14 of Lizzo’s dancers received settlement for separate dispute months before new harassment lawsuit

Lizzo performing live on stage

It has been reported that 14 of Lizzo‘s dancers received a settlement for another dispute months before three of her other dancers sued her for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

The dispute, which the Los Angeles Times reports was raised in January, related to footage that was used in the artist’s 2022 documentary Love, Lizzo. The film features a scene where the dancers intimately discuss how misogyny, racism and weight-shaming have affected them, which their manager, Slay Smiles, had claimed was unauthorised.

Smiles said that the documentary had “truly exploited these women and violated the emotional safety they had in those moments”.

The LA Times reported that a group including the co-production company Boardwalk Pictures and a “Lizzo entity” settled the dispute in February after one of the dancers involved hired a lawyer.

The footage concerned was shot in 2019 when Lizzo and the dancers were rehearsing for a performance at that year’s MTV VMAs. Smiles has said no contract was offered to the dancers for the footage, which was also not covered by their union contract for the VMAs.

Lizzo performs at Qudos Bank Arena on July 23, 2023 in Sydney, Australia CREDIT: Don Arnold/WireImage

However, Alan Brunswick, a lawyer for Boardwalk Pictures, disputed Smiles’ claim, arguing that the footage in the documentary “was captured openly” and with consent. “They all knew the cameras were there. I don’t think the documentary was even contemplated at that point,” he told The LA Times.

Sources close to the dancers told the publication that they didn’t know that the behind-the-scenes footage would be used in the documentary until a clearance producer emailed to offer each dancer $350 (£275) plus a 10 percent agency fee to appear.

Smiles claimed he advocated for the dancers and helped secure a total payout of $109,551 (£86,193) between $7,092 and $7,545 (£5,575 and 5,931) for each dancer. None of them are involved in the more recent lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Lizzo’s lawyer Marty Singer, who formerly represented Bill Cosby, told the outlet that Lizzo “had nothing to do” with the dispute and “knew nothing about it”.

The settlement included a non-disparagement and confidentiality clause barring the dancers from discussing the settlement with third parties.

Lizzo performs on Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2023
Credit: Harry Durrant/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against Lizzo, in which her dance captain Shirlene Quigley and production company Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc. were also named as defendants.

Singer called the lawsuit “specious”, while in her own statement, Lizzo said she was “hurt” and denied the allegations. The three dancers then responded to her statement, saying it was “disheartening” to read.

Williams and Rodriguez later alleged in an interview with Sky News that they tried to “settle” the disagreement “in-house” before filing a lawsuit, but claim they were met with a “rebuttal” from Lizzo’s team.

The lawyer representing the dancers, Ron Zambrano, has since claimed his firm is reviewing at least six new complaints about the singer.

“Some of the claims we are reviewing may be actionable, but it is too soon to say,” Zambrano told NBC News.

However, after the conclusion of the singer’s recent ‘Special’ tour, her remaining dancers – known as the ‘Big Grrrls’ and ‘Big Boiiis’ – have shared an open letter praising her.

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