Two Remaining Members of TLC Trio keep Left Eye's memory alive with album '3D.'
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TLC's Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas is enjoying her newfound fame as a reality TV star. With UPN's summer hit "R U The Girl With T-Boz and Chilli" recently wrapped, the sassy singer has been receiving more attention than usual. People stop her in the mall to tell her who they think should have won while others comment on how short she is in person.
This is a welcome change from three years ago when fans would come up and console her on the loss of fellow group member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Since Left Eye's passing, Chilli's relationship with Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins has grown even stronger. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, both women have gradually managed to pick up the peices and emerge from the tragedy, forever keeping Lisa's memory alive.
Fresh off a flight from Tampa, the "sexy" member of TLC made it safely out of town before Hurricane Katrina touched down. While in Florida, Chilli met up with her good friend Missy Elliot to record some tracks for her upcoming solo album to be released "when [she's] finished." Until then, Ms. Thomas has plenty to keep her busy like shopping with T-Boz, looking for a "good clean" man and spending time with her most prized possession, her son.
Was it hard for you and T-Boz to move on after Left Eye's death?
Oh yeah! It was really hard because we were in the middle of an album that we were recording, all three of us. And when that happened, we just didn't get a chance to take a break and try to recover a little bit from her death. [Arista] wanted us to finish the record. It was real crazy
How do you still keep Lisa in your memories?
Well, I think when you love somebody and you're that close, especially like a sister, I don't see how you could go on without thinking about them.
Are there certain things that remind you of her?
Well, yeah. Some things more than others. When T-Boz and I work and she's not there, that's a constant reminder.
What do you think she would think about R U The Girl?
I think she would love it. We've always given back to our fans and this is the same thing so she would like that a lot.
Do you still keep in contact with her family?
Yeah, we see them sometimes and talk to them every now and then. I think T-Boz keeps in touch a little more than I do because her uncle is married to Lisa's mom.
How has the relationship between you and T-Boz changed since Lisa's passing?
We're definitely a lot closer than we were before. I don't think that either of us has ever taken life for granted, but you just don't assume that your family is going to die, especially at a young age. You think that we're all gonna be around until we're old and gray. Stuff like that happens and you realize that you can go anyday. You don't know when your time is. So we're really, really, really, really, really close.
What's a typical day like when the two of you are together?
Well, kinda like what you see on TV. [Laughs.] You know, always joking aroung. We kinda try to avoid the malls because when we're together it's too crazy, especially now being on television. We do girly stuff. We like spas and we love going to the movies. That's like our favorite thing to do.
Obviously you get recognized from TLC, but do you notice people approaching you now because of the show?
Oh yeah. Because you're in their face with the show being out. It's fun to me. I love it. As long as no one does anything crazy, I'm cool.
Has anyone said anything crazy to you?
Chilli:Not anything about the show, but I guess. I'm a short woman and I might have that short woman complex just a little bit. [Laughs.] So I get mad when somebody comes up to me like, "Oh my God! You're so little!" I'm not little. I'm big. You just think that I'm so small now that you see me. [Laughs.] We look so tall on television, but so many entertainers are really short.
Who is the bigger spender, you or T-Boz?
Oh, T-Boz! She's a shopaholic.
What's the most the two of you have spent at once?
We were in L.A. at H. Lorenzo. I think I spent about $6,000 and she spent $10,000. Then to top it off, they mailed her stuff and it got lost. It was terrible.
Did she ever receive what she bought?
Chilli: Nope. Delta lost her package so they had to reimburse her.
Will there be another TLC album with all-new material anytime in the near future?
We've been talking about it a lot lately. It would almost be like a TLC and friends. It'd just be a lot of people in the industry that we admire and have always wanted to work with.
Were you dissappointed by the sales of 3D compared to your previous albums?
Yes and no. It was just not the right timing. The album was not supposed to come out during that time. We still should have been in a grieving period instead of out working the record. Had we released "Turntable," the single Arista wanted us to realease to capitalize off of Lisa's death, the album might have done better. But we were already upset and sad about losing our sister. We definitely didn't want to have to sing a song and shoot a video that was about it.
Do you think TLC paved the way for other female R&B groups such as Destiny's Child?
Absolutely. But I think that even before TLC, so many other female groups paved the way for us - like Salt-N-Pepa. Although they were a rap act, it was still a girl group. I loved them and they had good messages in some of their songs. I compare groups like Destiny's Child to En Vogue. I haven't honestly seen a girl group that reminds me of TLC.
Do you sense Destiny's Child was biting TLC at all?
Absolutely not. First of all, T-Boz and I are the singers in TLC. Tionne has a very raspy voice, mine is more soft and melodic and Lisa was the rapper. She never did sing. So you have three seperate artists in Destiny's Child and everybody sings. There are no rappers. You knew all the girls in TLC. I'm sure everybody had their favourite, but you loved us collectively. So it wasn't like you knew Chilli and not really paid any attention to Left Eye. No, you knew all three. As for Destiny's Child, who doesn't know who Beyonc is? Not only from her solo stuff, but when she was in the group.
Do you feel Destiny's pay homage to you?
I don't know. We're just so different. To me, the only thing that was similar was "Bills, Bills, Bills" to "No Scrubs." [Laughs.] It kinda sounded like "No Scrubs" because it was the same writer and producer. As far as lyrically what they talk about or how they are as a group, it's so different from us. TLC was always outspoken. We opened the doors for girl groups period.
