Review, Television

T-Boz aka Sheila Watkins Bags Herself VIP Sade Tickets!

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In the office, Sheila (Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins) listens to her tunes with headphones while Abe (James  Reynolds) yells at someone on a call. He complains about people facing consequences when they make mistakes.

He has two VIP tickets to Sade for Valerie (Vanessa Williams) but she had to cancel. Sheila tells him to go anyway. Abe invites her along.

Sheila says, “You’re my boss and you just asked me on a date.” Lani (Sal Stowers) and Eli (Lamon Archey) waltz in and Lani asks, “He did what now?” Abe explains. They tell him about the missing footage. His office and Salem SPD and John Black are the only ones who have access.

Sheila says John was there earlier to ask for the footage. She tells them how hot he is and she swooned over his sexy accent. Lani’s confused, “What accent?” Sheila flashes to meeting a man in a suit – but it wasn’t John, it was Xander (Paul Telfer)!

He conned her. She flashes to asking for ID and “John” confessing he forgot it, then swearing he was really John Black. Sheila was distracted by his muscles and when Eli shows his photo, Sheila confirms that’s him.

Lani and Eli go and Abe blows up. Sheila’s sorry. She admits her mistake but reminds him it won’t look good at HR. He asked her out on a date and then fires her?

“How’s that gonna look, Boss?”, Sheila threatens. Abe sighs and ends up giving Sheila the Sade tickets.

There’s only one question remaining — who will she invite as her date to the sold out VIP Sade concert?

Anniversary, Archives, Fashion, Interview, Relationships

TLC Talk Self-Esteem, Turn-Offs and Offer Some Dating Tips!

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They’re the sexiest female stars in the world, making, yes, even All Saints look a little ordinary. We talk to TLC about men, ‘scrubs’ and erm, condoms as fashion accessories.

By Pete Robinson | September 11, 1999

TLC are exhausted. The whirlwind campaign for “No Scrubs”  the album “Fanmail” and new single “Unpretty”, has all come to a head and now, for a few minutes at least, R&B’s foremost sex symbols can have a little sitdown, sip a few drinks, and talk dirty for The Sex Issue.

But first there is something to clear up. “Unpretty” has caused widespread confusion, to the point where respected music pundits such as, erm, Doctor Fox have spluttered comments along the lines of  “Hey! But these babes are hot!”. What Foxy hasn’t considered, of course, is this is the point: that the insecurity in the song must be really bad for three (ahem) “beauties” to feel worthless. Except, as Left Eye explains, “that’s not what the song’s about at all, either.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with good-looking people or bad-looking people,” she elucidates. “You can make me feel Unpretty, depending on how you see me through your eyes, but it shouldn’t be that way. What it all boils down to is being able to see inside of yourself and of other people, without necessarily using your physical eyes. We’re saying that we limit ourselves to our physical senses, but in fact there’s a life force, there’s an energy behind all of us and that’s what counts the most. We get too distracted by our physical senses to see and hear what’s real”.

But while “No Scrubs” has it’s precursors in musical history, there aren’t that many songs that challenge the listener with such a tricky subject matter as “Unpretty” — there must have been some catalyst for the single being recorded in the first place?

“Well, part of it”, concludes Chilli, “is that one day we were talking about breast implants in young girls. I feel really strong about that. Big breasts doesn’t mean you’re beautiful  — it has nothing to do with beauty. If you naturally have them, then that’s one thing, but if you don’t, that’s okay, y’know?”.

“It originally came from a book of poetry I’ve written called ‘Thoughts‘”, T-Boz clarifies. “Actually, ‘Unpretty’ was the first poem I had ever wrote — then Dallas Austin, our producer, read it and he was like, ‘let’s make this into a song’. So we took a lot of the words from the poetry and made it into a song. So yes (claps) ‘Unpretty’ is my work! My little poem!”

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House-burnings, bust-ups, ding-dongs and argy-bargies have plagued TLC ever since they stomped onto the pop scene in 1992 with the proto-Girl Power anthem “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg“, yet despite even bankruptcy a couple of years ago, they’re back on the toppest of all forms, and one can’t help but imagine (especially with the “stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to” aspect of ‘Waterfalls‘) that if Britain could call them their own, they’d be tabloid agony aunts by now: kind of a three-headed, PVC-catsuited Marje Proops.

But is there any romantic advice the girls have themselves been given, or that they can offer to those plotting their first expedition into the choppy seas of love and rumpo?

