T-Boz sat down with radio host Bevy Smith for her show ‘Bevelations‘ to open up and have some real talk to promote her new book, “A Sick Life“.
Bevy: I’m here with a woman that is the epitome of keeping your head to the sky. I’m talking about none other than singer, songwriter, producer, mom, all around extravaganza and a motherfucking survivor! I’m talking about miss Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins! Welcome to Bevelations, my love.
T-Boz: Thank you! I love it. Thanks for having me.
Bevy: You’ve had a journey to get here my love, and that’s the reason you have written this amazing book, “A Sick Life: TLC ‘n Me: Stories from on and off the stage”. Really great and inspiring. I love that you have put your sickle cell anemia in the forefront of this story. Why was it important to make that a big vocal point of the book?
T-Boz: Too many sickle cell patients are dying. There’s just a lack of knowledge about the disease and not enough awareness. I actually have it. I have a benefit concert that I started called T-Boz Unplugged and artists come and support and we give hundreds of the proceeds to children with sickle cell. But, like, its really really hard to get my own people to even support it, like, other nationalities help me more than my own people sometimes. It’s just been really hard. I’ve been through so much, and God spared me, and I feel like I owe it to tell my story and my testimony in the hopes of it being therapeutic for me, and also helping others. But since there is a lack of knowledge I’m like, this story is about a little girl with a dream like a lot of little girls and boys out there. This disease tried to stop me at every stop of the way. I was told I couldn’t have any of it. I would die by the time I was 30 and that I would never have kids and be disabled my whole life. I was like, that cannot be my story.
Bevy: That is not your story!
T-Boz: It absolutely is not! (laughs)
Bevy: I love the way that you, even in this book, when you say when you got this diagnosis at the age of 7, you didn’t really understand it when they told your mother, ‘she’ll probably die by 30, she’ll never have children’, but you were resilient, even as a child you were stubborn. You talk about the fact that you knew your little tiny mind. You knew who you were and what you wanted. I know your story, you were raised by a single mom. But your dad was a big part of your life in your mind even though he wasn’t there. Where do you think you got your resilience from?
T-Boz: It was my mom. I don’t remember a lot of times with my dad when I was younger. I have to credit my mom. There were things that she instilled in me. The morals, the integrity, the character. She would say, ‘Tionne you can do anything you put your mind to’. She never treated me like I was sickly, even though I was.
Bevy: You tell a story you would be in such intense pain you would be on all fours because you didn’t want your mom to carry you to the bathroom.
T-Boz: Too prideful (laughs).
Bevy: It’s so shocking for me to hear that you don’t get a lot of help from the black community, because this is a disease that affects us far more than any other nationality. What the fuck is that about? There are so many people suffering with it.
T-Boz: That’s what I would like to know. Even with the donations, it’s other nationalities that help me more, and that’s sad to say. I’m not saying it to be disrespectful or make anybody mad, it’s just the truth. And I want to know why it’s like that. If it affects us mostly, why don’t we stick together? I made a comment on Black Lives Matter because I’ve always supported it, but I was saying it shouldn’t be about just one subject, it should be overall. If we’re going to stick together let’s stick together on everything.
Bevy: And then people took that the wrong way and they felt that you were a sell out. Did that hurt your feelings when people starting coming down on you and feeling like you were not a supporter of the community even though you are a very vocal part of the community?
T-Boz: Well, they said that because of something someone else said in my group. We are one group, not one mind. If you go to my page you will see far before that I have always supported Black Lives Matter. So, just because I can respectfully agree to disagree with someone, or if that’s what you feel that’s what you feel. But I don’t think you should say I said something just because somebody else I know said it. It has nothing to do with me. So I just think it’s ignorant that people would be like ‘they’ said, ‘they’ didn’t say anything. I didn’t say nothing. But, the proof is in the pudding, go and check my page. I ignore it because people starting coming to my page saying stuff like ‘I hope you die from sickle cell’ and ‘next time I see her I’m gonna tell her All Diseases Matter’. Dumb as hell.
Bevy: Do you feel social media is a gift and a curse?
T-Boz: I think it does more harm than good. It can work for you, but then it gives so many ignorant people a platform to speak. It baffles me that there are so many ignorant people out in the world. I’ve heard the thing that says ‘common sense isn’t common’, but God, for real? People are dumb as hell out here, for real. You see people with common sense, but not as much as the ignorant people. The one thing that does bother me is, you know those people who buy followers and the companies that hire people and measure them by the numbers? I’m not gonna be measured by a number. Ask me how that concert went that I sold out last week. Go by what I do in real life and how many albums I sold, real work that I put in and my accolades. I’m not cheating social media numbers to impress nobody, either.
Bevy: You guys have far too many stats that are too insane. When you look at how many albums you sold. How many globally?
T-Boz: Over 85 million.
Bevy: Ok, yeah. So, what are we talking about. Who cares if people have 10 million followers but they ain’t done nothing but sit on the computer butt naked.
