Diaspora

‘It’s Degrading.’ Singer Malu Trevejo Sued by Ex-Staffers Over ‘Abusive’ Treatment – Rolling Stone

By Cheyenne Roundtree
“Dude you must be the dumbest motherfucker I’ve ever seen in my fucking life.” 
The accosting morning message was something Witchneverson “Rich” Lacroix had grown accustomed to from his boss, whom the 21-year-old had started working for last May. Before he could reply, more messages immediately came through. “What the FUCKKKKKKK,” followed by “LIKE U LITERALLY RETARDED.” 
The irate boss was Malu Trevejo, whose berating, expletive-filled messages were typical,  Lacroix and three other former staffers claim to Rolling Stone, of how the 20-year-old Cuban singer and influencer would communicate with her personal assistants, business managers and security members.
Trevejo’s behavior went beyond nightmare boss or young, entitled celebrity, her former staffers claim, using her position of power to inflict emotional, mental, and verbal abuse upon her staff, according to a new civil lawsuit filed in Miami against Trevejo and her company by the four former staffers. In addition to alleged harassment and emotional, verbal and mental abuse, the former employees —  who are seeking at least $4 million in damages — are suing Trevejo for battery, defamation, and sexual misconduct, among others complaints. 

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One major complaint in the lawsuit centers around Trevejo’s alleged emotional and verbal abuse of her employees. If her team didn’t respond to her texts and calls quickly enough — including frequent middle-of-the-night calls — or adequately anticipate her needs, Trevejo became livid at these perceived failures, the former staffers claim. She’d allegedly lash out, calling them “stupid,” “dumb,” and “retarded,” and use racial and homophobic slurs, including “n—-r” and “f—-t.”
An attorney for Trevejo denied the allegations in a statement to Rolling Stone, saying “Ms. Trevejo is aware of the false allegations in the lawsuit and looks forward to defending herself against these baseless claims.”

On this particular day in July, Lacroix says, Trevejo was furious that a private chef had arrived too early to prep for a lunchtime meal, taking her frustration out on Lacroix, who had booked the service. “U GOTTAAAA BEEEE THE DUMBEST MFDFFFFFF FEVER [sic],” Trevejo texted Lacroix, according to a message reviewed by Rolling Stone. “WHY TFFFFFFFF WOULD U CALL A CHEF AT 9AM?” 
“U dumb ass shit,” Trevejo wrote. “He [is] not stopping. I won’t be paying for food now. I’m going back to sleep. If he does it … I will throw the pasta [through] the fucking car u drive. Through the fucking window.” 
Such degrading messages and shouting fits occurred almost daily, Trevejo’s former staffers claim, each possessing dozens of screenshots of texts and voice notes where Trevejo would unleash a stream of insults at them. “God, she’s so beautiful — on the outside,” Trevejo’s former assistant Victoria Barreto, a plaintiff in the suit, tells Rolling Stone. “[But] that’s all I can give you. As soon as she opens her mouth, she becomes the ugliest person in the room.”
Former assistant and co-manager Edwardo Vidal alleges in the suit that Trevejo attempted to stab him with a kitchen knife during a disagreement in April, and defamed him by falsely accusing him of “torture” and stealing from her.  Trevejo’s ex-security guard Ralph Colon claims he was often placed in “dangerous situations” due to Trevejo “instigat[ing] verbal and physical altercations … with the intent of Colon intervening to protect her.” And Barreto — who is a lesbian — claims that while working for Trevejo, the singer made what she perceived as unwanted sexual advances towards her, according to court documents.  

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Lacroix, Barreto, Colon and Vidal are also considering filing a workplace complaint in Miami against Trevejo to prevent abuse of future employees, according to their attorney Hegel Laurent. “We honestly feel better putting the truth out there because if nothing happens, she’s going to treat those people the same exact way how she treated us,” Colon explains. 

Even three months of working for Trevejo has had an impact on Lacroix, who quit last August and says he is still trying to heal after doubting his own self-worth due to Trevejo’s alleged daily put-downs, including calling him “n—-r,” a “dirty Haitian,” and homophobic slurs such as “f—-t.” and “bitch.”
“I don’t want her name coming up in my head and constantly having to think, ‘Damn, was I really dumb?’” Lacroix says. “‘Was I really stupid like she was calling me? Maybe I’m really freaking ‘retarded.’ Maybe I really should kill myself like she’d been telling me to.”
Taking a moment to wipe his eyes, Lacroix says quietly, “I can’t talk to my parents about this. My mom doesn’t know, so I’m dealing with this myself,” he says. “My mom would never [approve] of this … It’s so humiliating. It’s so degrading as a human being.” 
Trevejo was born María Luisa Trevejo to her mother Denia Pettessen, who moved a young Trevejo from Cuba to Miami, where she grew a sizeable following and fanbase through her lip-syncing and dancing on the app Musical.ly. 
At age 14, Trevejo harnessed her social media star power into a record deal with Universal Music Latin’s In-Tu Linea imprint in 2017, with her debut single “Luna Llena” charting on the Hot Latin Songs list. But by the following year, the relationship had soured and Trevejo and her mother sued the record company to void her contract after fighting over the release of new music. A Florida judge sided with Trevejo, who was a minor when she signed the contract, which was never ratified by the court. 
There was also trouble at home. In late summer 2020, Trevejo took to Instagram Live from a hotel room to accuse her mother of improperly spending her funds. (Pettessen did not reply to a request for comment.) A month shy of turning 18, Trevejo said she fled to Los Angeles where her new business manager Stephen Belafonte was located, saying he was going to help with her music career and explore a future in acting. (Belafonte no longer works with Trevejo.)