“I don’t know”, thinks Left Eye, who once torched a beau’s house, but who’s currently very much ‘with’ a new boyfriend. She pauses. “Uhhh… I’ve been given lots of advice. Um, oh man! I don’t know. Live and let live. I don’t know anyone who actually gave me that advice. (Laughs) but I do live by that!”

“You know what?”, squeals Chilli, jumping back into the conversation. “I’ve got my mom to thank for so much advice — I’m really sensitive now, but no way near as sensitive as I used to be when I was growing up. I mean, you’d just look at me and I’d cry. I would cry at the drop of a hat and at the time I always felt like my mom was too hard on me — kind of ‘Im only doing this because I love you’ stuff. My mom always told me to be strong and I always knew she was right there for me. She’s the reason I’m the woman I am today. All her advice was the best and I’d pass that on to anyone”.

T-Boz has the final tip. “Treat people how you wanna be treated”, she reasons. “Respect yourself, because if you don’t respect yourself, nobody else will. If you treat people good, that means you’re trying to be a good person. If you respect yourself, then you’ll do right by yourself”.

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By now, you’ll be a little concerned about your chances of bagging a date with a member of TLC. Last year it would have been easy — why didn’t you give them a call then? Nowadays you’ll only need to hold a door open for them and they’ll deck you and call you a scrub. So how, exactly, might one chat up T-Boz, Left Eye or Chilli?

Best to cut to the quick: and while Chilli remains tight-lipped, her bandmates are happy to offer some quick, at-a-glance guides to their psyches.

“I am creative, intuitive, mental, physical and spiritual”, Left Eye announces.

“While I”, T-Boz adds, “am stubborn, funny, blunt, outgoing and a sweetheart. That’s me!”

TLC can almost boast an image that is very much their own. Yet for every ultra-cool item of clothing the girls have sported in their career, there must have been some hidden disasters. T-Boz, for example, has her own fashion crime: “An afro. I can’t believe my momma did me like that. It was so ugly! Ha ha! The afro did not look right on me. I look right in a haircut. “

“The worst thing that I have ever worn?”, Left Eye flams, clearly with something in mind. Probably the condom she used to wear under her (hence the name, etc) left eye. “Mmm..  that’s a toughie, because if I don’t look right, I won’t walk out the front door, mmh hmm hmm hmm. Um, and no one can make me wear anything that I don’t think looks right. There’s nothing I look back in TLC that looks bad. I’m pretty open-minded. I just try to be comfortable. Eww…!”

So what happened to the condom? She pauses, then laughs, “It’s the same reason why someone like Prince needs to take ‘Slave’ off his face. It’s just that people like fresh, new and innovative artists, so as long as you keep innovating and changing their ideas, people will keep looking to you for guidance”.

Do you still get recognised without the condom?

“Heh heh heh!”, she giggles, “TLC are too cool to not be recognised! Not be re-cog-nised!”

T-Boz, today, the picture of un-unprettiness, must at some point have looked f***ing awful. We all have at some point. When was the last time you went out looking an absolute wreck, when nobody would touch you with a bargepole?

“The last time? Well, that weren’t that long ago, honey! Umm (laughs) I don’t know, I feel like that occasionally. Sometimes you just have bad days and I just don’t feel I look good, which was probably last week! I’m the type of person if I’m tired or if I’m sick I have bags and dark circles — it runs in the family, so I think I look like a raccoon. A lot of people have complexes no matter who they are, but that’s my definition of feeling Unpretty”.

Looking like a raccoon. There we have it.

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“So you liked the bit where we rubbed our butts?”, guffaws T-Boz, when the climax of the “No Scrubs” video — the trio backing up to the camera and patting their behinds — is brought up. “Really? Good, I’m glad you picked that part (laughs)”.

Yes, a saucy trio of vixens and no mistaking. Have they ever gone too far in their overt sexuality?

“I shocked my grandmother, I have to say!”, reveals T-Boz. Explain? “There’s this song called ‘Oh Honey‘ — it’s one of her favourites, but it’s nasty and she was like, ‘Oh dear! Oh my! I like this song but…’ cos the breakdown is really raunchy. Yeah, it blows her away, but I don’t really do anything that vulgar…”

OK. But what do TLC find really vulgar in other people? What would be the turn-off if a reader accosted you?

Left Eye: “That’s a hard one, because I can’t think of anybody who.. wait a minute. (Thinks). See, if I say that (thinks more). Uhhh… I don’t know. I don’t know, there’s a lot of sick people in the world”.

Who’s the worst? Who do you really, really horribly hate? Who’s the worst thing ever?

