Ex-Lizzo staffer speaks out after filing lawsuit against singer alleging hostile work environment

Asha Daniels spoke to ABC News in a network news exclusive.

September 28, 2023, 6:10 AM

Asha Daniels, a clothing designer who formerly worked for Lizzo, sued the singer and members of her team last week for alleged racial and sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, among other claims.

Now Daniels is speaking out in a network news exclusive, saying she was inspired to tell her own story after three of Lizzo’s former backup dancers came forward with similar allegations in a lawsuit filed last month.

“I was really proud of them," Daniels told ABC News.

“I want a world where Black women can come and perform at the height of their career for their talent and not suffer these abuses and not be silenced and not be treated unfairly,” Daniels said.

PHOTO: Clothing designer Asha Daniels is seen in an interview with ABC News.
Clothing designer Asha Daniels is seen in an interview with ABC News.
ABC News

Daniels’ interview is featured in a new episode of “Impact x Nightline” that explores the backlash against Lizzo and how she and other celebrities respond to and manage allegations of bad behavior that threaten to tarnish their public image. Another example is the recent criticism Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis received after writing character letters in support of convicted rapist Danny Masterson, whom they both starred with on "That '70s Show." The couple apologized in a video message on Instagram.

"Good Morning America" anchor Janai Norman also sat down with the three former backup dancers who first filed suit against the superstar – Crystal Williams, Arianna Davis and Noelle Rodriguez.

“People in fandom and people on the internet, they want accountability. And if they don't see it, they're going to keep you in your space until you show it or you're completely canceled,” crisis PR expert Molly McPherson told ABC News.

Lizzo and her lawyer, Marty Singer, declined a sit-down interview with ABC News, but Lizzo has previously denied all of the former employees’ allegations in statements through her lawyer, spokesperson and in a statement posted to social media. She also announced plans to file a countersuit against some of her accusers.

Daniels says she was initially ecstatic over the chance to design costumes for Lizzo and her dancers, but alleges things started to go awry within the first few days on the job. While Daniels says she never talked to Lizzo directly, she says she spent a lot of time with her supervisor, Amanda Nomura, who is named in the lawsuit alongside the singer.

Daniels claims she was injured on the job when Nomura shoved her into a clothing rack and alleges Nomura wouldn’t let her seek medical attention, according to the lawsuit.

“She rolls over my foot with this really heavy rack. And so I kind of like, wince and I'm like, ‘Wait a minute, my foot is really hurting. Like, I need to stop. I need to sit down.’ And so she pushes me into the rack and she says, ‘Don't make excuses, like take this rack,’” Daniels told ABC News.

Daniels says she was “stunned” after the incident, which she believes was racially motivated. Nomura allegedly referred to the Black women tour as "dumb," "useless" and "fat,” according to Daniels' lawsuit. Daniels claims that she witnessed Nomura even mocking Lizzo herself.

Nomura did not respond to a request for comment.

Daniels also claims that in a group chat of production company team members, an employee sent a picture depicting male genitalia to the chat, and says the image was found "to be comical" by some in management, according to the complaint.

After she says she told a manager about the alleged issues, Daniels said she was fired "without notice or reason," according to the lawsuit. She is requesting a jury trial, seeking damages such as unpaid wages, loss of earnings and deferred compensation.

The lawsuit came the same day Lizzo received the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award from the Black Music Action Coalition. At the awards ceremony, some of her dancers introduced her and talked about her positive impact on them.

PHOTO: FILE - Lizzo attends the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater, June 26, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Lizzo attends the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater, June 26, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for BET, FILE

In a statement, Lizzo spokesman Stefan Friedman told ABC News, "As Lizzo receives a Humanitarian Award tonight 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."

"We will pay this as much attention as it deserves. None," it continued.

Daniels says her lawsuit names Lizzo because she is the one in charge – something Daniels says she knows firsthand as a business owner herself.

“I can say in my own life, I'm responsible for the people who work for me and who work on my projects, and I think that everybody is,” Daniels told ABC News.

Like Daniels, the three former backup dancers also claim that Lizzo and her management fostered a “sexually charged environment” which made some in the dance cast uncomfortable, according to the dancers' lawsuit. In one incident, they say they felt pressured to touch nude performers at a club in Amsterdam.

PHOTO: Dancers Arianna Davis, Noelle Rodriguez and Crystal Williams (L-R) are seen in an interview with ABC News
Dancers Arianna Davis, Noelle Rodriguez and Crystal Williams (L-R) are seen in an interview with ABC News
ABC News

After the allegations came out, Lizzo posted a statement to Instagram, which said, in part, “I am not here to be looked at as a victim, but I also know that I am not the villain… 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.”

In an interview with ABC News, Davis called the statement “out of touch” and “tone deaf.” Rodriguez told ABC News that it should be “pretty black and white” for Lizzo to not take her employees to “sexually charged” events.

In a statement, an attorney for Lizzo said, “The glaring contradictions between what the three plaintiffs claim in their specious lawsuit and what is actually shown by the facts and evidence will be established in the litigation, and we are confident that Lizzo will prevail on the merits.

Watch Impact x Nightline's "Lizzo's Legal Limbo" streaming now on Hulu.

ABC News' Candace Smith, Elizabeth Mendez, Ashley Riegle and Nicole Mastrangelo contributed to this report.