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Nigel Lythgoe

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Nigel Lythgoe
Lythgoe in 2010
Born (1949-07-09) 9 July 1949 (age 75)
Wallasey, Cheshire, England
  • Television director
  • film director
  • television producer
  • film producer
  • screenwriter
  • television personality
  • choreographer
  • former dancer
Years active1969–present
(m. 1974; div. 2010)
ChildrenSimon & Kris

Nigel Lythgoe OBE (/ˈlɪθɡ/; born 9 July 1949)[1] is an English television and film director and producer, television dance competition judge, former dancer in the Young Generation and choreographer.

He was the producer of the shows Pop Idol and American Idol and created the 2009 competition Superstars of Dance.

He is also the creator and executive producer of So You Think You Can Dance, on which he served as a permanent judge for the first sixteen seasons and was originally set to return as a judge for the eighteenth season of the show, before ending his participation with the series following sexual assault allegations.

Early life[edit]

Born in Wallasey, Cheshire,[1] to dockworker George Percival Lythgoe and Gertrude Emily Lythgoe, he became interested in dance at the age of ten. He began tap dancing, and went on to study at the Hylton-Bromley School of Dance and Drama and the Perry Cowell School of Dance, both in Wallasey, where he studied classical ballet, modern jazz, ballroom, character, classical Greek and National dance from various countries. Lythgoe's first professional job was in the corps de ballet for the English National Ballet tour of The Merry Widow. He trained in London under Joanne Steuer and Molly Molloy.[2] Beginning in 1969, Lythgoe performed with the BBC's The Young Generation dance troupe. He became their choreographer in 1971 and has since choreographed over 500 television shows.


Lythgoe in 1976, with dance group

Early in Lythgoe's career, he learned to use techniques (e.g. multi-cameras) to film choreography, a skill that would lead to a TV career.[2]

During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Lythgoe performed with dancers from Cyd Charisse to Gene Kelly. He also choreographed for Ben Vereen, Shirley Bassey and the Muppets.[2] Lythgoe, in an interview with People said that he was "the only person to dance, choreograph, produce and direct the Royal Variety Performance."[3]

After working in the television industry, including at TVS, by 1995, Lythgoe held the post of Head of Entertainment and Comedy at London Weekend Television,[2] where he commissioned and produced shows including Gladiators and Blind Date.[4]

In 2000, Lythgoe became the tough judge on Popstars and was nicknamed "Nasty Nigel" by the British tabloid press. He was loaned by London Weekend Television to Bob Geldof's television company Planet 24 to executive produce and direct the UK version of Survivor. Lythgoe then joined Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment group as President of 19 Television. He developed and produced a new show created by Fuller, Pop Idol. This then became a global franchise that includes American Idol. He moved to the U.S. in 2002 to produce American Idol and then became producer/judge and co-creator of So You Think You Can Dance on the FOX television network.[5]

Lythgoe, and his production partner Ken Warwick, initially agreed to produce the 2007 Emmys, but could not due to scheduling conflicts with SYTYCD.[6]

In 2007, Lythgoe worked with a number of California-based Brits, including then-British Consul-General Bob Peirce, to found BritWeek, an annual program of events held in Los Angeles and Orange County to celebrate the business, historical, and entertainment ties between the UK and California. On 4 August 2008, Lythgoe confirmed that he was leaving American Idol and decided to move on with So You Think You Can Dance.[7]

In 2009, Lythgoe and Fuller formed a company called Big Red 2 Entertainment. Fuller is a fan of Manchester United and Lythgoe of Liverpool. Both teams play in red. Their first venture was Superstars of Dance for NBC. He is also a judge on So You Think You Can Dance (UK).

On 5 August 2010, American Idol confirmed Lythgoe would be returning as an executive producer to the hit show beginning season 10.[8][9][10]

Personal life[edit]

Lythgoe married Bonita Shawe in 1974, whom he met while he was choreographer for the BBC's Young Generation dance troupe.[4] Shawe was also an audition judge on the first season of So You Think You Can Dance and was a judge on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance for the first three seasons. The couple divorced in 2010 after a protracted separation.[11] They have two sons together, Simon and Kristopher. Lythgoe has dated Priscilla Presley and Raquel Welch.[12] He owns Villa San Juliette, a vineyard in Paso Robles, California.[13][14]

He suffered a heart attack in January 2003[15] and nearly died from a burst appendix in October 2003.[citation needed]

Sexual assault allegations[edit]

On 29 December 2023, Paula Abdul filed a lawsuit accusing Lythgoe of sexual assault while she was employed as a judge on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.[16] Lythgoe has denied Abdul's allegations, which he described as an "appalling smear", adding:

