Fashion, Review

TLC Costume Designer Brea Stinson Reveals How She Amps Up Their Style On Tour

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Grammy-winning girl group TLC, who stopped in Vegas last month for their “I Love the ’90s” tour, their nostalgic fans not only want to hear their favorite hits but want to see iconic outfits from past music videos.

“The one thing I use for inspiration is to try to create something people want to re-create for Halloween — that’s how you know it’s good,” said the group’s costume designer, Brea Stinson, who reimagined TLC’s futuristic wardrobe in 1999’s “No Scrubs.”

“They are Michael Jackson fanatics, so I tried to bring in Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ era mixed with the [all-black] look from ‘No Scrubs’ — it’s a hybrid but recognizable to TLC’s aesthetic; sexy but a little bit of a tomboy.”

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas (third member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in 2002) played to an audience at the open-air Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, which Stinson said presented challenges because alterations had to be made to adjust for the sweltering heat. In fact, one week ahead of the Vegas show, Thomas suffered dehydration while performing in Concord, Calif., at an amphitheater, Stinson recalled.

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“This year’s costumes are made of vegan leather and satin, with lots of hardware,” Stinson said, adding that changes such as swapping leather for all-satin jackets and short-sleeve versions of the costumes in lighter fabrics were made. “We create sex appeal and a cool factor; they still dance like it’s 1992.”

Watkins and Thomas wear only one costume throughout the tour — mixing the look with Isabel Marant hiking boot sneakers in black with a natural gum sole and New Rock combat boots in black with silver accents.

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Costume designer Brea Stinson has worked for Beyonce, Rita Ora and TLC

“We have to make sure [the shoes] have grips because they dance so much, and you never know the condition of stages,”Stinson said. “Another important factor is ankle support, so sneakers will be a high-top and boots will be a midcalf silhouette for ankle support.”

Some other strategic measures the costume designers took with footwear include lacing and fit. “If Tionne is wearing a high-top or boot, then we tie it around her ankle instead of lacing it — we take it and go around the ankle for added support and double-knot it in the back to make sure it doesn’t come undone. I double-knot Chilli’s laces twice in the front.”

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Announcement, Review, Uncategorized

TLC Considering Left Eye Hologram For Hopeful Las Vegas Residency

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IN 1992 before No Scrubs, Creep and Unpretty made them the biggest- selling girl-group in US history, TLC were offered a huge opportunity: their first TV performance, singing debut single Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg on phenomenally successful US show In Living Color.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes were wearing condoms pinned to their clothes as fashion accessories – a deliberate attempt to make it more acceptable for kids to buy them in stores.

When the TV show’s producers told TLC they’d have to remove those accessories, the band refused. “We just said no,” remembers Chilli a quarter of a decade later in a presidential suite of London’s The Landmark hotel, having two days earlier played what was, quite improbably, TLC’s debut UK show.

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“They said if we didn’t take them off, we couldn’t perform. This was our first ever TV performance, and we turned it down. Then we got booked for The Arsenio Hall Show instead, which was bigger.” TLC’s career has been defined by bold moves. When label supremo Clive Davis said he didn’t think a song called Waterfalls should be a single, the band refused to take no for an answer. “We wrote a big poster with a marker – ‘Please believe in us’ – and delivered it to his office,” T-Boz recalls. She pauses for dramatic effect. “Biggest song to date.”

Then there was the time a few years later, when LA Reid played them a demo he’d received from Sweden. “We knew it was a hit sound but it didn’t fit us, and we wanted to own our sound,” T-Boz states. They rejected the song; …Baby One More Time went to another artist. “Nothing about that song sounded like a TLC record,” continues a defiant T-Boz. “You just have to know what kind of artist you are.”

TLC HAVE never been confused about what kind of artists they are. “We were voices for women, period,” is how Chilli puts it today. “Especially in the way we dressed – we’re not a tight clothes type of group, with stilettos. There are so many women out there who don’t feel comfortable dressing like that, and when we came out we represented them. We were their voice too, from the very start.” In the late-’ 80s, Atlanta’s music scene was electrified when LA Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds chose it as the base for LaFace Records.

