The original trio of TLCcomposed of Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomaswas brought together by Perri "Pebbles" Reid and Antonio "L.A." Reid. The nicknames only made everything catchier for public consumption and the hits rolled out from the beginning. In spite of spats with their label, management and each other, as depicted in the VH1 movie CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, the girls have come out on top even after Lopes died in a car accident. The first album spawned three huge singles: "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "What About Your Friends" and "Baby-Baby-Baby," making them famous right out of the gate.
The combination of rap, soul and funk created more hits with "Creep," Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs," which had them selling more than 22 million albums in the United States alone. In 2014 a fifth album in over a decade is in the works, and a new tour lands them right outside of Chicago.
Windy City Times chatted with "Chilli" shortly before her arrival to The Venue in Hammond, Ind.
Windy City Times: Hi, Chilli. I was up late last night watching the movie about your life.
Rozonda Thomas: Did you cry?
WCT : No.
Rozonda Thomas: Come on!
WCT : Well, I was very emotional. I interviewed Dionne Warwick years ago and she told me she wanted Keke Palmer to play her in a movie about her life one day.
Rozonda Thomas: What? That is funny.
WCT : You actually landed Palmer to play you. The response was great from this movie.
Rozonda Thomas: We were so happy about that. Obviously, it is a blessing to be a part of telling your story. So many times we see stories like this and the people aren't here anymore.
WCT : I miss the bright colors of the '80s like that.
Rozonda Thomas: That was the '90s. I was still in high school in the '80s. Don't you age me! [Both laugh.]
WCT : It was interesting that you were almost replaced out of the group. That would have changed your life.
Rozonda Thomas: Yeah, it was crazy.
WCT : What was Pebbles' reaction to the movie?
Rozonda Thomas: She wasn't happy with the way she was portrayed. She was talking about suing, which she can't sue us because there was no defamation of character whatsoever. She went on a few little interviews and did her thing.
WCT : Dallas Austin was a cutie in the movie.
Rozonda Thomas: Evan Ross? He did a real good job. He and Dallas are friends so he was able to talk to him and get inside information and all of that good stuff.
WCT : Did you actually work with Kandi Burruss, who wrote "No Scrubs?"
Rozonda Thomas: I am really weird in the studio so I told her, "I really love you but you can't stay in here and watch!" I did change up a few words in it because I wanted to make it more me and she was totally open and cool with it. It was me, the engineer and She'kspere, the producer who recorded the song. I did it in, like, five hours with the background and everything.
WCT : You were all very hands-on with the music.
Rozonda Thomas: Oh yeah, definitely. We know what we like.
WCT : Do you watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta?
Rozonda Thomas: I don't. That one is not my guilty pleasure. I have some others...
WCT : You did a reality show yourself called What Chilli Wants. Would you do that again?
Rozonda Thomas: I wouldn't say no if it made sense with the right one. I am not the one to cuss you out and all the stuff that draws people into reality shows, especially today. That is not who I am. If it is something that I am comfortable with and the right network, the right audience and it would make sense, then for sure.
WCT : I was thinking Dancing with the Stars.
Rozonda Thomas: Oh, I would love to do that. That would be fun. You know what is funny? I always used to think that people who could really dance shouldn't be on that show. I don't know how to ballroom dance and waltz. It looks easy but when you watch it and see the stars get prepared for it then it's very different from what I do. I thought about it again and would like to be on the show.
WCT : How did you feel about "Unpretty" being on Glee?
Rozonda Thomas: Oh my God, I loved it! I was jumping up and down. We have to approve it and I just thought it was amazing. I was so excited and so happy that they wanted to sing our song on there. I am telling you that I was on the moon with that.
WCT : They mixed it with West Side Story.
Rozonda Thomas: I know. They got real creative with it. I loved how they did it and everything about it. I had zero complaints.
WCT : You have so many gay fans. We need to have you play at our gay street festival in the summer.
Rozonda Thomas: You know what? At the end of the day we love to perform. I don't care who shows up or who we are performing for. Put me on the stage, mic me up and I am ready to go.
WCT : Hats off to TLC for promoting safe sex early on.
