D’ussé Palooza, the New York-based festival heralded by Forbes as “America’s Favorite House Party” is cutting ties with its host and curator, Christopher “Chris Stylezz” Samuels, after more than a dozen women came forward accusing him of sexual assault, manipulation and coercion.
On Monday night, D’ussé Palooza’s official Twitter account announced that it was “aware of the allegation made against one of our staff members.”
“We are currently conducting an internal investigation around this allegation. Until the investigation has been concluded, that staff member has been placed on indefinite leave.”
The staff member, as Okayplayer reports, is Samuels, whose behavior toward women was the subject of discussion on Twitter the night the organization shared its statement.
As many as 16 women shared stories about Samuels, including anonymous screenshots of anecdotes detailing threats and harassment after Samuels allegedly propositioned women for sex but was rebuffed. Several women reported similar stories, saying Samuels exposed himself to them without their consent.
Within 24 hours, D’ussé Palooza followed up saying it was parting ways with Samuels.
“We have decided to sever ties with the staff member who was initially put under internal investigation,” it wrote. “Effective immediately, said staff member is no longer a part of the Palooza team and will not host any of our events going forward.”
There was no elaboration as to what the investigation turned up or what tilted D’ussé’s decision to remove Samuels from future events. It was also unclear whether Samuels would still be allowed to attend other D’ussé Palooza-affiliated events, or whether the severance was strictly in a professional capacity.
Samuels has been characterized as a “larger than life” personality and—as one of the two co-hosts of the popular festival (originally known as Hennypalooza)—was a highly visible member of the D’ussé Palooza team.
The Brooklyn native responded to the allegations via Instagram Live Tuesday night, appearing to accept responsibility for “disrespecting women,” but denying he had assaulted or raped anyone. The recording is no longer available on his Instagram, but excerpts of the recording can still be found online.
“I still can stand on what I did. I still can stand on disrespecting women. I still can stand on that I was wrong, I will stand on that all day and tomorrow. Rape? I’m not standing on that,” Samuels said.
“If that’s the case, please. I implore you to go to authorities,” he continued. “If you want to out me, if you want to expose me, do all that. Do it. I can deal with that public scrutiny. But the fact that, in the court of public opinion, the fact that I’m guilty before I even open my mouth? That’s crazy.”
The Root has reached out to D’ussé Palooza for comment and further clarification about the allegations.