Sadly, today marks the 10th anniversary since TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes departed from this life in a tragic car accident in Honduras. Surviving members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas open up to Essence about the lost of their sister and the legacy of the best-selling girl group.
Essence: People playfully identified her as the crazy one in the group because of the notable fire in 1994, among other things. What’s the biggest misconception about Left Eye?
T-Boz: That’s the part that sucked. The fire could’ve even been stopped if they stopped acting like little girls and put the fire out. That really could’ve been settled differently. I just really wish people would’ve known her for the sweet passionate person she really was. She was very creative, too. I remember I was in the hospital for four months and she sent me a clock that she made and the clock read: “Take all the time you need.” She really put thought into things.
Chilli: People didn’t understand how much of a heart she really had and how passionate and giving she was. She might have come across as someone who wanted to start trouble all the time, but that wasn’t it; she just had a lot to say. Sometimes when you speak what’s on your mind — I’m talking everything on your mind, and people can get a misconception of you. So because she spoke her mind, all of the time, it caused people to misjudge her.
Essence: A lot of people believe TLC was feuding when Left Eye passed. What was your relationship like at the time?
Chilli: It was actually very good; we had started working on the last album. We all had solo deals. I was just like, “We have to do another record” — I was willing to put everything on hold. That was the last time we got to spend quality time together before she passed. The relationship was good; she was acting silly again, playing pranks on people. Her death was very devastating for us, but I can look back and say I was happy about what our relationship was like, at that time.
T-Boz: No matter what, everyone will go through a disagreement — that’s what makes us all different. So it’s unrealistic to tell anybody that we all agreed with everything that everyone did or said. That doesn’t happen in a real relationship. At the time, she just didn’t agree with what the record company was doing with the project, so she felt strong about standing up about it. It had nothing personal to do with the group members. I didn’t have a problem with that.
Essence: When you think of TLC’s legacy, what are you most proud of?
T-Boz: You know how now it’s easy for Black people to make it on pop radio… Back then it was hard. Michael Jackson was probably one of the first Black people to get on MTV and VH1 and then TLC “Waterfalls” was probably the second, it was so hard. I remember getting flowers for making it on MTV and then a special gift for making it on VH1 — that was like a big deal! We had to bust our butts to get on a show. When I say we broke records and I worked for mines, I worked for mine! We had to work for every last single thing.
Chilli: From the beginning to the middle and we’re not at the end yet but I loved that we never compromised our values when it came to the subject matter and what we talked about in our songs and how we represented ourselves as women. Starting out as young women, we didn’t care that people thought that we were a fad or if people thought we didn’t dress girly enough — we were just like, “Whatever.” We were able to accomplish that with three totally different girls, in a group.
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