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“You thought, growing up, that you’d have to live in New York or LA to make it,” Chilli explains. “Not right there in Atlanta, Georgia. When LaFace came they gave so many opportunities. It was BOOMIN’! LaFace Records, that’s where it all started.”

In theory TLC were a manufactured girl-band formed around the talents of a singer called Crystal Jones but T-Boz and Left Eye staged a typically spirited pop coup: Jones was ejected and in her place came Chilli.

Immediately, there was a spark. “I saw it before those other two little rascals saw it,” Chilli smiles. “It was there in our photoshoots from the very beginning. I’d look at Polaroids during the shoot, and maybe that day I didn’t like her [motions to a sceptical-looking T-Boz] or I didn’t like either one of them, and I didn’t want her shoulder to touch my shoulder. Then I’d look at the Polaroids and I’d just see CHEMISTRY. You can’t create chemistry, it’s either there or it’s NOT. That’s just the truth.”

Chilli first felt like TLC had made it when the band picked up their first MTV Viewers’ Choice Award; for T-Boz the moment came when they received diamond certification representing 10m units sold of 1994’ s CrazySexyCool. They proudly remain the only female group ever to achieve diamond status and when Q suggests that freefalling sales mean no band is ever likely to catch up, T-Boz’s response of “that’s so sad” is impressively close to being convincing.

Both also whoop with delight at the mention of their first live dates supporting MC Hammer and it was Hammer, T-Boz adds, who took time out backstage to tutor TLC in how the music industry worked. “He put us on to how we weren’t getting the right amounts,” she recalls. “We sat in that hallway for three hours one night, and we just learned so much. It was a world we didn’t know existed. It was as if – BING! – the lights came on.” But one day a few years later, the lights literally went out.

“I was sitting at home,” T-Boz begins, “when my lights got cut off. And I couldn’t afford to turn them back on. I just thought: ‘Huh? But we’re the number one best-selling girl-group of all time!’”

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The band had suspected for a while that they’d signed an unfavourable contract through their original management company. But in 1995, at the height of their commercial success, they would find out just how unfavourable it really was. “We knew we had issues and that’s why we kept asking to see it [ the contract], and we were going to correct it,” T-Boz adds. “Then we realised: ‘Woah, we’re really in trouble here. We were about to go bankrupt.’”

Having been paid far less than anyone would reasonably expect a multi-platinum band to have received, TLC were $ 3.5m in debt. “We actually had to borrow money to go broke,” T-Boz exclaims. “We had to borrow $ 45,000 –$ 15,000 a piece – to file for bankruptcy. You have to pay to go bankrupt! Picture that! Ain’t that something else?” That, Q suggests, simply doesn’t make sense. T-Boz: “THAT’S WHAT WE SAID!”

IN APRIL 2002, during the recording of the band’s fourth album, Left Eye was driving in Honduras when she swerved to avoid a truck, crashed her car and was killed. Her last work was posthumously featured on that fourth album, 3D, but it was a year before T-Boz and Chilli would return to the stage at a stadium show near New York. “This was the first time we had to be on a stage, professionally, without our sister,” is Chilli’s recollection. “That was tough. We never looked at the screens that were showing her image. We couldn’t do that.” It was no secret that prior to Left Eye’s death there had been tensions in the band.

The group’s financial difficulties had been compounded by the fallout of Lopes inadvertently burning down her boyfriend’s house; musically, Left Eye felt her contributions to the group’s music were being incrementally sidelined.

At the tail end of 1999, as the band were wrapping up promotion on FanMail, the album that had spawned No Scrubs and Unpretty, Left Eye sent an open letter to Entertainment Weekly. She wrote: “I challenge Tionne “Player” Watkins and Rozonda “Hater” Thomas to an album entitled The Challenge. A 3CD set [consisting of] three solo albums.” “We were surprised,” Chilli remembers. “It didn’t shock us that she’d do something like that, but a lot of our fans got mad at her. Like, ‘Are you trying to divide and conquer?’” T-Boz and Chilli refused the challenge.

