Chilli stopped by Full Sail University to share her experiences in the business at the 8th annual Hall of Fame event!
Leslie Brathwaite invited Chilli for an open chat with the students and fellow industry peers about her history in the business and how she overcame the many challenges she faced!
Chilli On remaining passionate 25 years later
“It doesn’t seem that long to me because, I promise you on everything, I am 45 years old, we came out when I was 20, and the hunger that I had then, I still have it now. It hasn’t died down yet. Even in rehearsals I always out-dance the dancers. I look at them and I’m like, you’re not even singing, you’re just dancing, and I’m older than you! Keep up! It’s not that I’m in so much better shape than them, it’s the hunger in me that gives me that drive and that energy that kinda makes me go crazy with it.”
Leslie on Chilli’s patience for the Snoop track
“She just asked me backstage before we got on ‘you got the files?’, because we’re mixing their new album, she was like ‘did you get the files from Snoop yet? Because we gotta get this!’, so you know, that just shows we’re always in that mode, we’re always hungry. We’re always having fun but the core is it’s not easy.”
Leslie on his ups and down with TLC
“We’ve been through some hard times. We had to deal with death. We had to deal with people not getting along. We were like real brothers and sisters. There were different dynamics, she (Chilli) was dating Dallas at the time and that relationship was a little rocky! But it was a lot of ups and downs, there were times when she hated me, there were times Tionne was mad me, and times when Lisa was mad at everybody! But she was also an instrumental part of the group, she was the glue.”
Chilli on her sensitivity
“As a little girl I was very sensitive, I would hug anybody. I would strike up a conversation with anybody, I wasn’t shy. I remember my Big Mama (grandmother) would go to the grocery store, she’d call me a little charmer, and the Pharmacist wouldn’t charge her for her medicine because they thought I was so sweet. I remember my mom being tough on me at times, in a nice way, she would say you’re too sensitive and I would be like why is she so mean to me, and she would say you can’t cry everytime your feelings are hurt.
For me, I couldn’t understand why some people weren’t loving. Little did I know, God was preparing me to toughen up for this brutal business that I’m in. I had to learn real fast not to take things personal. In this business, its all business. Just because someone in the industry is a friend, if they have to report something in their job whether its true or not, they’re gonna do that, and your feelings are all hurt. I used to take a lot of stuff personal, and doing that, I developed acid reflux, real bad, a whole lot of stress in my stomach. I had two grey hairs at 21, I named them Dallas and Pebbles!”
Leslie on the importance of learning
“One of the most valuable tools you’ll have in life, in relationships, you have to know what you don’t know. That way, you can grow from a certain point. You can learn, and that’s a huge key in the success of Chilli, TLC, and myself. Which is, knowing what we didn’t know, learning what each person’s role was, and respecting each others space, growing together, and now we’re both totally involved! Like, we’re having conversations I never thought we would have.
A few months back, she came to the studio and she was playing me records like what do think of this, she was A&R’ing their album! I never thought we’d be having those conversations where your playing me records you think would be good for the album and it was a really good record. We’ve always depended on Dallas or other producers for the creative opinions and directions, and I’m looking and you and Tionne and seeing you take creative control and understanding it. Not just because you want to be in charge, but you have matured and understand your growth.”
Chilli on knowing your role
“You have to understand and be okay with what you’re not good at, its alright, it doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. You can’t do everything. In our group, everyone knows their role. Nobody crosses that line and we respect each other for that. When you get to that point that’s when you start to win.”
Chilli on a certain boyband who thought they could be successful without Babyface
“I remember this group, I’m not gonna say the name, its a boyband, and they can sing real good, and they can harmonize their butts off! We went on tour one time together.. I’m not gonna say anything else! So this particular group, two members and one member in particular, after they had huge success with Babyface, the one was like ‘shoot, we can do this kind of music, we don’t need Babyface’, and that was the end! I’m not speaking badly, I’m speaking facts. The respect needs to be there, Babyface is very open to ideas. It’s not that this artist had no talent, it’s the fact he thought he was so talented he didn’t need anyone else.”
Chilli on her early passions
“I would get home from school, do my homework (3rd or 4th grade), get a brush and look in the mirror pretend to perform, then I would put a pillow under my shirt and pretend to be pregnant – I wasn’t having sex! I always wanted to be a mother and be in the entertainment business. So, when this whole TLC opportunity came and then I was kicked out of the group, and I left school for this, I was like oh my God, I couldn’t even tell my mom. It wasn’t an official kick out – Pebbles called it probation. So, I was stressed out, I didn’t know what to do, this is not gonna happen, I gotta go back to school and get a job too. We have a song called Meant To Be, and it must have been meant to be, because the moment I said I’m going back to school – I didn’t hear from anybody, no one was talking to me. I was about to redirect my life and I get this phone call saying Pebbles wants a meeting with you. I go and have this meeting and have to put my tail between my legs to pursue what I wanted to do, so that was very hard.”
