A wardrobe designer who briefly worked for Lizzo’s tour is the latest former employee to sue the artist, accusing her of allowing a work culture to thrive behind the scenes that condoned racist and fatphobic bullying.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the same day Lizzo was expected to receive the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award, Asha Daniels, a fashion designer who assisted with costumes on the tour, accused the singer, her touring company and wardrobe manager Amanda Nomura of sexual and racial harassment, assault and failing to prevent a hostile work environment,.
“Lizzo is the boss so the buck stops with her. She has created a sexualized and racially charged environment on her tours that her management staff sees as condoning such behavior, and so it continues unchecked,” attorney Ron Zambrano said in a statement. “Lizzo certainly knows what’s going on but chooses not to put an end to this disgusting and illegal conduct and participates herself.”
A spokesperson for Lizzo described the newest lawsuit as a publicity stunt.
“As Lizzo receives a Humanitarian Award tonight from the Black Music Action Coalition for the incredible charitable work she has done to lift up all people, an ambulance-chasing lawyer tries to sully this honor by recruiting someone to file a bogus, absurd publicity-stunt lawsuit who, wait for it, never actually met or even spoke with Lizzo,” spokesperson Stefan Friedman said. “We will pay this as much attention as it deserves. None.”
Daniels’ attorney said she had been looking forward to working with Lizzo and her team because of the “values she portrayed in public,” expecting a work environment that empowered women. The lawsuit says that instead she was almost immediately introduced to a “culture of racism and bullying.” Daniels left the tour after less than a month.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Daniels designed custom pieces for Lizzo’s dancers, and Nomura asked her to join the tour to make alterations and repairs as needed. As wardrobe manager, Nomura was her primary contact with Lizzo’s team.
Daniels’ disappointment with the job began when Nomura told her that she would have no direct contact with Lizzo because the artist would be “jealous,” telling her to “tone it down” and not dress attractively, the suit says.
She also allegedly witnessed Nomura making rude comments about Lizzo and the Black dancers, calling them “dumb,” “useless” and “fat.” According to the lawsuit, Nomura would mock the dancers and Lizzo by doing stereotypical impressions of Black woman, which Daniels found offensive as a Black woman herself. The lawsuit said Daniels told Nomura her imitations were offensive, but she was ignored.
The lawsuit also describes an alleged incident in February in which a heavy rack of clothing rolled over Daniels’ foot as she and Nomura were moving it. When Daniels told Nomura she was in serious pain and needed to sit down, Nomura allegedly shoved her into the rack and said she should not make excuses. Daniels claimed she was not allowed to wear an orthopedic shoe the following day to minimize the pain.
The lawsuit also accuses Nomura of making threats on multiple occasions, including saying she would “kill a bitch” and “stab a bitch” when she could not find her medication. She allegedly shoved a crew member for threatening to quit and snatched food out of a worker’s hand for attempting to take an assigned break.
According to the lawsuit, the tour’s stage crew were mainly white men, who would allegedly “gawk, sneer, and giggle” while the dancers were forced to quickly change in areas with no privacy.
“Nomura merely laughed at the dancers’ poor accommodations, and ‘advised’ [Daniels] not to alert anyone else about the issue or try to fix the issue,” the lawsuit said.
Daniels would eventually take her complaints regarding Nomura to Carlina Gugliotta, the tour manager, to be passed on to Lizzo, who she believed would not tolerate poor behavior toward the dancers and crew.
“It’s not lost on me that I’m one of the only Black women working behind the scenes and I feel like [NOMURA] is treating me like I’m a slave,” Daniels told Gugliotta, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claimed that Daniels was told Nomura would be “too hard to replace,” and Daniels was allegedly abruptly fired in retaliation after making her complaints.
The lawsuit also alleged that Lizzo’s management team did nothing after a backstage manager allegedly sent a graphic photo of male genitalia in a group chat the crew was in.
“Instead, Lizzo’s management found the image to be comical, further
encouraging an unsafe, sexually charged workplace culture,” the lawsuit said.
Daniels’ lawsuit comes weeks after three former dancers said they were weight-shamed and accused the artist of sexual, religious and racial harassment.
According to the new lawsuit, Daniels also felt pressure to join activities openly discussed by the management team, such as hiring sex workers, buying drugs and attending a sex show in order to secure one of her days off.
“Due to the racist and sexualized work environment, and also the unreasonable physical requirements of [Daniels], she suffered constant anxiety and panic attacks,” the complaint states. “She continues to suffer ongoing anxiety and PTSD after the tour; she suffers from migraines and migraine-induced eye twitch and ocular distortions, brain fog, and fatigue.”