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How to Talk About Lizzo’s New Lawsuit

Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage

Okay, so a fresh lawsuit came down the pipeline yesterday aimed at the pop star Lizzo, her production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., and dance director (SK?) Shirlene Quigley, and yeah, it’s a doozy. Real quick: Three former dancers, Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis, and Noelle Rodriguez, are filing a total of nine charges against Lizzo and the crew, many of them under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which you can see right here, per Deadline.

Within the charges themselves, you can already sorta see a discrepancy in the way the headlines around the lawsuit read and what’s actually in the lawsuit. Many of the taglines at mainstream establishments and social media alike are focusing on the allegations of fat-shaming, which obviously were never actually part of an official charge. The suit does, however, state that Davis was called “lazy” and Lizzo had questioned her commitment to dance, which, within those circles, they say, was “a thinly veiled concern about her weight gain which Lizzo had previously called attention to after noticing it at the South by Southwest festival.” So it probably is an issue that Lizzo and her team fat-shamed another Big Grrrl, but it’s not even close to the meatiest of the allegations. Consider the charges of false imprisonment, the assault, the religious discrimination, the forced touching, the sexual harassment. The focus on the fat-shaming, which I’m assuming is a tactic from the plaintiffs’ lawyers to curry public sentiment to their side, is more about a knowledge of just how fatphobic we are and how we the public can use the moment as a gotcha against Lizzo, since some folks have been waiting for an opportunity to bring her down a peg. And, of course, a lot of publications took the bait because, ya know, clicks or whatever.

And listen, I’m no Lizzo fan. Most of her music really isn’t for me, but I did dig how she has made the people who love her feel and the ways that she combated body-image bullshit hurled at her on the daily. This lawsuit doesn’t give any of us an excuse to demonize her because of her weight; that would be doing the exact violence she’s accused of.

Late on August 1, even more folks who worked on the production team shared their experiences with Lizzo and Quigley. It was really harrowing to know so many mutuals who’d gone through the ringer with her, so much so that they said they needed years of therapy and are still in the midst of their own healing journeys. And it’s no surprise that these allegations are coming from non-white women. Lizzo’s production team is made up of a lot of white people in that mid-manager role and the dancers are non-white, which already asserts a kind of race dynamic at play. When you watch her Amazon show, we see evidence of Lizzo coming at these girls for not having enough stamina after performing hours of routines in front of cameras. Like, even world-class athletes run outta gas, sweet pea. The signs of internalized anti-Blackness and anti-fatness are there. Not to mention it really feels like Lizzo believes that she’s running some kinda weird cult. Like, one of the dancer’s virginities was paraded around for months even though Quigley is supposedly some big Christian Evangelist. Like, I thought they loved that shit over there? Speaking of Quigley, apparently she had a thing about sharing her sexual fantasies with the dancers, including being smacked in the face with ten penises in some like gang-bang, bukkake shit (if you don’t know what that is, search for it on an NSFW-friendly computer because, yeah). She also had some weird thing about bananas, where she’d perform fellatio on one, and once, at a strip club, Lizzo allegedly pushed the dancers to eat a banana poking out a stripper’s vagina even after they said they were uncomfortable. Like … do y’all see what’s happening here? Lizzo and crew are allegedly/possibly/probably tryna break these girls into doing every little weird thing they say. Textbook cult shit.

Anyway, the biggest advice I can give you, as someone who will undoubtedly talk about this at some function, is to understand that the fat-shaming thing is only being used here to offer a contradiction about Lizzo’s brand. And there is one, fasho. She seems like a mean girl, and I truly don’t mean that in the nice mid-aughts way. But the fat-shaming? It looks like just a strand in a web of tactics to bully and break these women into submission, and that shouldn’t be lost just because the headlines are focusing on it.

So what now? Lizzo’s team is gonna go one of two ways: (1) They’re gonna enter PR crisis mode, get all-hands-on-deck and attempt to settle this thing with a lump sum very quickly (which is likely what the plaintiffs’ lawyer would also want), or (2) they’ll slow-play it: Cancel the rest of the tour stops and release a statement about taking the allegations very seriously or whatever. But that latter move could leave her a little fucked. Not only is it possible that more women might file lawsuits, but being out of the public eye means she loses out on that money. Lizzo’s got millions, but this could turn out to be a costly suit, all things considered. Either way, Lizzo’s brand might be completely screwed, which it honestly should be, if we believe in accountability. Ain’t no way Lizzo goes back to being the body-positivity superstar, even if the headlines are baiting our fatphobic impulses. That shit worked. The other side of fatphobia and anti-Blackness for Lizzo is she will be given far fewer chances than her counterparts to fuck up even on minuscule levels.

Our concern, truly, goes out to those creatives who found their dreams dashed, their psyches broken by a woman who many people ne’er thought could move like she allegedly did. There’s just too many stories now, too many healing journeys that were kicked off, because of direct interaction with Lizzo and her crew for comfort. I think about the dollars spent on therapy, or, if they couldn’t afford it, the hours spent looking down on themselves and their crafts because of what a seemingly successful pop star said about them. I think about her allegedly running people into exhaustion with 12-hour auditions and the flippancy she showed in rapping about the possibility of lawsuits from women that she fired. It’s truly ugly work. One that she and her victims are in desperate need to rehabilitate from. If accountability is coming for her, her accusers absolutely deserve it.

How to Talk About Lizzo’s New Lawsuit