What do you think of Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle going their seperate ways?
Nothing lasts forever. I don't think anybody should be surprised. It's not a shock to me.
Do you regret not putting out a solo album or are you glad you stuck together and took your time?
Oh, no. To me timing is everything. When Lisa was talking about doing solo stuff, I used to tell her all the time, "People wanna see us together more so than apart." But it makes sense now of course. One member is not here and T-Boz and I, we do seperate things, but we always keep that unity of TLC together. It means so much to us.
Are you involved in a romantic relationship right now?
[Whiny voice.] I'm not. You gotta hook me up with somebody. Some good clean man. [Laughs.] They tell me I'm too picky, but I think my standards should be high. Because when you keep the standards up and you meet people who are not cutting it, then it's not another wasted relationship in your life. You're not like, "Oh God. I wish I had never dated that person." I haven't met that special, great guy yet. I just haven't. I mean I'm not looking. Maybe he could just come up and tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, it's me. I'm here now."
Don't you get guys coming up to you all the time?
Sometimes I do but sometimes I don't. It's funny and I hate to say this, but it's true. Men are intimidated by women who are doing their own thing. And you hear guys saying all the time [that] they want strong, independant women but they end up with groupies. So it's like, "Okay. You're not really ready for something like that." And to me settling for a groupie is because she's a "yes" person. She'll do whatever. She'll high five you when it really shouldn't be that way. I'm just not that girl. I'mma keep it real and I want somebody to be the same with me.
Would you prefer someone in the industry?
I wouldn't wanna date a singer or a rapper. To me, I've been there and it draws too much attention and it's just crazy. I don't ever want an experience like that again.
Do you still speak with Usher?
No. Child, when I move on, I don't look back.
Is T-Boz still close with Mack 10?
When you have a child with somebody, you always have to maintain a cordial relationship for the kid. So they're always gonna have to communicate cause they have Chase [T-Boz's daughter].
T-Boz used to live in California with Mack 10, right?
Yeah, and she hated it! It took almost an hour to get there! [Laughs.] I was like, "Dude. This is not cool. I'm not loving this." But she wasn't happy out there. She's not an L.A. girl. She's totally an ATL girl.
Is it hard to be a mom and have a career in the entertainment industry?
Yeah, it's a juggle. But because being a great mom is more important to me than anything else, sometimes I have to say no to offers that I get because that means I might have to be away from Tron. He's in school now. He's not like a little baby where I can just pack him up and take him with me all the time. I've never been away from my son for longer than six days. I couldn't even imagine that. It gets hard sometimes.
Is he able to grasp your fame?
Oh yeah! He's always known. When "No Scrubs" came out, Tron wasn't even a year old, but when we went on tour he was just turning two. And then when he turned six, that's when we had that last performance at Giants Stadium with Z100. It was his birthday and I brought him on stage. I had like 50,000 people sing "Happy Birthday" to Tron. I was like, "You are major right now."
He must have liked that.
Oh, he did. He didn't want to leave the stage! He's hilarious.
Do you think he'll want to be in showbiz?
It wouldn't suprise me. If he does, it would probably be more on the acting side.
Why do you say acting?
Cause he likes to imitate everybody and his memory is incredible. Tron can imitate all the scenes in the movie Elf and it sounds just like Will Ferell. It's crazy. He has a great sense of humor. He tells me that he wants to be on TV and stuff, so we'll see.
Would you encourage that or advice him against it?
I would definitely encourage it because I'm such a hands-on mommy. The one thing I wouldn't do is let Tron work on TV shows as a child because when you watch those E! and VH1 specials on everybody, they're all jacked up! You get caught up in being a child star and people can't associate you outside of that. I think that a lot of these parents, when the child is the breadwinner of the family, they let them get away with stuff. They let them talk to them crazy. I'm like, "I wish Tron would." I would knock him up, man! Oh my God, it would not happen! Cause my mom don't play that and Tionne's mother don't play that so we're the same with our children. I don't care how much money my son makes, I am still his mother.
Any plans to tour again?
Yes, we're talking about that too. Trying to put together a greatest hits tour. So nothing definite yet, but we're talking about it. I love touring. I could tour forever.
Out of all the TLC albums, which is your favorite?
I can tell you Fanmail was my least favorite. I mean I like songs but I couldn't listen to it all the way down. A lot of the songs weren't my favorite songs. It's a cross between CrazySexyCool and 3D because I really did like 3D a lot. I thought we had great songs on that record. It's a tie between those two.
This or That?
See's or Godiva? Godiva
Salt-N-Pepa or En Vogue? En Vogue
Beyoncé, Kelly, or Michelle? Kelly
Collard greens or okra? Collard greens, baby
Taco Bell or Del Taco? Neither one. Oh my God no! I don't eat that mess.
Spicy or mild? Mild. I have acid-reflux.
Condoleezza Rice or Laura Bush? [Laughs.] That's the same to me
Polariod or digital? Polariod. I'm old school.
Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie? I hate Brad Pitt with Angelina Jolie. I hope they break up. I will be happy when they do. I really wish he and Gwyneth Paltrow could've worked things out.
Favorite male artist? I love Seal. Why did he get married on me? That is a good man. Do they make any more like him?