To say that I am shocked and saddened by the allegations made against me by Paula Abdul is a wild understatement. For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear—and entirely platonic—friends and colleagues. Yesterday, however, out of the blue, I learned of these claims in the press and I want to be clear: Not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for.[16]

Lythgoe added that he could not "pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue."[16]

On 2 January 2024, two contestants of the programme All American Girl, who were identified as Jane Does, sued Lythgoe, accusing him of sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional distress, and negligence, and alleging he "openly swatted and groped" their buttocks while he roamed around the show's set as the contestants were dressed in dance costumes; they alleged that his behaviour was "openly accepted" by the programme's production company.[17] The 14-page document Rolling Stone magazine obtained alleges that after a wrap party in May 2003, Lythgoe took an "unusual interest" in the Jane Does, and then proceeded to try and force himself on them without their consent.[18]

On 5 January, Lythgoe departed from So You Think You Can Dance.[19] In a statement to Variety, Lythgoe claimed that “I have informed the producers of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ of my decision to step back from participating in this year's series.”[20] The 18th season would premiere on 4 March 2024, with Lythgoe noticeably absent.[21]

On 5 March 2024, a new sexual assault lawsuit was filed against Lythgoe in the Los Angeles Superior Court, according to documents which were obtained by Us Weekly.[22] The new lawsuit was the fourth sexual assault lawsuit to be filed against Lythgoe in a period of two months.[22] In the lawsuit, a woman who identified as Jane Doe alleged Lythgoe committed sexual battery, gender violence, sexual harassment and intentional inflectional of emotional distress following a 2018 incident.[22]


Producer (selected credits)


Awards and honours[edit]

  • 2015 O.B.E - Order of The British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • 2014 Ellis Island International Medal of Honor
  • 2011 International Emmy: Founders Award - Winner
  • 2008 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2007 The Governors Award - Winner
  • 2007 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2006 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2005 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2004 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2003 Grammy: Album of the Year - Nominee

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Nigel Lythgoe". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Looseleaf, p. 43
  3. ^ Rizzo, Monica (8 August 2005), "Talking with So You Think You Can Dance 's...Nigel Lythgoe" People, 64 (6):38
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 April 2023. Retrieved 1 November 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Nigel Lythgoe 'fired' as American Idol executive producer". BBC News. 10 June 2013.
  6. ^ Waldman, Allison J. (6 August 2007) "Take a Peek Behind the Curtain" Television Week 26 (31):23
  7. ^ "Lythgoe Leaving 'American Idol'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  8. ^ "Nigel Lythgoe Returns to 'AMERICAN IDOL' as Executive Producer". Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  9. ^ "Nigel Lythgoe Returns to "American Idol"". ABC News. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Nigel Lythgoe Returns to 'Idol' as Executive Producer". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2010.[dead link]
  11. ^ Colin Vickery and Siobhan Duck (20 February 2008) "So You Think You Can Dance's Bonnie Lythgoe's marriage gloom" Herald Sun. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  12. ^ Cutler, Jacqueline (8 July 2021). "Nigel Lythgoe on Being an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Dance Community". Variety.
  13. ^ Flemming, Jack (10 August 2022). "'American Idol' producers spent years building a vineyard. Now, they want to sell". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Brandt, Libertina (10 August 2022). "Former 'American Idol' Producers List 160-Acre California Estate for $22 Million". Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ "Nigel Lythgoe suffers heart attack". United Kingdom: BBC. 16 January 2003. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  16. ^ a b c Jacobs, Julia (30 December 2023). "Paula Abdul Accuses Nigel Lythgoe of Sexual Assault During 'American Idol'". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  17. ^ Zhan, Jennifer (1 January 2024). "Paula Abdul Is Suing Nigel Lythgoe for Sexual Assault". Vulture. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  18. ^ Dillon, Nancy (2 January 2024). "Nigel Lythgoe Hit With Second Sexual Assault Lawsuit by 'All American Girl' Contestants". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  19. ^ Jacobs, Julia (5 January 2024). "'So You Think You Can Dance' Judge Exits After Paula Abdul Lawsuit". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  20. ^ Maddus, Gene (5 January 2024). "Nigel Lythgoe Steps Down From 'So You Think You Can Dance' Amid Sex Abuse Lawsuits". Variety. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  21. ^ Gawley, Paige (4 March 2024). "Nigel Lythgoe Will Not Appear on 'So You Think You Can Dance' Season 18 Amid Sexual Assault Lawsuits". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  22. ^ a b c Pettibone, Kat (5 March 2024). "Nigel Lythgoe Accused of Sexual Assault for a 4th Time After 'So You Think You Can Dance' Exit". Us Weekly. Retrieved 5 March 2024.


  • Looseleaf, Victoria (August 2007), "A Man, A Plan, A Wildly Successful TV Show". Dance Magazine. 81 (8):42-46

External links[edit]