“Think about a child when they’re throwing a tantrum,” T-Boz says today. “You pay them no attention, what do they do? Stop. And she did. You can’t fight the world when you’re not unified.”

It seems unlikely, but the band insist today that had Lisa not died, TLC would have stayed together. She would, they add, have been with them two nights ago, onstage in London, and after having discussed it a few years ago they’re still toying with the idea of bringing her back as a hologram for their live show, and they’re particularly keen on the idea of making that happen during a Las Vegas residency.

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The last decade has seen a Greatest Hits featuring new material, a biopic, a TLC-themed talent search, frequent reappearances in the charts thanks to their songs appearing in shows like Glee, and work with other artists, like the song T-Boz wrote for Little Mix.

TLC have also continued to perform live, but in January 2015 they had an idea for new material. For their fifth and final album, they’d avoid major labels and hit Kickstarter instead. Along with promising copies of the finished album, they offered crowdfunding rewards like a workout class with Chilli (for a $2000 pledge) and TLC slumber parties (for $5000). They smashed their $125,000 goal, pulling in almost half a million dollars. Then everything went quiet.

The proposed September 2015 release date came and went; by 2016 fans thought their money had simply disappeared, and trolled the band with the hashtag #tlcgoingtojailparty. “The mistake was we should never have given a release date,” T-Boz laughs. “But that [reaction] was stupid! All the good we’ve done in this industry, now social media’s here they just want to be messy. Not just quite messy – beyond messy.”

Flash forward to 2017 and the album is here. One of the final steps of the people-powered comeback involved asking fans to help name the album, the spectacular upshot being that the new TLC album has ended up being called… TLC. “We kinda, you know, we knew what we wanted,” Chilli grins, and by this she seems to mean that the band had pretty much decided on the title anyway.

The new album isn’t exactly wall-to-wall No Scrubs but the tunes are perky, those TLC vocals are as spectacular as ever and Perfect Girls stands out as something of an Instagram-era companion piece to Unpretty, which in 1999 saw the band exploring issues of self-worth long before self-worth became just another marketing angle.

“You can never say that stuff enough,” T-Boz shrugs. “It’s a new generation with social media. Girls are chasing a goal that’s just not there. Today – and I hate to say it – but it’s the day of the ho.”

“Hos,” Chilli adds sombrely, “are winning.” “Day of the ho!” T-Boz says again. “‘Woooo! I can’t wait to grow up to be a stripper!’ I’d never want to hear my daughter say that. What you gonna fall back on? Cos even with fake body parts, gravity comes!” At this point, T-Boz and Chilli start wildly gesticulating at various body parts. “It’s comin’ on down!” Chilli exclaims. “Age comes too!” T-Boz shouts. “It’s gonna come oooon down.” Chilli: “All the way down!” T-Boz: “Where the waaater runs deep!” Chilli and T-Boz fall about laughing. They high-five each other, then they high-five Q, then they stamp their feet and high-five each other again. The chemistry Chilli saw in those early Polaroids is here in the room, where, over a quarter of a century later, she and T-Boz are still shoulder-to-shoulder.

“We have a glue that is just authentically there,” Chilli smiles as our time together draws to a close. “We looked at it, and we still do, as a marriage – but there’s no divorce here. We’re stuck together forever, whether we like it or not!”

Review

TLC shenanigans at the slumber party for Kickstarter backers!

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TLC got upto some mischievous antics last night (October 11), as they invited fans to join them at their hotel for a good old fashioned slumber party!

Fans who donated to the Kickstarter campaign back in 2015 for the slumber party rewards were all eligible for this once in a lifetime opportunity to hang out with T-Boz and Chilli overnight for some fun and unforgettable memories – which would be incomplete without some cheeky pranks along the way!

