In one of her first public appearances since a trio of former dancers filed a lawsuit accused her of turning a blind eye to toxic working conditions, Lizzo took the stage at Thursday night’s (Sept. 21) 2023 Black Music Action Coalition gala to receive the night’s final honor: the BMAC Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award. The event was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The award was presented by the Big Grrrls from Lizzo’s Emmy-winning reality show, Watch Out For the Big Grrrls, just hours after the singer was hit with the latest lawsuit from a former employee, this one alleging sexual and racial harassment, disability discrimination and illegal retaliatory termination; the suit from Special Tour clothing designer Asha Daniels filed in L.A. Superior Court named Lizzo, along with tour manager Carlina Gugliotta and the Big Grrrl Touring company as defendants. It’s the second such lawsuit in two months, alleging sexual and racial harassment.
Before Lizzo came onstage, one of the cast members spoke about her being the “first person to ever believe in us, show us love and believe in our talent and our craft.” Another said, “When we found out Lizzo was being honored, we knew that we had to be here. This has always been somebody that gives back. She cares deeply. She loves with her whole heart … she put in the work to get to this moment.”
Stepping onstage to accept the statuette, an emotional Lizzo said, “BMAC thank you because I needed this right now. God’s timing is always on time! I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of incredible awards. But this one truly hits different because humanitarianism is selfless. And to be kind to someone isn’t a talent. Everyone can do it. It’s a gift that you give. In all my years of activism and outreach, I have witnessed at the core of every organization, every movement, every march is just people helping people. And they do it every damn day. I get to come in, help and go back to my life as a musician. These people are still helping people because they’ve dedicated their lives to service. And they don’t get awards; they don’t get a round of applause. Because of that, I’ve dedicated my life and decided to share my platform to shine a light on those people. Because I so badly want to live in a world where we award goodness with our attention.”
Lizzo further shared that she donated a quarter of a million dollars in June to several Black-led organizations dedicated to helping Black youth, Black women, the Black queer/Black trans communities. To applause and shouts, she went on to name the organizations, which included the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Black Girls Smile, Sphinx Organization, Save Our Sisters and a scholarship partnership with the University of Houston.
“It’s easy to do the right thing when everybody’s watching you,” Lizzo continued in the speech that did not directly address any of the allegations. “But it’s what you do in those moments where nobody’s watching that defines who you are. I’m going to continue to be who I am, no matter who’s watching. I’m going to continue to amplify the voices of marginalized people because I have a microphone and I know how to use it. And I’m going to continue to put on, represent and create safe spaces for Black fat women because that’s what the f–k I do! My family’s here, Nice Life is here … the Big Grrrls. This support right now means the world to me.”
Lizzo responded to the first suit alleging sexual harassment and weight-shaming in August, calling them “false allegations” and “sensationalized stories.”
“I am not the villain that people and the media have portrayed me to be these last few days,” Lizzo wrote in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter). “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.”
At press time it did not appear that Lizzo had responded to the allegations in the latest lawsuit. Daniels is being represented by attorney Ron Zambrano, who is also representing former dancers Ariana Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez, who claimed in their suit that they were subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including being pressured to touch nude dancers during a live sex show.