For any Little Monster out there with a solid set of moves, being a part of the elaborate choreography and showmanship of a Lady Gaga performance should be a dream come true. But for multiple dancers who made working with Gaga their goal, reaching it—and meeting her longtime choreographer Richard “Richy” Jackson—felt less like a dream than a degradation sentence.
In a new investigation conducted by Rolling Stone, 10 former dancers for Gaga speak out alleging Jackson of abusive behaviors that created an “unsafe” and “unhealthy” workplace for his dancers. Jackson has served as Gaga’s head choreographer since 2011—he has also worked with JoJo Siwa, Mario, and Grace VanderWaal.
“He abused me; he embarrassed me; he made me feel terrible in the workplace, just because he could,” Caroline Diamond, who joined Gaga for her 2017 Super Bowl Half-Time Show and the Joanne tour, reveals in a Twitter video. “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.”
Montana Efaw, who was just 18 when she began dancing for Gaga in 2009, echoed Diamond’s claims in an Instagram video she posted addressing her decision not to join Gaga on her Chromatica Ball tour. Efaw said Jackson was “a horrible person to work with,” and “mentally abusive” to her for “years.”
“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,” she explained.
French dancer Celine Thubert, who began working with Gaga in 2008, recalls Jackson regularly teasing her accent on set, before cutting her from the “Poker Face” music video without as little as an email informing her of her termination. “Like any professional dancer, this was my whole life,” she says. “It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, and when you get your dream job crushed by a toxic person, it’s horrible.”
Although neither Gaga nor Jackson has publicly addressed any claims as of yet, Rolling Stone reports that Gaga’s team is taking the dancers’ concerns seriously and is looking into their allegations.
Kevin Frey, another dancer who spoke out (although he has only publicly referenced an “individual” and never accused Jackson by name), also says he informed “those that have the power to make changes” about his treatment.
“I am hopeful they will investigate and make changes that are conducive to creating a professional, healthy, and safe working environment for everyone,” he shares.