Rozonda Thomas: Seems like we need to come out with another song that promotes safe sex these days. Issues like that with safe sex or loving yourself, we always need to encourage people in these ways, besides a new generation every now and then, you and I are adults but everyone needs to be picked up because someone will put you down. It could be the job or a relationship then you hear a song with the right lyrics then you can have a better pep in your step. Those kinds
of songs are always needed I feel.
WCT : Do you work out a lot, with you always showing those abs?
Rozonda Thomas: When I am 89 I will still show my abs, six-pack on deck! That is my thing. I may not show all the legs but I will always show my stomach, maybe my arms or something. I have been consistent. I have not fallen off and had to really get myself back in shape. That is what I tell people. You have to just make sure and not eat some of the bad things all the time. For the most part it is about a healthy lifestyle. It is not about diets but finding a good workout program that you like and stick with it.
WCT : Was it hard after having a baby?
Rozonda Thomas: Heck no. It is so funny because Lisa, my group member, told me with that high-pitched voice that my stomach actually looked better after the baby. I think it's because I hit up a couple of more sit-ups every now and then after I had my son. When "No Scrubs" came out, Tron was still a baby. I lost so much weight when I was nursing. My metabolism was through the roof. I had those combinations going on. I had to stop nursing so I could gain some weight. "Feed the Children?" That was me!
WCT : How old is Tron now?
Rozonda Thomas: He is 16. Can you believe it?
WCT : They grow so fast..
Rozonda Thomas: I know it. I have to hurry up and have another one immediately!
WCT : Does he go on tour with you?
Rozonda Thomas: Oh, yes. We schedule our tours to happen during spring break or summertime so he is out of school.
WCT : What can fans expect on this tour?
Rozonda Thomas: We are always going to come up with something a little different. We don't like to do too much to the hits because I know I hate it when I go to a concert and they change up their song. People want to sing along. They want to hear every ad-lib. We don't mess with it too much but we do beef up the songs a bit. We try to come up with something real cool, the latest dance or dance breakdown. We want people to walk away from our concerts tired. They just left a fun party and need to go eat somewhere and go to bed.
WCT : There's a buffet at the Horseshoe Casino where they can eat.
Rozonda Thomas: Hey! Well, we are going to wear them out so they can tear up that buffet!
WCT : Do you gamble?
Rozonda Thomas: I don't gamble. It was never my thing. I tried it once on the slots. I played 50 cents and I won 25 dollars. I was happy and that was it. Plus there is usually smoke around and I am allergic to smoke so I can't be around it.
WCT : In Indiana they can still smoke in the casino so be careful. What new music do you have coming out?
Rozonda Thomas: It will definitely be a busy next two years for us. We are so excited about that with tours and a few things we have locked down but haven't announced yet. We will very soon. We have been listening to the songs we have recorded and deciding what we want to keep and what we don't. We have to decide who we want to work with. We are getting it together and coming up with fun ways to present everything because creativity and being trendsetters is very important to us. It is something that we have always done and that is just who we are. It has to make sense at the same time. Sometimes you can be so outside of the box that they don't know what you are talking about. We wouldn't go that route but we want to make sure it's dope.
WCT : Where do you want fans to keep up with you?
Rozonda Thomas: I definitely tweet. I call all of my Twitter followers my "Twitter babies" and they call me "Twitter Momma." I am on Twitter a lot but not on Instagram as much. It feels weird to post selfies on there to me but I will do it a little.
WCT : For this tour who is in the lineup? I heard Lil Momma was a possibility.
Rozonda Thomas: She was so amazing in the movie [as Lopes]. She is such a fan of Lisa. It was a good thing to have her onstage and pay homage to Lisa. We have also talked to Missy Elliott about doing some stuff like that. We knew people in the industry that loved Lisa and had a relationship with her, not just females but guys, toomale rappers like when we had Doug E. Fresh with us at the Superbowl Blitz. It is all so much fun and the fans really loved it, which made us feel so good. We are happy with the direction we are going in right now.
WCT : I look forward to seeing what you come up with at the show.
Rozonda Thomas: Oh you are coming? We are going to wear you out then you have to go to the buffet!
TLC creeps over to the Venue, 777 Casino Center Drive, Hammond, Ind., on March 29.
Visit www.horseshoehammond.com for ticket info.