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“Get ready to stay up late with CHILLI.” states the website. “We’ll put on our jammies, order some late night snacks, and have some #TLCPillowTalk. Mom and Dad won’t be there, so there’s no need to keep the volume down.”

Jena Green was in the house, so hopefully she caught all the action on film to unleash to the world at some point, we’d all love to see!

Music, Review

TLC’s debut UK show exceeded all expectations

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TLC with choir performing the ‘Waterfalls’ finale at KOKO in London

TLC, the biggest selling girl group in the United States, have always been known to put on pure high energy, fun and entertaining performances, as evident in the majority of their music videos, highly acclaimed television award shows and live concerts in countries around the world such as Japan, Australia and their own country in the US, but never in the UK, until now!

British fans have patiently waited 25 long years for the legendary girl group to step foot in the United Kingdom for a live concert, and I can proudly say they were absolutely worth waiting for! Although, personally, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a TLC live concert in the past (I previously travelled to the States to see the girls do their first show without Left Eye in 2003 at Zootopia at Giants Stadium, New Jersey and attended their first ever Australian tour in the summer of 2014), it was important to me to experience the magic of a TLC show in my own country, so the ladies can prove to the rest of the country exactly why I adore them so much. And they did not disappoint, they actually exceeded my expectations and were better than ever!

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TLC’s KOKO show on May 9th sold out in 2 minutes

Whilst most TLC fans are used to the girls performing 45 minute sets, being part of a various artist line-up, this was a sole headline TLC show, and that gave them even extra stage time, so to my delight the ladies gave us 75 minutes of back-to-back hits and an exclusive first time performance of some of their new songs to give us all a taster of what to expect from their upcoming self-titled 5th album, which will be available on June 30.

After an enthusiastic introduction from their regular DJ and hype man Benny Demus, the TLC beauties T-Boz and Chilli emerged onto the stage, both donned in stunning golden outfits, to the exciting sound of trumpets, a full live band and 4 dancers, as they opened up the show with the spectacular live mix of their hit single ‘Diggin’ On You‘, a very nice surprise, and another first for the girls!

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The ladies quickly upped the tempo of the show, as they dived straight into their early hits and performed ‘What About Your Friends‘ and ‘Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg‘, complete with Left Eye‘s original raps blasting out of the sound system as the fans sang along, word for word, all proud to honour Lisa in the best way they knew how!

After taking few moments to greet the audience and remind everyone that this was their first time performing in England, they got the crowd chanting and whooping as they performed the club smash ‘Silly Ho‘, followed by the seductive ‘Red Light Special‘, where Chilli pulled a lucky male fan on stage for the infamous red light special lap dance!

Baby-Baby-Baby‘ followed shortly after, along with the self love anthem ‘Unpretty‘, before the ladies took a short break and let DJ Benny Demus entertain the crowd for a short period. The girls returned and launched straight in the classic ‘Creep‘, to many cheers and excitement from fans, who sang along and danced along with the infamous dance routine.

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TLC performing ‘Creep’ at KOKO in London

They then launched into one of the many highlights of the night, the live concert debut performance of the superb new track ‘It’s Sunny‘, penned by Rose Gold and Ron Fair. Sampling ‘September‘ by Earth Wind & Fire, the trumpets rang throughout the uplifting joyous song as T-Boz and Chilli performed the song together with an energetic dance routine to go along with it.

The current and first single from the album, ‘Way Back‘, came next, with a cool stripped back instrumentation, bringing out the essence of the song and the live band complimented the track brilliantly. This was the first time TLC had performed the single, and they satisfied us effortlessly, even including Chilli’s beautiful bridge verse which wasn’t featured on the single release, but will be available on the album as the ‘Extended’ version.

The Drake favourite and fan dedicated track ‘Fanmail‘ was performed next, taking us all back to the pre-millennium futuristic era of music. Fans chanted Lisa’s ‘fanmail’ lines during chorus while the girls danced hard along with the dancers.  After proclaiming their love to the fans, they performed their 2013 song ‘Meant To Be‘, the Ne-Yo produced track which was made for their biopic ‘CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story‘. Chilli allowed one of their superfans Carl to say Ne-Yo’s ‘TLC’ line into her mic at the start!