“I was gonna say Hitler”, she begins, not entirely unreasonably. “But I don’t even know the man, I don’t know. (Quiet laugh) there’s a lot of people who don’t have any respect for life and that’s a long list of people. Y’know, the mass murderers,  the genocides… all those evil spirits”.

This hasn’t been much help. What about the perfect date — where could we take you? The movies?

“You know, I have a baby now,” states Chilli, flatly. “I don’t get to see movies. Dancing! Uh! Old school. Really bootie-shaking music. I love booty-shake music. There’s an artist out — JT Money — have you heard of him? JT Money is the bomb — I love his music. It’s a touch of bootie music. Are you familiar with Luke? That would definitely get me on the floor — dancing.”

Just — potential scrubs, take note! — don’t ask them to lend you a fiver when you go to the bar.

Was there much in the way of a backlash over the ideology behind “No Scrubs”?

“No”, Left Eye states, “but there was that Sporty Thievz song (‘No Pigeons‘). Which was pretty funny. But no, we haven’t been criticised at all. I mean when it comes down to it, there are so many female artists who have come out and sang songs with the same subject matter — (sings ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ on but the Rent’ by Gwen Guthrie) ‘Gotta have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me…’ It’s not like we started anything new, heh heh”, she adds mischievously.

Sporty Thievz wanted you to pay for stuff, though.

“Erm, they said that, really? That they’d expect us to pay? Well, being that they want to go on the dates with us, I’d expect that they’d pay.”

Which is only polite.

“But if I was interested in going a date with the Sporty Thievz,” which judging from her tone she clearly isn’t, “I wouldn’t mind paying”. Cool!

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So, date successfully over (hey, we can dream, can’t we?) we move on to… well, the interview is almost over. Let’s just go the whole hog. To the bedroom.

“The bad dream?” Left Eye mishears, though she’s probably along the right lines. “Oh, my bedroom! You wanna know what it’s like? Um, it’s eclectic and it looks like an oversized doll house”.

Crikey a-lordy!

“My mom, you see, is an interior decorator and when I was a little girl and we couldn’t afford really nice things, she’d decorate our rooms with sheer pink material. She’d drape it from one corner of the ceiling to the other, she’d have it coming down and she’d have all different shades. She decorated for a lot of people in the industry, and she did my house so it looks like a princess’ castle”.

“Everything in my house is natural tone,” adds T-Boz. “Everything matches with my hair — even my dogs! Haha! I have a canopy bed with silk material hanging down, a whole bunch of pillows — I love pillows, and everything’s cream, tan and beige. And I love curtains — real elegant, like the fabric’s real thick, a silk type… and I have a real big TV”.

And, to conclude, one of the worst chat-up lines ever invented must be resurrected.

T-Boz, what do you like for breakfast?

“I don’t.”

Blown out!

“Well, I do like breakfast, but I’m just never up that early…”

Result!

“…Actually, today I ate French toast. And I love Pop Tarts.”

So with the image of T-Boz biting into a pastry snack and spontaneously spitting lava-hot jam across her posh kitchen, it’s time to leave TLC. Hopefully, readers, you’re now fully equipped with the knowledge to accompany the girls on a date. Keep us posted on your progress — but we can’t cover any medical costs.

Archives, Interview, Music

TLC: “It’s Hard To Be Happy About CrazySexyCool When We’re Bankrupt” (1995)

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Arson, bankruptcy, alcohol, abuse. For a group who used to dress like teenage girls, TLC have had to face some grown-up problems…

In the far corner of a London photographic studio, the three members of TLC are busy playing at being school girls. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas certainly look the part. Running through a selection of nursery rhymes, hand jives, and the occasional high pitched shriek, the girls could feasibly pass for 13-year-old teenagers and not the mid-twenty-something adults they actually all are. But then it’s easy to misjudge TLC.

Quite simple just to file them with SWV and Eternal, or the multitude of other vocal troupes in the business. But TLC are different. You can sense it in the intensity and emotion in all three girls’ voices when they drag themselves away from their playground games and finally to sit down to speak. You can sense it in their refusal to dwell on familiar themes of love and romance. And when, in a break for photographs, the trio begin singing to the tape that plays the first three tracks from Nirvana‘s “Nevermind” LP — not just like fans, but with obvious empathy for the sentiments expressed by Mr Cobain — it’s also obvious that something’s not quite right.

In many ways, TLC are your archetypal American pop group. One of the foremost examples of how a black musical sound, R&B, has infiltrated the mainstream consciousness of a nation and proceeded to sell in the sort of numbers — 7 million copies worldwide for their second album, “Crazysexycool” — not seen since the halcyon days of Motown.

