An interview with TLC by Jamie Foster Brown & Lorenzo (March 1995)
Part 1: The Hotel Meeting
They’re baaack! After two troublesome years, the funky hip hoppers, TLC, have released their slamming new album, ‘CrazySexyCool’. The first single, “Creep”, went all the way to #1 on the pop charts!
Amid their phenomenal success, the girls have had their fair share of problems: Left Eye pleaded guilty on Dec 29 to one count of first degree arson. She is spending some time in a halfway house with five years probation, a $10,000 fine, and a must pay restitution to the firefighters injured during the incident.
And, the group had serious management problems which resulted in major financial trouble. But that’s okay! These babies have bounced back stronger than ever under new management with some first rate producers.
I had two interviews with the group. The first appears in this issue. The second appears next month in the April issue. The first was in their hotel room over lunch, where my husband Lorenzo and I decided wanted to adopt them! When I met T-Boz later and reminded her, she said, “ya’ll don’t want us.” We know they’re bad babies, but they’re so cute! And smart.
T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli are truly entertaining… read on and they’ll “Creep” into your hearts, too.
Jamie: Do you think about death a lot? Are you afraid of it?
T-Boz: You know how you live everyday and sometimes take it for granted? When somebody close to me dies… not even really close, but somebody I know… if they die, it bothers me for like a week, I keep having dreams, because if you really think about it, it’s serious. It makes me straighten up for a while before I start taking life for granted again. It scares me when I think about me dying, but I know I’m gonna have to die.
So, if I do die, I don’t wanna die in no brutal way. I can’t even imagine going out like that. I’m like the last person to cry. Like, when they watch a movie and cry — I don’t cry. I laugh at stuff that’s brutal. I get a kick out of it. What made me cry — did ya’ll see Oprah when they talked about those little kids that killed those other little kids? That brought tears to my eyes. When that little white boy killed that 4-year old little boy, that’s the kind of stuff that gets to me. It hurt me so bad.
Jamie: What do you feel about death, Chilli?
Chilli: I think about it a lot. You know how you can meet somebody and it seems like you’ve known that person forever? And then you can meet somebody else — you don’t know if they’re good or bad — but your spirits just don’t mix together? I wonder, do we just keep coming back until we get it right? Things happen for a reason. Like, there’s a reason I cannot stand smoke. Not that it irritates me, I HATE it! What’s the real reason? I just try to go beyond and I rack my brain, because I can’t really figure it out.
Jamie: How can you go to clubs then?
Chilli: The only clubs I go to are the teen clubs. They don’t smoke, they don’t drink, I get home by 1:30 and I keep up on the latest dances. To me, this world we’re living in — we are in hell! This is not a Godly place. God has got his people — Satan got his people, too. I believe in a bad seed. I ain’t about to sit up there and if a little kid goes and kills all these people — they don’t understand what happened. I don’t believe a kid is just going to wake up and say, “Well, I’m going to kill”. I believe Satan has got demons that can possess people.
That stuff is real. People overlook stuff like that and the only time we get on our knees and holler, “Oh Jesus, help me”, is when it’s a crisis. You can go out at night, dressed up, get fly as I don’t know what, go out and sin, but you cannot get yourself up and have a decent conversation with yourself about life and God and Godly things. People don’t get excited about that. But, if you say, “Girl, let’s go to the mall, child, and spend some money”, it’s “okay, girl, I’m coming”.
T-Boz: That’s almost like a girl who goes out, has sex and says, “God, please don’t let me get pregnant”, and then goes out and does it again. So that’s just another part of sinning or just not being right. That’s like somebody who says they’re Christian, but doesn’t walk right. God truly knows who means what, who has faith and who doesn’t.
Jamie: You’re Seventh Day Adventist?
T-Boz: Saturday is Sabbath for me.
Jamie: Are you afraid of death, Left Eye?
Left Eye: I think I can handle my death better than somebody else’s.
Jamie: Really. You mean you can handle the thought of it?
Left Eye: Yeah. I think about it a lot. But it doesn’t really bother me. It’s like, “Damn! Gotta go one day — gotta go”. I think about what it’s gonna be like after I’m gone. Well, it’s not gonna hurt me — I’m gonna be gone. So, it ain’t really shit for me to handle. I think about the people around me who are gonna have to be left here after I’m gone.
Lorenzo: How come you all think about death now? That’s strange for someone so young.
Left Eye: Sometimes I feel bad, and the only way to escape how I feel is to die. Sometimes I feel like I hope a car hits me or something can take me out of this mess and it won’t be my fault. I just get out of this shit and other f*ckers be like, “Oh well, too bad. Left Eye ain’t here, she died”.