After taking a short break while DJ Benny Demus introduced the audience to each individual member of the band and the dancers, TLC returned to the stage and launched into their uplifting, anti-bully anthem ‘Haters‘. The catchy, sing-a-long track had fans singing and chanting along with the girls, throwing their hands in the air and dancing, before the crowd went wild for the worldwide smash ‘No Scrubs‘!

The girls thanked the crowd and left the stage, prompting fans to chant ‘TLC!’ continuously until the girls re-emerged for an encore and performed the sentimental song ‘Joy Ride‘, which they have dedicated to fans. ‘Thank you for staying by my side/ hope you all enjoy the ride’ the ladies sing on the super sweet and uplifting song.

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To close the show, TLC performed one of their most iconic songs to date, ‘Waterfalls‘, which is also Left Eye’s favourite song. The girls requested for the lights in the venue to be dimmed and that fans use their phones to light up the room in honour and memory of Lisa. In a poignant moment, Lisa’s rap verse was given an almost acapella treatment with minimal beats, while the girls and dancers gave their all during the choreography. A choir then graced the stage to perform the final chorus with T-Boz and Chilli. Fans screamed and cheered as the girls bid their farewells and promised to return in the future!

In all, TLC’s debut show in the UK was a phenomenal event. The show was perfectly executed and well planned and the songs had all been reinvigorated with extra beats and a full live band added that extra touch of class, in addition to the high paced energy delivered by the dancers and the talent and charisma of T-Boz and Chilli kept fans interacting and interested the entire time.

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TLC performing ‘Waterfalls’ at KOKO  Photo: Nicole Villaseca/Ultimate TLC

The show sold out in a record breaking 2 minutes on the day tickets went on sale in March, a clear sign the ladies are very much in demand in this part of the world. In fact, Europe in general is craving a piece of TLC history – fans from as far as Germany, France, Poland, the Netherlands and even the States all flew into London specially for the TLC show. The girls have promised to be back for more dates in the near future, something I’m sure we will all be looking forward to.

Eager fans decided to wait for hours outside for the girls after the show for another glimpse of the legends, and they both took time out to greet fans for selfies before they went home. Just a prime example of how down to earth, loyal and humble these ladies are; a total class act.

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Pre-Order “TLC” the self titled album today. Released on June 30 includes the singles ‘Way Back’ and ‘Haters’

Anniversary, Music, Review

Happy 22nd Anniversary, CrazySexyCool!

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Hard to believe it has been 22 years since we have enjoyed this ground breaking album, which broke down the barriers for many of todays music acts and enabled R&B to crossover into the mainstream!

TLC followed up their hugely successful 1992 debut album ‘Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip’ with a more laid back, grown and sexy approach with the help of Jermaine Dupri, Organized Noize, Babyface and Dallas Austin.

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In between the recording of the album, Left Eye’s personal life became headline news when her relationship with Atlanta Falcon’s footballer Andre Rison went up in flames, literally!

Lisa accidentally burnt down Andre’s mansion while merely trying to torch a set of tennis shoes in the bathtub after a dispute between the two. She was arrested and sentenced to rehab after the event.

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While on the way to the diversion center, Lisa saw a rainbow in the sky. It went on to be the inspiration behind her rap in the record breaking and probably the most important song of the 90s, ‘Waterfalls’!

Despite selling more than 10 million copies in the US alone, becoming the first group to earn a diamond certified album, TLC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy following the revelation of their not so great contracts with their label and former manager.

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Left Eye’s personal affairs clearly boosted interest and sales of the single and album, but the music speaks for itself.

The standard of the songs, top quality production and the unique style and chemistry of T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye made this timeless album stand the test of time, remaining just as important to the world after 22 years as it was in 1994!

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Graphic made by Megan Dove

Thank you for being Crazy, Sexy and Cool, TLC!