Shortly into my conversation with the group, I realise TLC could do without all the theorising about their success. “Sometimes it seems like the people we’d least like to give credit to are the ones taking all the praise”,  insists Lisa Lopes. “And that hurts”.

So who really deserves credit for TLC’s success? For starters, a young woman called Crystal. It was Crystal who trawled the streets of Atlanta in a search for two girls to start her own group. And some time in 1990, Lisa Lopes and Tionne Watkins accepted her offer. Lisa was a rapper. She’d grown up in Philadelphia, but fled to Atlanta to escape family problems. Tionne had also experienced life in a broken home. First in Iowa and then in Atlanta. She worked as a manicurist, a shampoo girl and a hair model. She’d never really wanted a regular job. Besides, she could sing. “We all had very definite ideas about where we wanted to take it, you know?” says Tionne. “But it would have been a whole lot easier if both of us could have got on with Crystal. But it wasn’t meant to be. Me and Lisa, we decided to go off on our own”.

A friend of a friend introduced Lisa and Tionne to Pebbles — the wife of superstar producer LA Reid, and a moderately successful singer in her own right. Pebbles became the girls’ manager. It all made perfectly good sense. As did the entrance into the group of a third singer, Rozonda Thomas, whose sweet, child-like voice complemented the other two perfectly.

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When TLC signed to LaFace Records — LA Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds’ newish label imprint — under the management of Pebbles, “we couldn’t have dreamed that things would work out better,” says Tionne. “We were three girls with plenty of ideas, with a woman manager who we thought could understand all about problems and look after all our needs. We really felt we were in control. TLC was always going to be about three female singers in the group getting their viewpoint across. That’s why we are happy. Maybe a little bit too happy, in fact.”

TLC’s 1992 album, “Ooooooohhh… on the TLC tip“, was, it has to be said, not a triumphant debut. The album contained two decent singles, “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “Baby-Baby-Baby”. Beyond that, the group were more notable for their image than their music. Dressed in ultra baggy, Day-Glo costumes, and with Lisa Lopes sporting glasses featuring a condom attached to the left lens, in an attempt to promote safe sex, they looked tomboyish and quite ridiculous at the same time; the very antithesis of the airbrushed, pouting genre of a female band. As if they weren’t yet ready to grow up.

It was in 1992 when TLC went off on a huge tour of the States, alongside Hammer, Boyz II Men and Jodeci. Already the cracks were beginning to appear. Arguments flared over management, money and the future direction of the group. The debut album had sold over three million copies, and yet TLC (particularly Lisa Lopes) were far from happy about their role in all of this. It was producer/songwriter Dallas Austin who’d written most of the tracks for the debut. TLC wanted more of a say in their future. Increasingly, they wanted more money too.

So exactly what were the main arguments that blew up on tour?

“We found out what the other groups on the tour were earning,” says Lisa abruptly.

“When you’ve come from nothing, even $4,000 seems like a lot of money,” argues Rozonda. “But when you start to realise you’re part of a very successful group, you start to wonder what’s happening to the rest of the money that your record and tour is making”.

“You start to get angry about being told that you always have to mention the names of certain people that we were working with in interviews,” explains Tionne.

But throughout the years since the group’s formation, Lisa Lopes had had her own personal problems too. In 1991 her physically abusive father died. Lisa’s subsequent success left her shouldering responsibility for the rest of her family. She bought cars for her mother and paid the college tuition fees for her brother and sister. And she also began to drink excessively. Lisa admits that for a while drinking affected her career. But most of all, it almost destroyed her relationship with her boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, American football player, Andre Rison.

“My father was an alcoholic, so I became an alcoholic”, Lisa says. “There was a drink around me all of the time. But then in other ways he was really strict. He’d beat me and my mother. So when I decided to run away from home, it was alcohol that I looked to for support.”

Lisa’s relationship with Andre Rison was anything but conventional. She’d met the sporting hero when she was 17. Violent altercations between the couple were common. In September 1993 passers-by claimed to have witnessed Andre striking Lisa and then firing a 9mm handgun into the air when they tried to intervene. Charges were dropped, but the stormy relationship lived on. Ten months later, Andre Rison’s $2 million mansion was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of the morning and Lisa Lopes was involved in the incident. “I started a small fire, but I didn’t expect to burn down a whole house”, admits Lisa today.

Whatever the reasons for the fire — the most popular thesis being that Lisa was drunk and that Andre was violent — it was settled in  court. Lisa received a suspended sentence for arson and a stint in Charter Peachford, an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. Remarkably, the couple’s relationship lives on. They are due to wed next July.

