Antonio “L.A.” Reid — a Grammy-winning music executive known for helping launch the careers of Usher, OutKast and Pink — has been sued by a former Arista Records executive who claims she was sexually assaulted and retaliated against by Reid, who allegedly obstructed her career after she rebuffed further advances.
In a lawsuit filed in New York federal court on Wednesday, Drew Dixon accuses Reid, who she worked under starting in the early 2000s, of assaulting her on two occasions. After she rejected other overtures, she alleges Reid responded by “punishing the artists” she had “already signed or by blocking the artists she attempted to sign,” including Kanye West and John Legend.
The case follows accusations from Dixon made in 2017 that Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, raped her and that Reid harassed her, forcing her out of the music industry. (Simmons denied the claim.) The same year, Reid exited from the top job at Sony’s Epic Records after he was accused of sexual misconduct by an assistant. Dixon, who contributed to hit songs from West, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin, says her promising career was thwarted due to retaliation and health issues she continues to suffer as a result of the assaults.
According to the complaint, the first assault occurred in 2001 on a private jet with Reid, whose label LaFace Records was a joint venture with Arista, on the way to a company-wide retreat in Puerto Rico.
“He asked her to sit next to him to go over materials for the presentation, and then he began playing with her hair, kissing her and digitally penetrated her vulva without her consent,” the suit states.
After Dixon started to avoid Reid following the incident, she claims he started to retaliate by “embarrassing her in front of others or otherwise being curt and unprofessional.” The suit alleges Reid assaulted her a second time the same year in his car, where he allegedly said the pair should review demos of an artist he was thinking of signing.
The complaint states, “Shortly into the ride, Mr. Reid again, without Ms. Dixon’s permission or consent began to grope and kiss Ms. Dixon, who squirmed and pushed him away as Mr. Reid’s driver stared straight ahead. When Mr. Reid complained and became visibly irritated with her lack of compliance, Ms. Dixon froze. Mr. Reid again digitally penetrated Ms. Dixon’s vulva without her consent.”
Dixon says she only told her life coach about the assaults because she “knew that the repercussions at that time of saying that she was the victim of assault at the hands of another mogul would be career ending.”
According to the suit, Dixon suffered ongoing harassment in the form of demands from Reid for her to wear skirts and high heels, as well as daily invitations to meet in his hotel room. Their relationship allegedly turned hostile when she refused.
“Harm came from the fact that Mr. Reid would directly respond to Ms. Dixon’s rejection of his sexual advances by punishing the artists Ms. Dixon had already signed or by blocking the artists she attempted to sign,” writes Kenya Davis, a lawyer for Dixon, in the complaint.
The suit alleges that Dixon’s promotional and recording budgets were slashed and that her song demos and artist auditions were consistently rejected. On one occasion when she brought West in for an audition, she was allegedly berated in front of staff “about how bad she was at her job.”
Dixon claims she was forced out of the industry by Reid and, as a result of the assaults and ongoing retaliation, suffers from depression. “Ms. Dixon’s losses are profound; her lost profits from missed producer points alone are staggering,” the suit states.
The suit alleges sexual battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among another claim for a “crime of violence” motivated by her gender. The complaint, which does not name Arista Records, was brought under the New York Adult Survivors Act, which revived the window to bring sexual misconduct claims for one year regardless of the statute of limitations.
In a statement, Dixon said, “L.A. Reid is a known predator, who uses his singular professional power to force himself on his victims. In my case, his persistent campaign of sexual harassment and assault forced me to abandon the work I loved when I was at the top of my game in the music business, having worked my way up from internships and a job as a receptionist.”