TLC, the iconic girl group comprised of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and the late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes have broken down barriers for women, changed lived lives and touched millions of fans across the globe..
The spunky trio dominated 90s airwaves, breaking myriad records as they blossomed from budding Atlanta talent to worldwide phenomenon. They sold 65 million records worldwide, had the highest grossing tour by a female group and were the best selling female R&B group of all time, but things weren't always peachy on their end. T-Boz and Chilli are ready to let the world all the way into their story. “I've been wanting to tell the story for years and years, even before we even had enough stories to tell,” Chilli said. “I hoped that all of us would be around to put that together, but unfortunately we lost our sister.”
Drew Sidora, KeKe Palmer, and Lil Mama – the stars of CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story – have the task of filling T-Boz, Chilli and Left-Eye’s respective shoes, sharing their truth and honoring the group's twenty-year legacy. The biopic airs tonight at 9PM ET/PT on VH1.
VIBE chatted with TLC and the actresses illustrating their story about the audition process, naysayers being wrong for judging the cast selection and the film being made at the perfect time. –Stacy-Ann Ellis
On all the roles being meant to be:
Lil Mama: Going into the audition I was listening to [MaryMary] and they said, “Girl, go get your blessing.” And I went and got it. That was it. God was all over me and is all over me, so I just felt in the spirit. There were signs, things warning me to study, things letting me know that I had to be focused in this being my first movie ever, to know that this is not a game. It’s not you’re a rapper, you’re popular, you’re this, you’re that. It’s not about you.
Drew Sidora: As soon as my manager and my agent sent me the audition, I was like wow. She inspired me and I always related to her not really knowing why. I was in Chicago at the time, I wasn’t in LA for the audition, but I wanted it so bad that I put myself on tape in the bathroom at my mom’s house and she’s taping me saying the lines and we put up a white sheet behind me… We were wingin’ it. We really didn’t know if they would accept it but we did it. I put it through my iMovie and sent it and they accepted it. Then our director, Charles Stone, did my callback on Skype. That never happens so I knew it was definitely divine and God just made a way for us to get this opportunity.
I realized that we’re both Taurus women, were both from the Midwest. She struggled with sickle cell and I’ve been a spokesperson for Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois for eight years. I really understand the disease and I’ve been a part of raising money for research. There were too many connections, so I really felt like I could pull it off.
T-Boz: It was crazy because I couldn't find “me.” They confused what was the difference between hard and cool. I’m not hard. I’m cool. They had me looking butch. It was a mess. Then they were like, there’s a girl and they’re going to send this tape to you last minute. I was frustrated. I saw [Drew] and I said, “This is her.”
On handling negative criticisms of the cast selection:
DS: When we found out there were people who didn’t feel we were right, it was shocking. When God gives you something and you know its for you, you expect everybody else to know it’s for you, and that just didn’t happen. But it motivated me and gave me the challenge to really channel her and go deeper and know, okay this is T-Boz, but who is Tionne Watkins and what can I do to help her story live on and be an inspiration for anybody watching? When I first tested for the role, I tested with Lil Mama, and when I walked in, I was so taken aback because she looked just like [Left-Eye]. And then her spirit was all over. I just knew she had it.
LM: I think that the upset was the set-up, because I was ready to go. Don’t get me upset. People are gonna write things and say things that are negative or positive about you, and you just have to pull from the energy that you give to. I’m only giving to positivity; I don’t have time for the negative. And I really had to find that place, because it did get me upset to see things that were bad or mean. As they would say, cyber bullying. Because you ain’t gon’ say that in my face. ‘Cause we’re not going there. But that’s how you feel when you read it; you want to see the person. You’re angry! But, to take that upset and turn it to the set-up, and go off? (Laughs) You can’t beat that.
There are fans out there too that feel like this is something precious. This is a person that we honor. This is a person that we put to rest and we don’t want anyone else to come along and turn it into something other than what we expect. And I can understand people that felt like that as well, because I feel like that. I feel like I don’t want nobody playing Left-Eye. I gotta play Left-Eye because it has to be right. I was very confident in that and I’m truly blessed and thankful that the stars were aligned for me.
TB: I was snapping. First off, don’t judge nobody when you don’t know them, and then you’re talking about silly stuff when one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. It has nothing to do with acting chops. We can go in a lot of peoples personal lives, I can find out a whole bunch of freaky stuff. I think they rode Lil Mama harder than anybody with the whole Jay-Z thing. It’s almost like a broke person trying to tell you how to be a millionaire. They’re on Twitter talkin’ this and that, well have you ever made a damn movie before? Bump America who didn’t like it.
Chilli: To me it was bullshit really. I knew just from her audition tape, because we chose her first. We didn’t see the others yet. It was meant for her. I knew that when this came out, they were gonna eat their words. I knew it. When they did the trailer, we heard, “Oh my gosh you did a great job! You got the perfect cast.” It was hilarious. We knew the outcome would do it.
On the biggest super fan moment with TLC:
LM: I think the most powerful “Oh my God!” came for me when they asked me to come perform with them at Hershey Park. When they asked me to perform at Hershey Park I was like, nah they’re playing. They were like girl, listen, you’re gonna come out with us, we just want you to come out and be a special guest. Nothing big, we don’t want to put too much pressure on you. Because they knew that people were saying “Don’t replace her!” It’s not a replacement. I’m an artist in my own right and they respect my work. They appreciate me as an artist. But they also feel like if there’s a song with Left-Eye on it, that I am the perfect person to celebrate her life and her legacy onstage. We’re not taking anything away from Left-Eye. That’s the most powerful part about it because that experience let me know TLC has come across many artists, many female emcees are very close to TLC, and for them to choose me to do that says a lot. For them to choose me for this movie says a lot.
On what the audience should take away from the movie:
LM: For me, just sisterhood and sticking together.
DS: It’s their truth. The story is what it is and it really happened, and a lot of people are going to be shocked to find out all that they went through because they were so successful. They touched millions of people. They were the number one best selling female group of all time, and yet they couldn’t pay their rent. They didn’t have the money to show for it. It’s messed up, but it taught us all a lesson, especially in entertainment, that you have to know your business. Yes, it’s glamorous, but you gotta start with your education first. It’s still a numbers game and it’s still a business. I think they pioneered that. Now we can see artists having their own labels, production companies, being bosses, getting behind the scenes. God always has a purpose and a plan. Them going through that taught a lot of people a lot of things. This is a new generation. My nieces and nephews didn’t know who TLC was. Now they’re going to know and continue to learn because standing here 20 years later, they got the money. They have all new careers, executive producing, celebrating 20 years with a new album. You can’t say that about a lot of entertainers. That’s beyond inspiration to me. But I hope people take that away and see that.