'Clever cues in Lizzo's statement on harassment lawsuit made perfect response'

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Lizzo is sued by three former backup dancers accusing her of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment (Image: GC Images)
Lizzo is sued by three former backup dancers accusing her of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment (Image: GC Images)

Superstar Lizzo has been embroiled in scandal this week after being accused of a string of allegations that has put her entire image in jeopardy - but she had the 'perfect' response, according to a crisis management expert.

The US singer publicly responded after it was announced she was being sued by three former dancers over allegations of sexual harassment, racial and religious harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment between 2021 and 2023.

"These last few days have been gut-wrenchingly difficult and overwhelmingly disappointing," Lizzo's response, shared on her Instagram on Thursday, began. "My work ethic, morals and respectfulness have been questioned. My character has been criticized. Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed."

She continued: "These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional." Lizzo went on to write: "I take my music and my performances seriously because at the end of the day I only want to put out the best art than represents me and my fans. With passion comes hard work and high standards.

'Clever cues in Lizzo's statement on harassment lawsuit made perfect response' erideuiqtqiqdrinvPR expert Edward Coram-James (Go Up)
'Clever cues in Lizzo's statement on harassment lawsuit made perfect response'Lizzo had a "very good" response, Ed says (zz/John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx)

"Sometimes I have to make hard decisions but it’s never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they aren’t valued as an important part of the team." Lizzo went on to say she did not want to be "looked at as a victim", writing: "But I also know that I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days. I am very open with my sexuality and expressing myself but I cannot accept or allow people to use that openness to make me out to be something I am not."

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The statement continued: "There is nothing I take more seriously than the respect we deserve as women in the world. I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolutely never criticize or terminate an employee because of their weight. I’m hurt but I will not let the good work I’ve done in the world be overshadowed by this. I want to thank everyone who has reached out in support to lift me up during this difficult time."

Edward Coram-James, PR expert at Go Up, says the star produced a "well-crafted and balanced" reply, which she would have been fine-tuning in the aftermath of the allegations going public. While he praises her considered response, he raises that taking two days saw her lose control of the narrative.

"As we have seen over the past few days, narratives are often set within the first 48 hours and, by not responding sooner, Lizzo allowed, to a degree, the narrative to escape her and be set by her accusers, amplified by the media and social media," he added. But her response was littered with clever cues that could see the public come to her side, according to the pro, with it prompting many fans to question the legitimacy of the shocking claims.

"She was right to point out some of the more odd-looking accusations levelled against her. In crisis comms, if 10 allegations are made, and five of them look fishy, by pointing this out, the public will automatically question the viability of all 10," Ed explained. "Lizzo questioned why she would fat shame people. This poking makes sense.

"The public will inevitably ask: why would someone who celebrates being a bigger woman make fun of someone that is also larger? The accusation, of course, may be true. We don’t know. But it certainly appears odd. By pointing out the parts of an allegation that clearly don’t make sense is a very good way to get the public questioning the truth of the entire statement."

Ed also raises that Lizzo was wise to highlight her desire for exceptional standards when it comes to her work. "Beneath the fun-loving persona, she is also an acclaimed artist who rightly demands the highest standards not only from herself but also from her team. The public can be quick to forgive an artist for demanding excellence from those that they work with."

It came to light on Tuesday that Lizzo, real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson, was being sued in a Los Angeles lawsuit brought by Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez. Together, they allege the American singer fat-shamed and sexually harassed them while they also accused her of religious and racial harassment, discrimination, assault and false imprisonment. All three claimants raise different and separate allegations.

'Clever cues in Lizzo's statement on harassment lawsuit made perfect response'Crystal Williams says the response was 'disheartening' (INSTAGRAM)
'Clever cues in Lizzo's statement on harassment lawsuit made perfect response'"If proven true, they would do serious damage to Lizzo’s image," says Ed (zz/Patricia Schlein/STAR MAX/IPx)

The three dancers told Channel 4 news they found Lizzo's statement "disheartening" and believe that her reputation for being a celebrity that stands for body positivity and woman empowerment is "performative." In the interview, Crystal shared that Lizzo's statement furthered her disappointment about the ordeal and that she and the other dancers felt their concerns were being "disregarded completely."

The performers, who are suing for damages, also claim the Truth Hurts hitmaker pressured one of them to touch a nude performer at an Amsterdam club. Following news of the lawsuit breaking, two more individuals, who are believed to have previously worked with Lizzo, accused the Grammy Award-winning singer of creating a toxic work environment.

The lawsuit names Lizzo, her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc and Quigley as defendants. In addition to allegations against the singer, the suit also alleges Lizzo’s dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, imposed her Christian beliefs upon other performers and judged those who engaged in sex outside of marriage. It is not stated if Lizzo knew about Quigley's alleged actions and comments.

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Commenting on the claims, Ed says they completely undermine Lizzo's career, which has been built on progressiveness, body positivity and fun. And that if proven true, the talented flute-playing singer will have broken one of the 'cardinal rules of crisis communications' in that you must "always adhere to the brand values that you set". Ed said: "The accusations, if taken at face value, would suggest that this is a front and that beneath the fun-loving and tolerant veneer, Lizzo does not stand for the values she espouses. This kind of hypocrisy has sunk many a career in the past, and if proven true would do serious damage to Lizzo’s image."

While he acknowledges he hasn't seen the evidence, he would argue the right thing to do for Lizzo to claim back her image would be to take the accusers to court. Referencing the cases of Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Kevin Spacey, he says that staring down their accusers in court to be proven innocent allowed them both to reset their careers and to earn public sympathy at the same time.

"Lawsuits often settle purely because fighting them would be a pain for the defendant, who will often come to a decision not based on the merits of the case against them, but based upon whether they can be bothered to commit a significant amount of time, energy and resources to a fight that could last for years," Edward said. "It is often cheaper, both financially as well as emotionally, to settle than it is to fight and to win.

"And settling, of course, avoids the risks of embarrassing accusations coming out during a trial or in pre-trial disclosure. Unfortunately, this has been exploited heavily by opportunistic plaintiffs, who will know that, whether or not their case has merit, there is a very good chance that they will be on the receiving end of some kind of financial settlement. The harsh reality for the defendant is that if they do settle, in terms of public optics, it gives the appearance of guilt.

"Misconceptions in the public eye about what settling means has led to the majority holding false view that out-of-court settlement is some sort of indicator of admission of wrongdoing. Look at Prince Andrew. He has strenuously denied the allegations made against him but, because he settled (which could have been for myriad reasons) he has been found guilty in the court of public opinion regardless. From a crisis comms point of view, if you truly believe that you’re innocent, then sometimes the best course of action really is to bite the bullet and say 'see you in court'".

Saffron Otter

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