*Someone comes in*
Left Eye: Can we get back to this death thing? I think about it. Those aren’t my final thoughts, cuz then I have thoughts after that. It’s like, “Nah, I can’t leave yet, cuz when I die I wanna be like Elvis”.
Lorenzo: How do you mean?
Left Eye: Reach my goals, reach my accomplishments, do what I got to do to help this person over here and get my family straight. I just can’t leave them. And then, when I die, no matter how it is, whether I do it on purpose or whether it just happens, I want people to remember me. I want people to talk about me.
Lorenzo: Do you want kids?
Left Eye: I don’t know. Monday I might. Tuesday I might not. My feelings change like the weather. Sometimes, I’m like, “Nah, the world is too messed up. I’m not gonna bring any children into it. I don’t want them to get caught up in the final days”.
Jamie: The final days when we get taken out of here?
Left Eye: Whatever the final day is. Not just the final days, but the shit that’s going around. But then, sometimes it’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to have kids”.
Chilli: It’s like a cycle. It keeps going, keeps going. When this world right here that we’re in… when it’s over — whenever it’s over, there might be another one. If you can think about it, it has to exist in some form. I want a husband who’s gonna love every single drop about me — shower me with love. And I want kids and I want to be together with this man til death do us part. I believe a man out there exists. I don’t know where he is, but I hope we find each other one day. I believe that years can go by and I can still wake up, look at my husband and still get butterflies.
Jamie: I have them.
Chilli: It does exist. You can’t rush. People get married for the wrong reasons. You got to know yourself first before you can get involved with somebody else and be like, “Okay, this is it, and we’re going to be together forever — you’re my husband.” Cuz a lot of the times, we don’t know who we are.
Jamie: The friendship part is important. Where did you grow up, T-Boz?
T-Boz: Des Moines!
Lorenzo: I don’t have an image of Des Moines. What’s it like?
T-Boz: I am from Des Moines and I will say it all day long, never deny where I’m from and proud of it, but Des Moines sucks. Atlanta is more country than the country itself!
Jamie: Where are you from, Left Eye?
Left Eye: Philly. I left Philly when I was three and returned when I was twelve.
Jamie: Where were you before?
Left Eye: My dad was in the service, so we lived in Kansas; came back to Philly; went to Panama, stayed about four years; then we moved to Jersey. My mom took us to Florida; then we went back to Philly.
Jamie: How come you love each other so much?
Left Eye: It’s like natural. The day we met — click.
Lorenzo: When did you meet?
Left Eye: ’91
T-Boz: Sometimes I forget because it seems like we met twenty years ago.
Lorenzo: Tell me, Lisa, when did you first start entertaining? Did you start in church or school when you were a kid?
Left Eye: I remember one year in school, I tried to be everything — drama club, choir, whatever. Whatever they were having, I tried to be in it. I remember when I was in junior high school, they had auditions for a talent show and me and my little creative behind tried to outdo everybody and just totally messed myself up.
Left Eye: I had a routine to this old song. I had a baton, I had my little dance step, I did some break dancing and I sang. And in this one song, I really messed it up. I was standing at the mic signing, and as soon as the break came on, I jumped on the floor like a snake, and I had my baton over here… and I grabbed the baton… and threw it up… and it went over there! The next day, they had a list placed in all of the hallways telling who made it, and my name was not on the list.
Jamie: We’re you ever a majorette?
Left Eye: No, man. I always started stuff, but I never finished it. I was one of those people who had the flags, but never made it to rehearsals.
Jamie: How old were you when you did this?
Left Eye: I was probably in the seventh grade, so 14?
Jamie: That’s some funny stuff. And you did all that by yourself?
Left Eye: Hm hmm.
Lorenzo: Did you do any performing when you were four or five years old?
Left Eye: Oh, yeah. When I was about 4 or 5, me and my sister and brother — we went to Florida. My mom took us to Florida. We always did things together and I was the ringleader. We did shit like put a play together before my mom came home from work, and as soon as she walked in the door, it was like, “Sit down! We got a show for you!” and we would do the play from beginning to end. I don’t care if it was a musical, just a straight-up play, singing some songs — we always had a show to put on for my mom. Always, from when we little on up, we joined dance contests, and it was me and my sister. We were always partners.
Jamie: Is she older?
Left Eye: My sister is three years under me.
Jamie: What are your brother and sister doing now?
Left Eye: My brother is in college. My sister skipped out this semester, and she’s in some kind of Peace Corps or something.
