TLCís T-Boz and Chilli get real about Left Eyeís legacy, lazy lesbians and life after Usher by Brandon Voss Letís get one thing straight, gossip hounds: Tionne ďT-BozĒ Watkins and Rozonda ďChilliĒ Thomas of Grammy-winning megagroup TLC are not replacing the late Lisa ďLeft EyeĒ Lopes in their new reality show R U the Girl With T-Boz & Chilli, which debuted Wednesday, July 27, on UPN. Instead, bouncing back from the tragedy of losing their partner in a 2002 car crash - not to mention very public bouts with illness, heartbreak and bankruptcy - these crazy-sexy-cool ladies will crown a new R&B princess in the season finale and release a greatest hits album featuring two fresh jams. I recently caught up with the Hotlanta duo (who are currently being styled by designer Kara Saun from Project Runway) by phone for some good old-fashioned girl talk.
What are you two up to today?
T-Boz: Iím at home - A-T-L, baby!
Chilli: Iím in my kitchen, eating - my most favorite thing to do.
Are you a good cook?
Chilli: Yeah, I throw it down. All the women of TLC can cook. Tionne does this no-bake cheesecake, and it is so good.
T-Boz: She makes a mean peach cobbler.
Stop, yíall are making me hungry! So tell me about R U the Girl.
Chilli: We agreed to do the show on one condition: That weíre not looking for a new member in the group. But people still think thatís what the show is about. Weíre looking for a girl who is multi-talented - great personality, ability to sing, rhyme, write, produce, dance - we call it a triple threat. Whoever the winner is will record with us on our new single and perform with us in a live concert at the end of the show. And weíre gonna get her a record deal. As a matter of fact, I cannot wait until you hear our new single.
Well give me a sneak preview!
Chilli: Itís called ďI Bet,Ē and itís about a relationship thatís over but you gotta change all of your phone numbers because your ex is still trying to get in touch with you. Itís so fly.
Have you been with a lot of guys who canít take a hint?
T-Boz: Oh hell yes! Iím like, "Hello? I said it was over! What the hell is wrong with you?" You know how we are - we like to talk about you.
Does the winner of the show have to be a black girl?
Chilli: No! Child, TLC appeals to everybody. When we were on tour, you could sometimes count the black people in the audience. Girls just relate to us, period. And guys happen to like us, too, because we alright on the eyes, you know - we cute. [Laughs.]
Any big olí lesbians audition?
Chilli: Yeah, this one girl - let me tell you, she scared me. I thought it was a dude. Her hair was really short and she had on layered white T- shirts - she kind of looked like Kriss Kross. When we told the girls to do their thing, she just stood there! So I stopped the music and was like, ďWhatís wrong?Ē And she was like, [deep lesbian voice] ďIím tired.Ē I said, ďYou can go on out that door right now. Thereís too many people up in here thatís confident, and youíre not, so peace out.Ē She was just a trip.
After Lisaís death, you both said in interviews that you didnít feel as though TLC could go on as a duo. Whatís changed?
Chilli: At that time we were not given time to grieve. Lisa passed away, all of the sudden everyone wants a statement from us and we canít even hold a conversation for more than five minutes without breaking down. We did mean it when we said we would never look for a third member, but as for not going on - we were very emotional. As time goes on, you can see things more clearly. And then you get fans coming up and saying, ďWe want you to make music again, we really miss TLC!Ē That means so much to hear.
Can we expect solo albums from you both in the future?
Chilli: Iím currently working on a solo project with Missy [Elliott] as an executive producer. Iím real excited because Iím such a fan of Missy.
T-Boz: I havenít done my deal yet, but I got about six songs written, so my albumís half- finished.
I canít wait! Now...can I get real with you, Chilli?
Chilli: Yes, you can get real with me.
After you date a guy as hot as Usher, how are you not spoiled for life? And wonít other guys worry that they canít stack up?
Chilli: I donít see him the way you guys look at him. Even when we first started dating I wasnít a fan like that. I respected him as a musician, but I wasnít like, "Oh my god, Iím dating Usher!" I was never on his jock like that, period. Heís just a regular guy. If a man is really secure with himself, he wonít look at it like that, either. And if it was all that, then I think we would still be together. But weíre not.
Do you have any new romance scoop for me?
Chilli: I donít. Itís sad. There are so many dime-a-dozen guys out there, and I donít want to date a guy whoís just like everyone else. I havenít met anyone special yet, but I really need him to come and find me!
Are you getting out of the kitchen and hitting the clubs?
Chilli: I donít really like going to clubs. Iíve been out lately only because Missy has had her album release parties, and sheís been like, ďChilli, you gotta come!Ē
Mmm-hmm, I knew Missy would be a bad influence.
Chilli: [Laughs.] Just to show support! Other than that, forget it.
You got a man, T-Boz?
T-Boz: Oh child, Iím still going through a divorce [from rapper Mack 10]. But I will be single one day soon!
Itís all about paperwork, huh?
T-Boz: Hello! Iím not really looking, but I hope someone will fall in my lap or somíin. I donít care what they job is, but they have to do something because I donít want to be taking care of no grown-ass man. But guys are scared to talk to me - they just stare at me.
By the way, howís your battle with sickle cell anemia?
T-Boz: Iím doing great! Iíve been out of the hospital for a long time, and Iím so happy. Iím a trooper - I ainít going nowhere.
And please tell me you finally got yourselves some cash.
T-Boz: [Laughs.] No, weíre not going down that road anymore. You ainít gotta worry about us ever being broke again.
R U the Girl With T-Boz & Chilli airs 8pm, Wed, on UPN