Chilli on not hiding issues with substances
“If it had not been for my mom my self esteem would have been on the floor. It’s sad when you get so low like that, some people will turn to drugs and alcohol. I’m straight edge, I don’t drink or smoke. For me, I don’t want anything that is going to make me feel like I’m more creative. I don’t wanna depend on anything like that. I don’t want if I’m feeling upset I’m gonna drink something or smoke to mask whatever it is, when you take the band-aid off, it’s still there. You gotta deal with it, and that’s inner strength. The mind is very powerful. You have to let yourself know, yes it’s very hard but I gotta deal with it. Take a nap, work out, I don’t know, but don’t go to drugs. You’re not gonna win with that stuff. If you know what’s gonna happen, don’t go there.”
Chilli on preserving your talent
“I don’t like shooting videos, photo shoots, I don’t like interviews, but I love touring. I think with touring, you love it or you hate it, there’s no inbetween. I stress this to my dancers and everybody, you are an athlete, and your voice is your gold. You have to look after it. You have to be kind to it and eat right on the road. All those after parties and smoke everywhere might not bother you, but it will catch up on you.”
Chilli on avoiding rumors on tour with Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston
“We don’t like people cheating, so if we know that you have a girlfriend and you’re messing around, oh we got it. She don’t even really need to know because we’re gonna check you so hard. That’s just how we are, we’ve always been way. Especially being a female, you have to make sure you don’t hang out too much [with the boys].
We were on tour with Bobby Brown (laughter). At the time, Whitney was pregnant, so every night or evening I would go into his room to see her and rub on her belly and all that stuff. So, another time I went in there and she wasn’t in there and I saw Bobby and I was like ‘hey, have a great show’ and I was out! There will be some artists, because they are popular, you would naturally assume if they say they have been with someone, or insinuate it, you’re gonna believe it. ‘Why you got to lie, he’s such and such’, but they lie!
So, what happened, Bobby and some people on our team were having guy talk, you hit this, not talking about us, the dancers and things like that, and my name popped up because I go into their room and say hello every night. ‘I know you got to have, I know such and such’, and the reply wasn’t ‘ No!’, it was more like [coy laugh]. So that will have you think ‘maybe’, but no, never, impossible! So even something innocent, someone will make it think it was something it was not, so be careful on the road, because you don’t want that kinda unnecessary talk about yourself.”
On Left Eye’s presence on the new album
“With this new album, I think we’re gonna try and have some type of tribute. But there are no new raps that we can use to put on anything. And really, at this point, it’s taken us a while to get here, myself and Tionne, we are the new TLC. This is it. So, we always pay tribute to her in our concerts, we will forever do that. But, if we wanna continue to move forward, we have to listen to what that says, gotta move forward. It doesn’t mean that she’s not apart of it, because we’re not changing the name. It’s still T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli.”
Chilli On the TLC album release
“The albums coming out this summer, and look, [Leslie] has to mix the stuff, so it’s like, come on Leslie!”
Chilli On O’so Krispie
“The network [UPN] wanted us to replace Lisa [on R U The Girl], we said no way, so we switched it around and said we’ll do the show to find a girl with a triple threat who can rap, sing and dance. That person would get a record deal, we perform an original song in the finale, showcase them in that way, and that was it. After that, she did a few things that.. well, look, we opened the door for her. Hey.. fly! Everybody doesn’t sail, so, you know. She was very talented, I liked her a lot. I don’t know what she’s doing today. ”
Chilli on Lil’ Mama’s AMA performance with TLC
“After [the movie CrazySexyCool:The TLC Story], she did some performances with us, basically paying homage to Lisa. When we rehearse, it’s 8 hours a day, one hour for lunch. We told her, like okay, because she was sitting there all chilled, and we’re like no come up here girl, you gotta get these moves, she was like I’m just doing the rap and you know, the routines were kinda hard for her to get, because we move! Even with the mid-tempos, it’s constant. It’s old school Atlanta style and things we made up. And we told her, even Lisa would run out of breath sometimes and she was used to it.
When we did the American Music Awards, and I love Lil’ Mama to this day, and she did a few performances with us. But she ran out of breath. I was like, oh my God, here? So my point is, and I’ll quote Michael Jackson, in his This Is It? He said take advantage of rehearsals. Just do it all the time and you’re building up your endurance. So, this 20 something year old thing was just.. out of shape! So, after the AMA’s we said love you girl, and that is it!”