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Lizzo fans say they are disappointed after lawsuit alleges the singer created a hostile work environment

"All the good she’s done, it will always be overshadowed by this," one fan said.
Lizzo in Napa, Calif., in May.
Lizzo, pictured here in Napa, Calif., in May, has built her brand around embracing body positivity.Steve Jennings / WireImage

In the last week, Lizzo fans have been forced to reconcile their love for the “Truth Hurts” singer with allegations made by three of her former dancers, who accuse the singer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

The Grammy-award winning artist, whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, has built her brand around embracing body positivity and celebrating her physique. Across social media, many of her followers expressed their disappointment with the allegations detailed in a lawsuit, including that Lizzo weight-shamed dancers and pressured them to touch a nude performer at an Amsterdam club. 

“Everything she’s done for Black women, for curvy people in general, for the queer community, bringing power to all those communities, it just feels like a waste. Those communities really need to be uplifted,” said Tasha Shanade, 26, a dancer and Lizzo fan. “All the good she’s done, it will always be overshadowed by this.” 

A spokesperson for Lizzo declined to comment about her fans’ reaction to the lawsuit. The spokesperson referred NBC News to Lizzo’s statement, which she posted on her social media on Thursday.

“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 the last few days,” she wrote. She dismissed the allegations made in the lawsuit, calling the accounts “sensationalized stories.” 

For Shanade and four other fans who spoke with NBC News this week, learning about the lawsuit was especially painful because they looked up to the singer as an advocate for people to practice self-love. Lizzo’s response to the allegations, they said, also missed the mark.

Shanade, who took a four-year hiatus from dancing due to her anxiety after gaining weight, said Lizzo’s unapologetic presence as a plus-sized performer gave her an “eff-it” attitude. Inspired by Lizzo, she returned to dancing and booking gigs.

News of the lawsuit made Shanade feel “gutted,” especially given that she has been planning a Lizzo tribute performance for two months, which is scheduled to run this weekend in London. Shanade handstitched the costumes and bought a flute — an instrument that Lizzo is known for playing —  in preparation.

I was so shocked and I was so shaken by this because I guess I didn’t expect her to make any mistakes.

-Candice Lola, 37, on lizzo

“It’s very deflating,” she said. “My script is body positivity. How can I go on stage and say, ‘Love yourself. Be positive. Don’t fat-shame people.’ But Lizzo is behind the scenes allegedly fat-shaming her own dancers?”

For Candice Lola, 37, who shared a picture with Lizzo after meeting her in a Chicago bar in 2016 after a concert, the person described in the lawsuit felt very different from the person with whom she shared a beer and talked about music and the television show “Broad City.” 

“I was so shocked and I was so shaken by this because I guess I didn’t expect her to make any mistakes,” Lola said. “And it is because of the trailblazer that she is and because she’s in a lane that’s all her own.”

Writer, political commentator and disability advocate Ola Ojewumi said news of the lawsuit inspired her to share her own negative experience with Lizzo and her team, reflecting on when she was trampled by a fan at a 2017 Lizzo concert while in her wheelchair. That fan was then asked to come on stage and sing with Lizzo. 

According to Ojewumi, Lizzo later sent her a direct message on Twitter apologizing and offering to meet with her the next time the singer was in Washington, D.C. Lizzo didn’t respond to a direct message Ojewumi sent when she returned to Washington D.C., Ojewumi said.  

While she was initially conflicted about publicly discussing the experience, she decided to share more after learning about a specific claim made in the lawsuit about dancer Arianna Davis, who is disabled. The lawsuit alleges that Davis was fired for recording a meeting because she suffers from an eye condition that sometimes left her disoriented in stressful situations.

Ojewumi said that when she shared her own story on Twitter, she received “a lot of devastating messages from Lizzo fans, some of whom are disabled,” adding that “a lot of them are in shock.”

“Sometimes you want to see people prosper and thrive, but you also know that behind the scenes they might not be living what they preach,” Ojewumi said

Aisha Street, 26, was among the Lizzo fans who shared their reaction to the news on TikTok. The self-proclaimed “casual” fan of the artist said the apology fell flat.

“She said too much,” Street said. “And because she said too much she left room for people like me to be like, ‘Wait, why would you say that instead of this.’”

Some fans have said it’s also been disappointing to see that the lawsuit has prompted a wave of fatphobic, misogynistic and racist comments — toward Lizzo and others — on social media.

Jordan Simone, 25, said she owes some of her 384,000 followers on TikTok to Lizzo, after Lizzo dueted two of her videos about fatphobia in 2020. She said the allegations, which she described as disappointing, have opened other Black women up to hate and harassment on social media. 

“Lizzo was acting as a stand-in for the entire community, and so when Lizzo falls, suddenly, Black women, especially fat black women, everywhere are just getting a lot of unnecessary hate, or they’re getting caught up in all of the fatphobia that came out of this,” she said. 

A handful of people who formerly worked for the artist — including Courtney Hollinquest, a former dancer for Lizzo, and Quinn Wilson, Lizzo’s former creative director —  also came forward on social media this week to share their own alleged bad experiences and express solidarity with the plaintiffs.

Hollinquest, whose LinkedIn states she worked for Lizzo as a professional dancer and choreographer from August 2016 until July 2021, went viral after sharing her reaction to the news in her Instagram story on Tuesday. 

“For clarification, I’m not a part of the lawsuit — but this was very much my experience in my time there,” wrote Hollinquest, who is credited as a dancer in the music video “Fitness.” “Big shoutout to the dancers who had the courage to bring this to light.”

She did not respond to multiple requests for comment made on Wednesday.

Wilson, who is credited as director of several of Lizzo’s music videos, including “Fitness” and “Juice,” reshared Hollinquest’s post. She wrote she is “echoing” everything that Hollinquest said.

“I very much applaude [sic] the dancers courage to bring this to light,” Wilson, who did not respond to requests for comment made Wednesday, wrote. “And I grieve parts of my own experience.” 

Attorney Ron Zambrano, who is representing the former dancers in the lawsuit, told NBC News on Thursday that Lizzo’s “denial of this reprehensible behavior only adds to our clients’ emotional distress.”

“Lizzo has failed her own brand,” he said, “and has let down her fans.”