TLC: The Women With No Scrubs
TLC, which stands for T-Boz, Left-Eye, and Chili, is an African American girl group who has set high standards for girl groups because of their talent and sound.
Tionne Tenese Watkins was born on April 26, 1970 to James Watkins and Gayle Watkins, in Des Moines, Iowa. When she was young, her family moved to Georgia, where she began working in a hair salon. As a child, she was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, and at one point had a life threatening brain tumor.
Lisa Nicole Lopes was born on May 27, 1971 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Wanda Denise (Seamstress) and Ronald Lopes Sr. (US Army Staff Sergeant). Her parents separated when she still young and her paternal grandmother raised her.
Rozonda Ocielian Thomas was born on February 27, 1971 in Columbus, Georgia to Abdul Ali and Ava Thomas. She grew up in a single-mother household . She didn’t meet her father until 1996 when she was 25 years old.
In 1990, Ian Burke and Crystal Jones came up with the concept of an all female version of Bell Biv Devoe with a tomboyish, contemporary R&B look and sound. They began searching for two more girls to join Crystal, which led to Tionne Watkins and Lisa Lopes auditioning, and they named themselves 2nd Nature. They were eventually able to audition for Perri “Pebbles” Reid, where they were renamed TLC, an acronym for their names.
Reid was able to arrange an audition with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who loved the idea of Tionne and Lopes staying in the group, but didn’t feel jones should remain. Rozonda Thomas came along in 1991, after being discovered as a background dancer.
To avoid a name change, Tionne became ‘T-Boz’, Lisa became ‘Left-Eye’, and Rozonda became ‘Chili’. They immediately signed a recording contract with Laface and began recording their first album.
Their first album Ooooooohhh..On the TLC Tip, was released on February 25, 1992. This album contained elements of funk, hip-hop, and R&B. With songs like Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, Baby-Baby-Baby, and What About Your Friends, the album went quadruple platinum, selling over 4 million copies. As branding and awareness, the ladies wore bright colors and condoms on their clothes, and Lisa wore one on her left-eye.
They began touring and traveling to major cities as MC Hammer’s opening act. Although they had overwhelming success, they had not seen much money coming straight to them.
Their second album, CrazySexyCool, was release on November 15, 1994 and featured hits like Waterfalls, Creep, and Diggin’ On You. This album did not disappoint, containing two #1 songs and selling over 23 million copies. Despite the success, they still had not seen the money to match it and had to file bankruptcies.
Their third album, Fanmail, was released in February 1999, containing No Scrubs, Unpretty, and Silly Ho. Once again, this album was a great success selling over 14 million copies. During and after the release of Fanmail, Left-Eye made it clear that she wasn’t happy and felt confined to the image of TLC.
While Lisa Lopes was recording her second solo album, she passed away in a car crash in Honduras on April 25, 2002. She had been filming a tv special with MTV that would later be released as The Last Days of Left-Eye in 2007.
T-Boz and Chili would go on to release their fourth and final album featuring vocals from Lisa Lopes, to commemorate her.
In the following years, they appeared on television and singles with artists such as J Cole’s Crooked Smile.
On October 21 2013, they released a biographical film titled CrazySexyCool, showcasing their rise to fame, relationships and behind the scenes interactions.
TLC’s contemporaries include many other phenomenal girl groups such as SWV, Total, Blaque, Xscape, En Vogue and Jade. It is extremely hard to say who, if any, were equally compared to them throughout the years considering they had a very versatile sound and look.
- CrazySexyCool – Best R&B album
- Creep – Best R&B Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocals
- Fanmail – Best R&B album
- No Scrubs – Best R&B Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocals
- No Scrubs – Best Video
- Contribution to Music
- Best R&B Video
- Best Group Video
- Video of the Year
- Viewer’s Choice
- No Scrubs
- Best Group Video
- No Scrubs
- Lifetime Achievement Award
“TLC has influenced just about every female group that’s out there now, and they definitely influenced Destiny’s Child.” – Beyonce
“You’re always in a blessed position if you have a great success story, especially to be in a position to be able to tell it so people can even understand.” – Tionne Watkins
Within the group, they used their platform from Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, to raise awareness about safe sex by wearing condoms over their clothes and speaking about it through interviews.
They used their platform with Waterfalls to bring light to HIV/AIDS through awareness advertisements. This has been a continuous avenue for them to advocate for throughout the years even participating in a few different charity projects.
Specifically Tionne Watkins has advocated heavily for Sickle Cell Disease of America, having experienced the negative effects of the disease and bring and bringing awareness to her followers who may be experiencing the same thing as her. She also serves as a national co-chair for Health Care Voter, brining awareness to proper healthcare.
- Oooooooh..On The Tlc Tip (1992)
- CrazySexyCool (1994)
- FanMail (1999)
- 3D (2002)
- TLC (2017)
Some of their singles include:
TLC is an extremely influential group. T-Boz, Chili, and Left-Eye’s risky outfits, unforgettable lyrics, and ‘out of the box’ vocal styles will forever leave an imprint on the world. Their lyrics and style influence lots of artists in 90s and it continues to shape many artists today. The 90s is such a nostalgic era, with TLC leading the pack.
III, Charles Stone, director. CrazySexyCool. n.d..
23, Beyonce KnowlesUpdated December, and Beyonce Knowles. “Beyonce Knowles Remembers Lisa ”Left Eye” Lopes.” EW.com, ew.com/article/2002/12/23/beyonce-knowles-remembers-lisa-left-eye-lopes/.
Zhong, Michelle. “TLC (1991- ) •.” •, 2 June 2020, ttp://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/tlc-1991/.
“TLC: Biography & History.” AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/tlc-mn0000007689/biography.
Krulik, Nancy E. Lisa Lopes: the Life of a Supernova. Simon Pulse, 2002.
Rosenthal1, Gay, director. Behind The Music: TLC In Depth. 1999.
Tensley, Brandon. “How TLC Changed Everything.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 30 May 2017, psmag.com/social-justice/no-scrubs-the-enduring-awesomeness-of-tlc.
Watkins, Tionne. Thoughts. 1999.
Watkins, Tionne. A Sick Life: Tlc’n Me: Stories from on and Off the Stage. St Martins Pr, 2017.