There isn’t a more perfect example of the phrase “black don’t crack” than Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. One third of the 1990’s R&B group, TLC, Chilli hasn’t appeared to age since the day the group entered the music scene over 25 years ago.
After dominating the charts with TLC’s four multi-platinum albums, Chilli is showing no lines of slowing down — professionally or physically.
Despite many years of touring, performing, and life on the road, Chilli has maintained her physique and youthful glow thanks to being disciplined and figuring out a regimen that works best for her. And it’s clearly working.
Mainly, because the 47-year-old mom takes her health very seriously.
“You have to take care of the temple like God wants us to,” Chilli told ESSENCE exclusively. “Your older self will tell what the younger self did. The earlier you start, the better.”
Besides God laying his hands on her, what exactly does Chilli do to maintain her youthful glow?
“I do acupuncture,” she revealed. “I do a lot of different things to make sure inflammation is not in my body. Most people have inflammation, they don’t even know it because they don’t feel it at the time.”
She continued, “A good chiropractor is also essential because your hips and stuff are not balanced. You don’t know it until you lay on that table and you see one leg is longer.”
And with so many new fads on the market promising to reverse aging, remove fine lines and get rid of that stubborn fat, it’s often hard to determine what’s going to have health benefits for the long run. For Chilli, she undergoes cryotherapy, or cold therapy, regularly.
“I also do red light therapy. That’s also good for inflammation,” she said. “It’s an LED light and it doesn’t burn your skin, but it helps with arthritis. Even if your skin has acne and stuff like that, you can find red light therapy. I suggest doing the whole body. That’s what I do on a consistent basis. I don’t ever feel like I have any injuries.”
Finally, she said that the real key to looking as amazing as she does it eating right — a lot. “That helps and you can enjoy life a lot longer,” she said.
Welp, there you have it. If you’ve ever wanted to know how Chilli does it — now you know.
Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas, singer
Anything that’s self-destructive, that’s chasing a waterfall. We wanted to make a song with a strong message – about unprotected sex, being promiscuous, and hanging out in the wrong crowd. The messages in Waterfalls hit home. I think that’s why it’s our biggest hit to date.
When it first went to radio, nobody got it. They didn’t understand what we were talking about. It needed the video to bring the words to life. Even I don’t think I really fell in love with the song until I saw it. The moment I did, I knew it would be a hit.
The timing was perfect. Organized Noize produced the track. They’d been working with Outkast and Goodie Mob and that funky, soulful sound that was their signature. CeeLo Green sang backing vocals – way before he was a big star. P Diddy did some interludes on the album, CrazySexyCool, too. But obviously, once our voices got on there, it became a TLC record.
The song made us much more relevant – not just a fun girl group. We were bringing awareness to subjects people were nervous talking about. It was groundbreaking for us: from then on, we were seen as the real deal.
We definitely wanted to be role models. We felt like a lot of females didn’t have other females pulling for them – so every song we put out was a girl-power song. We told it from a woman’s point of view. Women liked that and men respected it.
AIDs is still out there. You still have bullying. You still have drugs. But you have to continue to bring awareness so that people can become more responsible and want to do the right things. You can never have too many records like Waterfalls.
Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, singer and songwriter
I always loved what you’d call alternative music. Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Duran Duran, Billy Idol. Bennie and the Jets by Elton John was my thing. I was born in Iowa and moved to Atlanta when I was a child.
Every time I tell people I’m from Iowa, they go: “There’s black people there?” I actually have a T-shirt that says: “Yes, there are black people in Iowa.”
I wanted Waterfalls to be our version of alternative music. When I heard an early version, I thought: “My god, this is perfect.” It was so left of what we’d done on our first album. It was amazeballs.
When we had finished recording it, we played it for Clive Davies, the big kahuna at the label. He was the boss of Arista, which distributed our label La Face. He didn’t like it. He said it was too deep. He didn’t think people would bump up the street to it.
So we went to LA Reid, who ran LaFace. We bought a giant poster and wrote on it: “Please believe in us, we’ll make the best video ever.” He went against Clive and put up the money. We called in F Gary Gray to direct the video.
The first time he showed us the concept – which showed a kid getting killed selling drugs and a guy contracting HIV – we started crying.
