Interview With TLC on Their New Doc & ‘Hot Summer Nights’ Tour

TLC (Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes (1971-2002) and Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas), pop group, circa 1995.
Photo by Tim Roney/Getty Images

The ’90s are back in style, and TLC is leading the charge! In addition to their upcoming behind-the-scenes documentary TLC Forever, airing Saturday, June 3 on Lifetime, TLC is going back on tour on June 1, which kicks off in Pelham, Alabama, at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater.

TLC, whose No. 1 singles include “Waterfalls,” “Creep,” “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” is one of the most influential female groups in history. The multi-Grammy-winning trio— Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, Rozanda ‘Chilli’ Thomas and Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes (who died tragically in Honduras in 2002) — was first formed in Atlanta in 1991 and was quick to establish themselves as one of the best-selling American girl groups in music.

Now, the band is a duo, and making the documentary has inspired a trip down memory lane. Here we talk to the superstars about making of the documentary, their lives now, and everything in between.

MTV20: Live and Almost Legal-rehearsals Lisa Lopes. Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, T boz and Chilli of TLC rehearsing for the MTV 20th Anniversary party, "MTV20: Live and Almost Legal" at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on 8/1/01.

Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect

“We were so excited to live out our dreams,” Chilli tells us, about the early years of fame. “I think we had the most fun because we didn’t know how important it was at the time to be in control of your business and all that kind of stuff. We were just having fun and we were so excited.”

During the ’90s and early 2000s, TLC won four Grammy Awards, sold millions of records and launched countless hit songs on Billboard Hot 100 charts. Behind the scenes, though, as the documentary shows, the women were dealing with many challenges too, such as T-Boz’s lifelong struggle with her health. Business disagreements often led to drama between the members and their staff; the band declared bankruptcy at the height of their fame.

“Our drama wasn’t catty like regular girls. It was just life drama,” T-Boz explains. “Business and stuff like that. We didn’t have the Oh, I think she’s cuter than me type of drama. We didn’t do that.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins (L) and Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas of the music group 'TLC' perform onstage during the I Love The 90s The Party Continues at The Greek Theatre on July 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

“When I got in the group, we just really clicked,” Chilli adds. “It was just a natural chemistry that was there on day one. Then the love started growing, the friendship part of it started growing — us as sisters — all of that started growing. It was us against everyone else. We never had any type of jealousy toward each other at all. Our beef was always with business and stuff like that. And then, obviously, when our sister, Lisa, would act out a bit, but it was always business related. It was never her looking at me and Tionne as if she didn’t like us. Nothing stupid or petty like that.”

Lopes, whose notoriously heated relationship with NFL wide receiver Andre Rison was headline news for weeks after she burned his house down, and almost went to prison for arson in 1994.

“She didn’t mean to do it. But you got the whole world talking about you. You’re on CNN every day,” T-Boz recalls. “It’s crazy, because O.J. Simpson is the one who finally kicked us off CNN.”

The members of American Hip Hop and R&B group TLC perform on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Chicago, Illinois, November 17, 1992. Pictured are, from left, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes (1971 - 2002), Tionne 'T-Boz' Williams, and Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas.

“It wasn’t on purpose, let’s just be clear,” Chilli adds. “She was trying to make a statement. She got upset with him. The original tub was different. It was replaced with something cheap the second time. The first time, she burned the teddy bear that he had given her. Obviously, this is not a good way to express your frustration, but that’s what she did. It didn’t burn the house down, that didn’t. Then the tub was replaced. I guess, in her mind, she’s like, ‘Okay well, I did it that way. Here are these shoes. I’m going to do the same thing.’ But with that type of material, it went crazy.” Chilli pauses, then adds, “She lived there too. That was her house as well, so she was not trying to burn the house down.”

“Me, personally, I just wanted to know if she was okay,” T-Boz says.

404555 02: A Honduran policeman inspects the vehilcle driven by singer Lisa Lopes April 27, 2002 in La Ceiba, Honduras. Lopes, a member of the Hip Hop band "TLC" was killed in a car accident while vacationing in Honduras.

Then tragedy struck hard in 2002, when Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras, leaving the trio a duo. Having to grieve for their close friend, whom they both saw more as a sister, while maintaining a public presence proved difficult for a long time. The love Chilli and T-Boz still have for Lopes is palpable whenever they talk about her. But they eventually decided to move forward as a duo and continue to make music.

“We’ve never stopped touring. We’re always on the road. The only time that we weren’t able to tour, obviously, was during COVID,” Chilli shares. “Last year, we were in Europe and Australia. This year, it’s the U.S. tour.”

The Hot Summer Nights tour kicks off June 1 and goes until July 14. It will include many of their No. 1 hit singles: “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls,” “Creep” and more.

I grew up in the 1990s, and so I had to tell TLC that I am very glad we didn’t have social media back then so that my terribly choreographed dance to “No Scrubs,” done with two other girls in my middle school, does not live forever online.

“Oh, I bet it was cute,” Chilli told me, which was very nice but 100% not true. Both Chilli and T-Boz were delightful to talk to, especially when the conversation turned to motherhood, and the three of us agreed that having children turned us to mush. Fame or not, some things are universal!

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70s Pop Idols

May 2019

The biggest and best from the worlds of rock and disco!

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