T-Boz: I feel that way, but I think it’s because I can have more accolades, but say, they’re a reality star or Instagram model, and just because they are more popular they more get more attention at that time. If you’re not out with an album or whatever. That’s what kids are gravitating towards. If Instagram shut down tomorrow, a lot of people are gonna be out of work. I always say if you’re gonna be a ho, you may as well be a good ho, make something out of it! Get something out of it. At least if you ho, ho good!
Bevy: Ho good. Ho for the good!
T-Boz: Be a good ho!
Bevy: It’s true! Sharon Osborne just talked about Kim Kardashian, and she said Kim said she is a feminist because she’s naked all the time and shows her body. Sharon said Kim is a ho, and there is nothing wrong with being a ho, but own that you are a ho, and keep it real and acknowledge that you are a ho. Is that kinda similar to what you are saying, ‘if you’re a ho, be the best ho that you can be?’
T-Boz: Yeah, you should make something out if it.
Bevy: That’s the reason Cardi B’s winning, she just comes out with all her stuff!
T-Boz: That’s why I like her. Even before ‘Bodak Yellow’ and all that stuff before people starting riding her now, I liked her way back. When she was on YouTube and Instagram having her rants, I thought she was really funny. She lives her truth and I respect that. If you talk about yourself, nobody else can! Beat them to the punch.
Bevy: Over the years you guys have had a lot of great press and some negative press. At what point in your career was the most hurtful thing? Was it when the fire incident happened? You guys kinda flipped it and got ahead of the story appearing as firemen on the Vibe cover and kinda being like ‘if we talk about it nobody else can?’
T-Boz: That blew up headlines! We were like all arsonists because Lisa burned down the house. They were like ‘all three of them burned down the house!’
Bevy: That’s the thing about being part of a group. Was that one of the toughest parts of being in a group?
T-Boz: The toughest part was living Lisa’s death with the world. People were coming up to me the very next day like, ‘sorry for your loss but can I have a picture and I rap too’. I didn’t know what to do, punch you in the face, start crying or what, so I became a hermit and got depressed. Chilli was having a hard time, too. I didn’t know how to grieve and I’m a human being. I lost a sister, someone I loved dearly and you’re treating me like I have no feelings right now. Some of the comments were so asinine, disrespectful and insensitive.
Bevy: I think because a lot of the public were so close to her they didn’t know how to grieve, either.
T-Boz: They didn’t. The funeral was open to the public, that was kinda crazy. That was her family’s wish and I respected that. I couldn’t imagine being a mother losing a child. She passed away the day before my birthday, but the news hit on my birthday. So, every birthday, even though it’s almost 15 years later, I get ‘sorry about Lisa, happy birthday’. Or they get it confused, and I’m like at this point can you just tell me happy birthday. I can never forget what happened. I don’t want to live in sorrow, I want to celebrate her life or make it a good thing. Live off the history that we built together, and the great stuff we did together, not the bad stuff, I’m tired of that. I don’t wanna be there anymore. I hate when people ask what I’m gonna do on the anniversary every year, like, what do you do? Are you serious right now? Have a party? It’s a dumb question.
Bevy: It is a dumb question. Again, I think people don’t know how to handle it. I know you guys really grieved and you were a bit of a hermit. Correct me if I’m wrong, you guys were not as close as you were once were when she passed?
T-Boz: Here’s the thing. We are sisters. You have your fights and you make up. There was no love lost. It was just one of those times when she was just mad at me for something. I can’t speak for Chilli, but she came to me to apologise. She was sending me plants everyday, ‘I’m just sending your reinforcements’, so I was like okay. I knew when the first plant came she wasn’t mad anymore. So, the 4th day I was still sick so she came to see and told me she was going to Honduras. Because we were like that I knew that meant we were cool again. It was just a sister fight like you have with your mom, your brother, but you love them just the same. That’s where I get offended with certain people. Just because you argue with someone you don’t love them any less. She ended up becoming my cousin, my uncle, my mom’s brother, married her mom, to this day. So, every argument became a family argument. ‘What you say to Lisa?!’, she snitched me out! I love that girl in a special way. Please believe, I do. Lisa got away with stuff I would punch someone in the face for, so trust me I loved Lisa.
Bevy: She was a very special spirit. You can tell that from everything she said and did and how she performed. And you also are a mom, you get to pour that loving, nurturing spirit into your children. You have one child and you also adopted a child.
T-Boz: From birth, yes. My son, Chance. He is everything. My daughter named him because they didn’t like the name I came up with. So, it’s Chase and Chance. He brings so much joy to everybody. He has one of those spirits where, even when he’s sick he’s happy. Everybody on the tour loves my son, everybody is always playing with him. Even my aunt before she passed, while I was writing this book, my two aunts had cancer, on the ward in the hospital they would say ‘send me some videos of Chance’. He has that kind of spirit that brightens people’s day, because it’s a pure love in him. He’s a special kid.
Bevy: And you’re a special woman that’s how you are able to raise special children. And I’m so glad you wrote this book. It goes beyond the curtain of celebrity, and it let’s you know about the heart and the soul and the spirit of miss Tionne. Thank you for being on Bevelations.
T-Boz: Thank you for having me.
Big thanks to Megan Dove