AIDS was an epidemic at the time. Not long after the song came out, I was doing a book-signing and a man came up to me and held my hand. “I didn’t kill myself because of you,” he said. “I felt like nobody understood. But I felt like you guys understood how people can end up in my situation.”
The day before recording, I’d been in a car with Lisa [“Left Eye” Lopes, who was killed in a car accident in 2002]. We saw a beautiful rainbow. That’s how her rap starts: “I seen a rainbow yesterday.” She’d been through a lot with the house burning down, she’d been locked up in the centre for drug and alcohol treatment.
That was serious, what she said was real. It was for herself and everyone else who had been down the wrong path, chased the wrong things. And she really did see that rainbow – and it made her feel good about life and remember how precious it is. That song still has meaning 25 years on.
I will never forget the day we filmed that video. I can’t swim. It was 6am and I’m on this little plastic thing in the middle of 80,000 tonnes of water, in the lake where they shot Jaws at Universal Studios. That’s why my feet are planted. I do not move. I was so worried about falling in.
When we showed the video to Clive, he was like: “I knew it would be great!” And we were looking at him like: “What? Hush up!” We eventually fired people and got out of our deal. We were so underpaid. We made a lot of people wealthy. Being a black woman in the industry means you have so much going against you.
I’m not fearful about anything. If I believe in something and want to to talk about it, then that’s what we’re doing. I’m just happy that we were able to succeed in what we set out to do – make a difference.
TLC headline the Mighty Hoopla festival in Brockwell Park, London, on 3 June.
Interview serves as part of The Guardian’s weekly ‘How We Made‘ series.
TLC sat down with Beats 1 on April 25, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the passing of the beloved Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
On Cardi B Paying Them Homage
T-Boz: “I know she wore my outfits at the Grammys and she wore Lisa’s hair. It was our whole Grammys-TLC feel when we were on stage, and she said Left Eye on one song, and paid homage to TLC on another song — our “Creep” song and then our name, too. She did it twice and she also paid us love on our page. So a lot of love — it was awesome.”
On TLC’s Legacy
T-Boz: “It’s really an honor. You never think people are going to be — like, you always wish that, you want that. We would always say, ‘we want to be trendsetters. We want little girls to dress like us.’ But when you actually see them do it for Halloween, and have birthday parties, and generations — the grandma, the mom, and the daughter — all at the concerts. It’s really amazing. We’re blessed to be 25 years in, and people are still doing it.”
Chilli: “We are really blessed. And like she said, as an artist when you’re new coming out, your dream is to be able to have that type of effect — a positive one — on everybody, and to have that longevity. You don’t know if that’s going to be your story, so time tells that, and it has. It’s been 20 plus years, and even Bruno Mars, for that matter — the video that he had featuring Cardi B — it was almost like our “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” video, and he had on a TLC t-shirt! It’s amazing and it’s a blessing for us to see that. It makes us feel really good and lets us know, OK we did it right. We’re still doing it, so yes, it is awesome.”
On The Anniversary of Left Eye’s Passing
Chilli: “First of all, when you think of the word anniversary — I mean, I know that it’s a date that something took place. But when you think about that, you think of happy times.
When people celebrate the anniversary of a wedding, or a marriage, or a relationship of any kind, and it seems like to me it’s all something cheerful, and there’s nothing cheerful to me about her passing. I mean nothing. We don’t go out of our way to do anything like that. I mean, when her birthday comes around, yes, we talk about that, but not the death.”
T-Boz: “But we celebrate it all year round. I mean really because we always incorporate her in everything we do. We always keep her memory alive. We showcase the great things, like why people loved her. So yeah, like when anybody else’s mom or sister dies, I don’t know a lot of people who celebrate cake or anything.”
T-Boz has hinted that TLC may do some new songs from the long awaited 5th album on their Australian tour in November!
This hope was further solidified when she gave fans a glimpse of her discussing visuals for the revamped tour to feature new songs like No Introduction as part of the set!
Something for all fans to look forward to! Especially those of you lucky enough to be attending the new shows!
A new TLC song title has emerged on the BMI registry entitled “Can’t Buy You Money”.
It was written by T-Boz and Dallas Austin. No word on whether or not it will make the album, but its a good sign!
Credit to Derrick Gardner for the info.
TLC put on another incredible concert last weekend, this time in Texas at the Arena Theatre in Houston!
Check out some of the highlights below!