Interview

TLC on Pride: “I Just Want People To Be Free and Who They Are!”

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R&B trio TLC has nothing left to prove. In addition to their four Grammy wins, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (who passed away in a 2002 car accident) have sold more than 65 million albums worldwide.

The threesome’s first four albums all went multi-platinum, and despite now more than doubling that number, their 1994 smash CrazySexyCool is still the only album by female group to receive diamond certification (10+ million in sales) from the Recording Industry Association of America.

After a 15-year hiatus during which Lopes was never replaced, Watkins and Thomas started a Kickstarter campaign earmarked for what would be the band’s farewell album.

The campaign garnered more than $430,000 — some $280,000 above the $150,000 goal — including a $10,000 contribution from New Kids on the Block and $5,000 from Katy Perry.

The group’s self-titled fifth studio album was released last year, reaching the top spot on the U.S. Billboard Independent Albums chart, as well as the U.K.’s R&B Albums chart.

Watkins and Thomas intend to keep their word on the album as their swan song, but look forward to continuing under the TLC moniker.

This weekend, the pair appears at their first-ever Pride Festival where they will close the San Diego event with a headlining performance on Sunday night.

PACIFIC recently spoke with Watkins from her L.A. home about it all.

PACIFC: How are you?

TIONNE “T-BOZ” WATKINS: I can’t complain — not at all. Things have been really good. I’ve just been running myself crazy lately. I’m doing the TV show between every live performance and I sometimes ask myself, “Oh my god, what did I do?” But really, it’s a blessing. At least I’m working, right? (laughs)

That’s right! You’re on Days of Our Lives now!

Yeah! It started in 2016 for just a few episodes. But they called me back three times! Now, I have a whole life there. It’s so fun. And it allows me to get home to have dinner with my kids. It’s a great job for me. And my kids love it.

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And that’s kids, plural. With a teenage daughter and all of your work, quite the commitment to adopt a baby boy!

It’s crazy! But I had said year after year that I wanted a boy. And that’s after I almost died with my daughter — I went into a coma for three days. But I’m hardheaded. I was like, “I think I can do it again.” And my family said, “Oh, hell no. You’re not doing that again.”

I wanted to adopt another little boy before, but the mother we were talking to reneged. And I ended up in the ICU and lost my spleen. So I thought it was meant to happen like that because I got really sick. But then my mom told me that this time, (the woman) had another baby and wanted to give it up. We talked to her for two months, made sure she really wanted to do it this time, and it happened.

Great result, but that had to have been difficult.

It was one of the most stressful times in my life. I thought being sick was stressful, but having your child from day one and knowing that someone could still strip that baby away from you, it was the most stress I’ve felt in my life.

But really, it’s all kept me younger. And I really was second-guessing myself at first. People just made so many negative comments about my age. But I’m dancing like I’m 19 years old all over the world and that doesn’t bother me! (laughs)

There’s never been a perfect time to do anything in my history.

My son, Chance, and the adoption just turned everything around for me — and came at the perfect time. He’s really the inspiration for songs like It’s Sunny and Way Back on the TLC album. I just put that positive energy into it.

But like you said, I have a 17-year-old as well. So it’s crazy. I have the emotional teen and the terrible two. So I have a double dose of it right now. (laughs)

Speaking of the album, you guys have said it’s your last. Is it?

It’s the last studio album. But I won’t say it’s the last of TLC. We both really want to do a residency and are currently in negotiations for the right deal. And I think that we both would be down with contributing a song to a compilation album or something like that, but as far as studio albums go, we’re done.

It’s hard. With Lisa, and people holding her vocals hostage, it’s a lot. And it’s stressful. We don’t want to go through all of that. We just really wanted to give fans what they’ve been asking for, and that was another album. So that’s what we did.

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And now you’re going to be a part of San Diego’s Pride celebration.

I’m excited. It’s my first time. And honestly, the last few years have been our first time ever doing festivals, period. In the past, we’ve always been on some kind of full-blown tour. But we’re just now getting into spot dates and festivals. It’s awesome.

Great that you chose San Diego to kick it off.

I hosted a solo thing a while back and had a ball. But I’m excited to see what it’s really all about.

People are just so judgmental these days. And they’re judging those who are showing their own reflection and real truth. I just want people to be able to be free and who they are. And we want to support that.

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TLC headline the San Diego Pride festival on July 15 at Balboa Park. Get your tickets at https://sdpride.org
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