Jamie: So, you’re not the oldest then?
Left Eye: Yeah, I am. My sister is three years under me.
Jamie: Chilli, what was your childhood like?
Chilli: My first words when I was a baby was, “I love you”. I couldn’t say it that good, but it’s like my mother’s mom used to call me a half-breed. Out of six kids, my mom was her first. She took everything out on my mother because my mom’s father broke her heart. So she didn’t like my mom. So it’s like my great-grandmother, who we called Big Mommy, raised me and my mom. So it’s like, because she didn’t get the love from her own mother, they showered me with love. So either I was going to be affectionate or I was not. And I am.
Lorenzo: Did you entertain people when you were little?
Chilli: I used to break dance. I was in this group called the Showcase Babydolls. You remember Cyndi Lauper? I did her song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” in a talent show. I didn’t think I was gonna win. I had to do that with the Showcase Babydolls and I won. I learned to break dance and I got better than the girl who taught me. It was a trip. It seemed like everything in this business just came naturally for me. That’s why I feel like it’s my destiny because of how everything just fell into place, being in the right place at the right time.
Lorenzo: So, did you think you would become a star one day?
Chilli: I always wanted to be a star, but I never tried to go out and do anything like that. I was signing in a church every day of my life. To this day, I sing and dance in the mirror. I can’t help it. It’s just something I just do. But my childhood was crazy because I was like surviving — trying to live — because the kids used to always try to beat me up.
Chilli: You know how it is. You’re in the projects and I was always called the half-breed.
Jamie: Half white? Or half what?
Chilli: My father… all of his people are from India. I don’t really know them. I’m looking for my father. His name is Abdul Tahil Ali. And I’m not Muhammad Ali’s daughter! People keep asking me that! No kin to him. And I’m not light skinned. I got long hair, but I ain’t light skinned. Just wanted to clear that up.
Jamie: What’s wrong with being light skinned?
Chilli: I ain’t saying nothing is wrong with it! But why can’t you be brown skinned and get problems, too? You know how people stereotype everything. But anyway, that was just how I grew up. I was always fighting girls… and boys, too. I didn’t get no peace, honestly, until I went to high school. I was in the eighth grade and these girls were in the seventh grade, and they tried to spray mace on me. It was just really crazy. I’m still glad I went to college, though. I hate it that I didn’t finish, and it’s true that, when you stay out for a while, you say, “I’m gonna go back, I’m gonna go back”, and then you don’t even think about going back anymore.
Jamie: How long did you go to school?
Chilli: Two years.
Jamie: What did you study?
Chilli: Communication art. My minor was business management. I never really wanted to be out front like how we are now because I didn’t think it was ever possible to happen. I was like, “If I just could get behind the scenes”. I love fashion and wanted to be a fashion consultant or a buyer for a major department store for clothes. I love the runway. I love all that kind of stuff.
Lorenzo: T-Boz, what’s the first thing you ever did to entertain?
T-Boz: I was sitting there thinking about the stuff I did in my life and it’s funny. I did do a lot of little stuff. When I grew up, my mom was in this group in church called the Viduwells. I had to grow up being “little Gayle”. That’s my mom’s name, Gayle. Because my mom was the singer in church, it was like, “Come on, little Gayle. Sing your momma’s song!” And her song was, “Going Over Yonder”. My solo song church every Sunday would be, “Oh, Sinner, You’re Gonna Be Sorry!” (laughs). And on special days they would say, “Come on, little Gayle, you gotta do your momma’s song”, and pretend I was my momma. That was the cute thing in church.
But I didn’t keep up anything. I would start stuff and stop all the time. I had all kinds of interests in everything. I was in the Little Miss Black Des Moines pageant and I had to do this acting skit. My mom was so scared because the whole month, I wouldn’t practice in front of nobody. I think I’m still that way now. If you push me and say, “Let me see it”, I won’t do it until show time. I’d say, “No, I’m telling you mom. I’ve got it!”. She’d be like, “Go stand in the mirror and do it”. I was like, “Mom, don’t embarrass me”. That night, she was on pins and needles. But I did it. I got my trophy and stuff.
Jamie: You won?
T-Boz: I won. I forget what place, runner-up or something like that. This girl beat me. She was playing the violin. I couldn’t top that. So I did this little skit on personal appearances. I had to wear this little hat with freckles, like a little boy with suspenders. I was in stuff like modern dance classes. I was a majorette.
Lorenzo: Oh yeah?
T-Boz: Yeah. I was never a person that liked to audition because that wasn’t me. For some reason, I didn’t think I’d make it. I’d shy away from that. But if you say do something I thought I was good at, I’d be like, “Move out the way, honey. Okay?”
