior did not stop at faux fellatio. Despite her staunch beliefs in opposition to pre-marital sex, she had no problem sharing her masturbatory habits with the dance cast, often stating things to the effect, “Masturbating is against my religion, but I today I had an oopsie.” Ms. QUIGLEY’s sexually explicit comments were so pervasive the entire dance team knew about her sexual fantasy of having ten penises in her face.

Having been a Christian for going on 40 years now, this goes against any definition of behavior that represents a believer in Jesus Christ, particularly as defined in scripture. That aside, for the third time, what were these women expecting from an artist that makes her bones on bouncing on stage half naked and displaying her fat sexuality? Sleepovers, hot chocolate or wine soirees? Campfire and s’mores? These women are either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid.

Maybe both.

The alleged charges go on and on, and include an instance where part of their tour adventures involved a visit to the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Nothing wholesome happens there, full stop, so where did they get any idea that things would be professional? The document includes many other instances where they felt religiously harassed by Quigley and others.

This entire suit is a steaming pile of garbage. Not because these alleged charges are not be true, but because in the plaintiffs desperation to ride the coattails of a celebrity with a known reputation for sexuality and sexual situations, they went against their own conscience, and failed to read the fine print before signing on to the reality show and tour. When they had problems with performing their “duties,” or objected to the behavior around them, they felt trapped. They weren’t allowed to pursue other work during pauses in the tour schedule, and thought that if they didn’t comply they would be dismissed from the show and the tour. One of them did eventually leave, but another dancer was dismissed for claimed cause.

In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. No one in their right mind would see this as fair treatment. But, this is the entertainment industry in all its inglorious warpedness. They do not play fair, ever. So, the fact that the plaintiffs should have been given better treatment and seek redress for what they feel was a hostile workplace situation speaks more about their motives than about what is just business-as-usual on many of these tours.

On the other hand, Lizzo is simply getting back what she puts out. The whole victimhood, I’m so burdened because I’m a fat woman mantra, and the “shove it in your face” mentality is being reflected back at her. The Bible talks about sowing and reaping, and this is an example of it.

Lizzo took to her Instagram to speak out against the allegations:

Lizzo is speaking out amid sexual harassment and hostile work allegations aimed at the pop star from former dancers.

“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,” wrote the Grammy-winning singer in a lengthy statement on Instagram (below) on Thursday. “There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world.”

Mmmkay. There’s not a whole lot of respect that emanates from Lizzo’s stage show or the manner in which she reportedly conducts herself. Respect cannot be demanded and is not necessarily deserved. Most who have it rarely demand it. Their prowess, professionalism, and presence speaks for itself.

Sadly, this tortured mess is a reflection of what the Body Positivity has become. From teaching women to embrace themselves and be the best that they can be right where they are, to this muddied message and celebrity train wreck.

In My Orbit with Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

What do you think?

Written by CONK!

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