Against this catalogue of disasters — the group ditched Pebbles in the process as well — it’s a near miracle TLC got around to recording their second LP. Even more so that “Crazysexycool”, with tracks like the poignant, elegaic “Waterfalls”, turned out to be the near-perfect example of R&B-influenced pop that it was. Although half the tracks were again written by producer Dallas Austin, this time around the personalities of all three members seemed to shine through far more strongly.

Ironic then, that today, almost one year after it’s release, TLC wish to distance themselves almost entirely from “Crazysexycool”. And that despite the album’s multi-platimum success,  the trio announced that they were bankrupt three months ago, citing liabilities in excess of $3.5 million. Debts incurred, they claim, from attempting to live perpetually on advances. Lisa, Tionne and Rozonda each owe their production company, Pebbitone (owned by ex-manager Pebbles), $566,434. The trio also owe a further £387,000 to their label LaFace.

You seem to pride yourselves on the control you exercised over your career — doesn’t bankruptcy prove you were in no control at all?

“Of course, I can see how people will think that”, says Tionne. “I can see that people will probably be laughing at TLC. But until those people have been put in the situation we’ve been through, those people will never understand”.

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For a group who’ve been as successful as TLC, the announcement that you are bankrupt still sounds rather absurd.

“You try surviving off of advances”, reasons Lisa. “One advance after another — all of which has to be repaid”.

Were you happy with “Crazysexycool” as an album?

“We were happy that the original concept for the album — the idea that the album title was meant to describe something every single woman felt — was our concepts”, Lisa insists. “But it’s hard to be happy about an album once you’ve declared yourselves bankrupt.”

“I went to the producers with a set of tracks I’d written and not a single one got used for the album”, bemoans Lisa.

TLC are your archetypal female American pop group. From the Sixties, when groups like The Ronnettes and The Supremes began to enjoy major-league success, through to modern times with bands like SWV and En Vogue, it’s almost always been the male producers who’ve held the upper hand and influenced the final direction taken.

Lisa Lopes claims she presented her producers with several new songs she’d written for “Crazysexycool”, none of which were used. One in particular, dealt with her relationship with her father. It hurt immensely when her producers knocked it back. Where do TLC go from here?

“Back to the court to get the money we’re all owed,” says Tionne defiantly.

“Hopefully a career in acting”, says Rozonda.

“Who knows?”, sighs Lisa.

by Lee Harpin / London / November 1995
Interview, Relationships

Chilli: “Cardi B Is The Only Female TLC Wish To Work With”

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It was a natural expectation that the genuine and mutual love and respect TLC and Cardi B have for each other would eventually spark the possibility of a collaboration between the two at some point in the hopeful future.

Speaking exclusively to People this week, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas gave Cardi B some moral support, following the very public breakup with her husband, rapper Offset of The Migos, as well as revealing that Cardi B is the only female TLC wish to work with!

Chilli states that she and her fellow TLC bandmate Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins typically don’t collaborate with women in honor of their late bandmate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes — who died suddenly in a car crash in 2002 — she said they would be open to working with Cardi B.

“I don’t usually like to collaborate with females, and the reason why is because of Lisa,” she said. “That is just a little weird for me, personally. But I think with Cardi B, she is an exception to the rule. TLC and Cardi B all day long. We’ve gotten a lot of love from Cardi. It’s really an honor.”

Cardi has publicly paid tribute to the iconic ’90s girl group multiple times. During her Coachella performance in April, she wore a custom design inspired by TLC’s style. She also mentioned TLC in her single “Be Careful” and Left Eye on her song “Thru Your Phone.”

Speaking on the breakup: “I have gone through a public breakup, and it is not easy,” Chilli said, referencing her split from Usher in 2003. “When strangers know your business and want to chime in while you’re still dealing with the pain yourself, it’s difficult. Breakups are hard on anyone, but can you imagine if strangers knew your business? It’s rough.”

“I am proud of her for being strong and standing up for herself during a time that is obviously a very hurtful one,” Chilli, 47, said. “She has a strong sense of self. That’s why fans have connected with her this way. She talks about her highs and lows; she is fearless.”

Chilli thinks Cardi “is braver” than she was because she “just sort of shut down” when her two-year relationship with Usher came to an end. After Chilli and Usher split, many thought the songs off his album Confessions— which hinted at an affair and impregnating another woman — were about their relationship, though Chilli has since denied this.

For more on Chilli’s words of support for Cardi B and to learn more about her latest fashion venture with DAYO Women, head over to People.com
You can catch TLC on tour in January 2019.