Jamie: Did you break dance, too?
T-Boz: No. But ya’ll… I was twelve, right? That was the only time I was limber. I ain’t never been that limber no more since then. I’d go to dance class. Ya’ll hear my knee pop? That’s why.
Jamie: So did you think you really wanted to be a performer?
T-Boz: I’d always see myself on stage with a microphone. That was my dream. In high school, they would say, “what do you see yourself doing in five years from now?” Some people would be lawyers and doctors, some people be dead. I would be, “Shit! Not me! I’m gonna be on TV, somewhere”. I never knew how it was going to happen. I used to tell my mom, “One day you’ll see me on a poster board somewhere. You’re going to see my face”. I wouldn’t talk about it to nobody but my family, cuz you’re friends be like, “Yeah, right”. And I knew I wasn’t meant to be in the back because, just like everyday life, I don’t like people telling me what to do on the job. I don’t like being under people, I don’t live happy like that.
So, when I got out of high school, I worked in hair salons, I modeled in hair shows — I just liked fashion. I was going to go to college in New York. I was going for fashion design, but I wanted to be the star. I was only going to take basic courses and go for two years to junior college, but meanwhile, try to be a star. It worked out, I’m glad I stayed in Atlanta. I finally got my dream, and really it doesn’t feel that it’s true.
Jamie: Why do you all feel that you got your dream?
Chilli: Everybody that’s chosen, to me, isn’t going to be level-headed. But those aren’t the ones that always stay at the top. This fame has not done anything to us. We are still down-to-earth. We are the most loving people that I know, honestly speaking. We’re so giving. You can get blessing from someone else and that’s still a blessing from God. When you’re put in a situation like we are — you take advantage of that and do for others, because if you do that, and it’s from the goodness of your heart, it’s gonna come back tenfold.
So that’s why I think we were chosen and we’ll be here for awhile, because we’re still the same TLC — silly, crazy girls who are never going to change. Good things… it has to come. It has to be our turn this time, because we didn’t get it the first time, and we’re still the same. We don’t have all of the little demons around us anymore, blocking all the good stuff that comes our way.
T-Boz: I still don’t understand why I’m here. I must be blessed, period.
Jamie: Why do you all think you haven’t had children? So many girls your age have.
T-Boz: For me, I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t believe in abortion, so I know if I’d gotten pregnant, I would’ve had my baby. My mom just told me yesterday, “I was the same age you are now and I had kids”. I said, “That just means you and me are different”. I want to be at the stage where everything is positive in my life — stable, have myself together — not so negative and chaotic.
That’s when I would want to bring a child into this world. I want to be able to do things in my life — be happy and bring the baby into the world right. A lot of people don’t realize, when you bring your child, unborn in your stomach, around a lot of negative stuff and negative people, it really affects your kid. And I’m not goinf to do that to my child.
Jamie: Lisa, do you think you were “chosen” to be a star?
Left Eye: I don’t know. To me, it’s like my job. Just like everybody else has a job. The reason that this in particular happens to be my job is because I put myself into it. I kept myself around entertainers. If I wasn’t in the show, I was making clothes for the show. If it wasn’t a spot for me to dance — I would do anything — and that was my love. Ever since I was little I kept myself in it. That’s all my thoughts were — I’m going to be an entertainer. It just happened that way. I took chances.
Jamie: A lot of kids feel that, but they don’t make it.
Left Eye: A lot of kids can’t say, “I’m gonna sew everybody’s outfit”. I was just very talented and I used all of my talents. I played the piano in church, I was just so much into being an entertainer and I didn’t know what I’d be doing — acting, singing, dancing, modeling — but I did everything and I lived in that. I might not have gotten the chance, but I think it was just meant to be because I can do too much shit.
Jamie: You cook, too?
Left Eye: Yeah, throw down! Everything I do is a gift because nobody didn’t teach me how to do nothing.
Jamie: Are you the most talented in your family?
Left Eye: My mom is very talented, but hers is like, she can draw, sew, design clothes. She does interior decorating. She’s very good at it. And my dad is musically inclined. My dad plays every instrument, from the harmonica to the drums, piano, saxophone…
Suddenly, TLC had to leave for a promotional event. We all planned to get together later and go to a movie. But TLC didn’t get back to their hotel until late at night. So, we planned another interview on another day. The second interview appears next month. That one is full of juicy stuff, like how Andre and Left Eye met, T-Boz talks about how she fought off two cars that tried to purposely force her off the road, and Chilli asks us to help her find her dad.