Ten former members of the USC Song Girls dance team talk about a toxic environment

0

Ten former members of the USC Song Girls dance team talk about a toxic environment where the coach told them to wear makeup and Victoria’s Secret padded bras – leaving many with eating disorders and suicidal thoughts

  • Eight of them say they have seen counselors as a result of their time on the squad
  • Others describe comments about what they looked like or what they ate; Under the team’s contract, they reportedly couldn’t get more than 5 pounds from their audition
  • Some say they were told to dye their hair so blonde that it fell out
  • One girl said her experience made her suicidal; others claim they were dropped from the team after complaining about their treatment
  • Some of these complaints led to the resignation of coach Lori Nelson last year
  • Nelson’s attorney told DailyMail.com, “Mrs. Nelson vehemently and unequivocally denies the harmful and misleading allegations made against her ‘
  • An investigation has been started; USC said: ‘We are aware of the concerns of current and former Song Girls and have actively addressed them’

Ten former members of the University of Southern California’s Song Girls dance team have described developing eating disorders, wearing makeup, and even feeling suicidal after their longtime coach was forced to resign.

Eight of those who spoke The LA Times say they saw counselors as a result of their time with the squad performing at soccer games, basketball games and other school sporting events.

Others describe comments about what they looked like or what they ate.

The team’s contract reportedly told the girls that they couldn’t gain more than 5 pounds from their audition weight.

Some say they were told to dye their hair so blonde it fell out and buy a padded bra from Victoria’s Secret.

One girl said her experience made her suicidal; others claim they were dropped from the team after complaining about their treatment. Another says she was even falsely accused of having sex with another student on a team trip.

Some of these complaints led to the resignation of coach Lori Nelson last year. The 63-year-old former Song Girl took over the team from founder Lindley Bothwell.

Adrianna and Bella Robakowski.  Ten former members of the University of Southern California's Song Girls dance team have described developing eating disorders, wearing makeup, and even feeling suicidal after their longtime coach was forced to resign.

Adrianna and Bella Robakowski. Ten former members of the University of Southern California’s Song Girls dance team have described developing eating disorders, wearing makeup, and even feeling suicidal after their longtime coach was forced to resign.

USC Trojans Song Girl Alexa Trujillo pictured in 2013. Eight of those who spoke with The LA Times said they saw counselors as a result of their time with the squad performing at soccer games, basketball games, and other school sporting events.

USC Trojans Song Girl Alexa Trujillo pictured in 2013. Eight of those who spoke with The LA Times said they saw counselors as a result of their time with the squad performing at soccer games, basketball games, and other school sporting events.

Josie Bullen is pictured. Others describe comments about what they looked like or what they ate

Nelson’s attorney told DailyMail.com, “Mrs. Nelson vehemently and unequivocally denies the harmful and misleading allegations made against her.

‘Mrs. Nelson has well-documented communication between team members and her, and she acted professionally in enforcing team policies agreed upon by university supervisors and general counsel. These are false accusations embellished for a bombastic news story. She hasn’t done anything wrong. ‘

But Josie Bullen, who joined USC in 2017, told The LA Times that she was being treated for an eating disorder after her time on the squad.

Lori Nelson (center-right) and Diana De Bruhl (center-left) with USC Song Girls in June 2015

Lori Nelson (center-right) and Diana De Bruhl (center-left) with USC Song Girls in June 2015

Allegations of assault were first reported last year;  that led to an investigation into 'possible violations of the university's non-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies by Ms. Nelson'

Allegations of assault were first reported last year; that led to an investigation into ‘possible violations of the university’s non-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies by Ms. Nelson’

Another dancer, Adrianna Robakowski, described the culture as ‘sick’. She and two other girls filed a complaint with USC athletics director Mike Bohn in February last year.

And former Song Girl Alexa Trujillo, 27, said Nelson was referring to her “ appearance ” when discussing why she might have been removed from the team.

She said, “If you came to class and you didn’t have makeup on, somehow Lori would find out.” Trujillo said she started “ compulsive exercise, diet and spending a lot of money on a nutritionist ” after losing her place on the team.

In defending Nelson, other dancers have called her a “ mother figure ” and said girls were picked on talent alone.

But an unnamed girl said, “I’ve been doing this all my life, and never, with the exception of this program, have I ever felt, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m fat. ‘

Another added from Nelson: ‘She just instilled this fear.’

Mike Bohn pictured in 2019. Adrianna Robakowski described the culture as 'sick'.  She and two other girls filed a complaint with USC athletics director Mike Bohn in February last year.

Mike Bohn pictured in 2019. Adrianna Robakowski described the culture as ‘sick’. She complained last February along with two other girls to athletic director Mike Bohn of the USC

Allegations of assault were first reported last year; that led to an investigation into “possible violations of the university’s non-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies by Ms. Nelson.”

USC said in a statement to DailyMail, “ We are very concerned when a student experiences emotional or mental health problems or other impediments to our educational programs and activities, and we provide both private and confidential support resources to current and former students.

‘While we cannot discuss ongoing investigations or staffing issues, we can share that we are aware of the concerns of current and former Song Girls and have actively addressed them through appropriate university process.’

Advertisement

.