Lady GaGa’s former backup dancers want others to watch their step around the singer’s choreographer.
Earlier this month, five of the superstar’s longtime backup dancers took to social media days before the start of The Chromatica Ball tour to tell fans they wouldn’t be returning. The dancers weren’t vague about why, either: they accused head choreographer Richard Jackson of toxic behavior, alleging he had created an “unsafe” and “unhealthy” workplace.
Caroline Diamond, who worked with GaGa for the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show and Joanne tour, said in a video:
“He abused me; he embarrassed me; he made me feel terrible in the workplace, just because he could. Gaga was my dream … I chased it and I got it, and she is the dream, and then you get there, and this man makes your dream a nightmare.”
Five additional dancers spoke with Rolling Stone and shared the same sentiments, alleging Jackson created an abusive work environment that led to two of the dancers voluntarily walking away from the dream gig. For what it’s worth, none of the dancers who made allegations against Jackson had anything bad to say about GaGa herself, noting she had nothing to do with the issues since she wasn’t around for much of the rehearsals with Jackson.
Now, for those who don’t know, Jackson has quite the accomplished career. He took over as GaGa’s head choreographer after his former boss Laurieann Gibson parted ways with the singer in 2011, becoming choreographer for the musician’s tours, music videos, and Super Bowl halftime show. He’s also worked for the likes of JoJo Siwa, Mario, and Grace VanderWaal.
But according to the report, he’s also worked up every last nerve of the backup dancers who performed under him. Dancer Montana Efaw, who started dancing for GaGa when she was 18 years old in 2009, was the first to speak out against Jackson. She recently posted an Instagram Story explaining that she wouldn’t be part of the highly anticipated tour, telling fans:
“To be completely open and honest with you guys, her choreographer Richard Jackson was a horrible person to work for.”
Efaw said Jackson was “mentally abusive to me for years,” but didn’t go into further detail. She added:
“After a series of unfortunate events, I just took it as a really clear sign that it’s time for me to move on and not work with him anymore.”
Fellow longtime GaGa dancers like Diamond, Sloan-Taylor Rabinor, and Kevin Frey added statements of their own explaining why they were also backing out of the tour.
In a Twitter post, Rabinor didn’t mention Jackson by name, but she said “leadership” during her time with the Oscar winner was “detrimental to me as a human being.” Frey also didn’t directly name Jackson, but called out an “individual” in his post who he said was “unqualified and unfit to lead a group of adult professional artists.” He added:
“Those that have the power to make those changes have been informed. I am hopeful they will investigate and make changes that are conducive to creating a professional, healthy, and safe working environment for everyone.”
French dancer Celine Thubert, one of GaGa’s earliest dancers, went into more detail about Jackson’s alleged behavior from her time working with the choreographer, telling RS Jackson was “disrespectful” and would “call me names or make fun of my accent,” before, allegedly, unceremoniously icing her out from GaGa’s dance team during the filming of the Poker Face music video.
Anthony Lofendo, one of the male dancers GaGa hired for her tour with New Kids on The Block in late 2008, told the outlet that Jackson “talk[ed] down to people,” adding:
“It was just never a positive experience with him.”
Knicole Haggins, who was hired in early 2012 for the Born This Way Ball tour, claimed Jackson “silenced” her when she joined the other dancers in lamenting about how rehearsals were being run. After allegedly berating her in front of the group, Haggins claimed they felt the choreographer started “staging me very poorly” and “ostracized me from the group [and] completely ignored my existence.”
Apparently there were other dust ups, but Haggins said the biggest blow came when Jackson allegedly weaponized something she had told him in private. In a room full of her colleagues, Jackson allegedly brought up her concerns of the financial side of her recent contract, making Haggins feel like he betrayed her trust. She told the outlet:
“Like, where is this attack coming from? When I haven’t done anything wrong?”
However, it appears not all the dancers see eye to eye about this. A sixth dancer, who worked for GaGa from 2009 until 2013 and asked to remain anonymous, said they wouldn’t label Jackson as “toxic” or “abusive,” but instead chalked up the emotion to the fact that the job in general is “hard.” They said:
“In general, being a dancer is hard — the entertainment industry is hard. I don’t think that I would put the sole blame on Richard for any situation … I think that things were hard, but I think we’re all human.”
The other dancers clearly feel differently, though. Haggins told the publication she sees sharing her story as an “opportunity for things to change for the better and for people to feel that they don’t have to be quiet in order to keep their job.”
“My point in coming forward about this is seeking change. If I can positively impact or save a dancer from having an experience like this, so when these red flags come up, whether it’s with [Jackson] or it’s somebody else, that they can step outside and be like, ‘Oh, I know what this looks like, I know how to remove myself from that situation.’”
Neither the Bad Romance singer nor Jackson have publicly addressed the allegations, but GaGa’s team is reportedly looking into it.
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