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That October, Trevejo turned 18 and gained her independence. She joined OnlyFans and quickly became one of the site’s top earners, signing with Bella Thorne’s Content X creative studio. By the end of 2021, Trevejo had bought her “dream house” and signed with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack label. (Weeks after releasing her first track with Scott’s team, Trevejo said she left the label.)   
As a teenager with access to hundreds of thousands of dollars, a blossoming career, millions of fans and virtually no parental supervision, Trevejo enlisted a personal assistant — a role that eventually went to Barreto in fall 2021.
The two young women had developed a friendship a year earlier through social media. After hanging out and seeing the lack of a team around Trevejo, Barreto suggested she could fill in as Trevejo’s personal assistant. Trevejo agreed and Barreto started working that October, according to the lawsuit. Their relationship quickly changed, starting with demeaning and trivial tasks such as Trevejo asking Barreto to bring her a water bottle that was right next to the singer.
Most concerningly, Barreto claims, Trevejo allegedly made what she perceived as sexual advances towards her. The lawsuit claims Trevejo would make odd requests for Barreto to sleep with her in bed and cuddle, was controlling about Barreto’s dating life, and once posted a photo of herself on Barreto’s Snapchat Story saying she was her girlfriend. There were also evening texts reviewed by Rolling Stone from Trevejo insisting for Barreto to come watch a movie with her in bed because she was “lonely.” (Barreto says she would try to avoid the hangouts by ignoring the messages until the morning and pretending that she fell asleep.) 
When Barreto would turn down these alleged advances, Trevejo would show “increased aggression” towards Barreto, give “dismissive and cold shoulder responses” and throw “fits of rage,” the suit alleges. “It was clear and apparent to Ms. Barreto that her compliance with Ms. Trevejo’s advances was required in order for her to maintain her employment and be in good standing with Ms. Trevejo,” the lawsuit claims. 

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Barreto’s employment abruptly ended in Dec. 2021. In a text reviewed by Rolling Stone, Trevejo had wanted Barreto to join her at a party, but Barreto said she had to finish packing up Trevejo’s house the day before movers were set to arrive. 
Minutes later, Barreto claims she received a call from Belafonte — Trevejo had fired her.
“I never wanted to come out about this because I was embarrassed,” Barreto says, her voice cracking. “I let some fucking girl take so much time away from me because in that time I moved with Malu, my dad was sick. I was away from my dad all that time to help, and my dad just fucking passed. My mom’s alone now — I should have been with people who actually mattered to me.” 
Edwardo Vidal met Trevejo in the Dominican Republic, where the 29-year-old was running his own business connecting different influencers and artists to grow their platforms. He had previously reached out to Belafonte with an open invitation to help Trevejo build connections, and when Trevejo wound up in the Dominican Republic in early 2020, Vidal says he arranged some interviews for her at local radio stations. 
The visit went so well that Vidal claims he received a call from Belafonte in December 2021 — days after Barreto claimed she was fired — with an offer to come work for Trevejo. While it was a personal assistant job, Vidal says he’d still be helping with the business side of Trevejo’s career, and so he agreed to move to the United States, leaving behind his pregnant partner.
“I saw this as an opportunity to grow because I’m thinking, ‘I work hard, I do whatever she wants me to do,’” Vidal says. “My mindset is like, ‘One day, she’s gonna be appreciative of the hard work, but she used to call me stupid, dumb, motherfucker, illiterate’ … I’ve never had so much mental anguish, emotional stress, and doubt about myself.” 
Like Barreto and Lacroix’s claims, Vidal says Trevejo would insult him on a near-daily basis, calling him “stupid,” “retarded,” “slow,” and “fat nigger,” according to the lawsuit. During one heated argument, according to court papers, Vidal claims Trevejo took a knife and swung it towards him. Trevejo allegedly wound up stabbing a box instead, nicking the countertop underneath. 

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Rolling Stone has reviewed a video of the damaged countertop and slashed box after the alleged incident. In a separate audio message reviewed by Rolling Stone, Trevejo says she “got mad” at Vidal, screamed at him and “stabbed the table.” “I got anger issues,” she giggles. “I didn’t do it to him. I did it to the table, alright?” 

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This wasn’t the only time Trevejo allegedly put her employees in harm’s way, according to the lawsuit. Vidal claims Trevejo would require him to “facilitate drug transactions” on her behalf and buy her alcohol while she was underage, according to the lawsuit. Colon, her former security guard from May 2022 through last October, claims he was “forced” to run red lights and ignore other traffic safety guidelines at Trevejo’s demand. Other times, Colon alleges, Trevejo would invite strangers to her home and ask him to forcibly kick them out “after she started an altercation with them.” “She puts everybody’s life on the line,” Colon says.
The former employees say that by coming forward together, they hope to save future employees from going through what they experienced. “The world needs to know the shit that you did to all of us,” Lacroix says. “It doesn’t end with just us [if] you haven’t learned your lesson. [Otherwise] you’re gonna do the same shit to somebody else.”
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