TLC still doing things its own way

Updated July 13, 2018 - 2:13 pm

No scrubs, no dresses: The two big no’s in the TLC canon.

Flash back to 1992.

The pioneering girl group was catching fire with its quadruple-platinum debut, “Ooooooohhh … On the TLC Tip,” when the trio was offered the cover of Essence magazine.

“We were so excited that they wanted to put us on the cover, but they wanted us to wear dresses,” Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas recalls. “We said, ‘That’s not how we dress; that’s not our style.’ We were hoping we could work it out. ‘Since you like us, then put us on the cover the way we are and don’t try to change us.’ I remember being at the photo shoot, and I didn’t see anything that we would wear and it didn’t work out. We ended up passing on that.

“Thank God we did,” Thomas says after a brief fit of laughter, noting that TLC was never again offered an Essence cover, “because there’s so many females out there who don’t feel comfortable wearing dresses, but you’re still feminine. Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you have to wear a dress every day.”

Now, a group’s sartorial preferences might not seem like a big deal, but 2½ decades ago when TLC made its debut, that refusal to be marketed like all the other female vocal groups before, to define its femininity on its own terms, was a bold, resonant move.

By favoring bright baggy T-shirts, loose-fitting shorts, backward ball caps and condom eye patches — at least in the case of rapper-singer Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died in a car accident in 2002 — these self-professed “prissy tomboys” broadened the scope of feminine beauty and sex appeal within the musical mainstream.

This was no small thing, with TLC encouraging its gargantuan female following to embrace their idiosyncrasies, be comfortable in their own skin no matter their size or shape, or if they preferred tent-sized jeans to tight skirts. TLC’s songs doubled down on this message.

‘That’s just how we were’

Not only did TLC sound different with a smooth, new blend of pop, R&B and hip-hop — with the buttery, soulful singing of Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins buoyed by Lopes’ sharp, needle-voiced rhymes — but the group’s message was just as fresh. This has remained the case throughout TLC’s career, with songs about dressing the way you want (“Hat 2 Da Back”), not looking to men for validation (“Unpretty”), and brazenly expressing your sexual desires (“Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”).

Along the way, TLC delivered tune after tune posited on female independence long before Destiny’s Child turned doing so into a cottage industry.

The Spice Girls may have turned “girl power” into a motto of empowerment in the mid-’90s, but it was TLC who first spread that sentiment all over the pop and R&B charts years earlier.

“We were just happy to get out there and be ourselves,” Thomas explains, “say what it was we wanted to say, how we felt about things, the importance of independence and being secure with yourself. That’s just how we were.”

Thomas knew early on that TLC had something unique.

She recalls another early photo shoot, for TLC’s first record, where the group’s potential really struck her.

“I think I was mad at them that day, didn’t even want a shoulder to touch mine,” she recalls, “but I looked at the pictures and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this chemistry is crazy.’ I told them, ‘We’re going to be the biggest girl group ever.’ They’re just looking at me like, ‘OK.’ ”

Thomas was right

With 65 million records sold, TLC is the top-selling American female vocal group of all time.

Last summer’s “TLC” added to that tally. The group crowdfunded its fifth album, and first in 15 years, making it without any direction from a record label.

TLC set the Kickerstarter record by reaching its $150,000 goal in less than 48 hours, ultimately raising $400,000, with donations from musician fans such as Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, New Kids on the Block and Bette Midler.

In a way, TLC has come full circle.

Back in 1992, the group first made a name for itself by fighting to do things its own way.

All these years later, they’re still not wearing dresses.

“We’re not afraid to do some things that most people aren’t doing because you never know what’s going to happen,” Thomas says.

“It may not be successful or you may get a lot of backlash,” she adds. “But that’s been our whole career.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like