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.

Entertainment
Meow Wolf opening an "otherworldly" art experience in Las Vegas
Meow Wolf opening "otherworldly" art experience in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Celebrate Margarita Day With The Hot Damn Margarita
Celebrate Margarita Day With The Hot Damn Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Yard House margarita changes color in the glass
The cocktail, as made by lead bartender Taylor Cole at Town Square in Las Vegas, changes from deep blue to magenta because of a chemical reaction between its butterfly pea flowers and citrus agave. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Black History Month Festival
Las Vegas residents gathered on Saturday, February 16, 2019, at Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd, to celebrate Black History Month. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You Can Design With 3D Printers, Laser Cutters And Ceramics At Discovery Children's Museum
You Can Design With 3d Printers, Laser Cutters And Ceramics At Discovery Children's Museum (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Champagne vending machine at Waldorf Astoria in Las Vegas
One of only a few in the country, the Moët & Chandon machine at the Waldorf Astoria in Las Vegas is stocked with Imperial Rose for Valentine’s Day. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas Valentine’s Day desserts
Mio Ogasawara of Sweets Raku and Rebecca Bills of Gen3 Hospitality in Las Vegas create elaborate Valentine’s Day desserts. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
One Night For One Drop
Cirque du Soleil cast and crew donate their time and talent to this year's "One Night For One Drop" performance at the "O" Theatre in the Bellagio. The event takes place March 8, 2019, and benefits the One Drop organization. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Chinese New Year Parade
Chinese New Year parade takes place on Fremont Street. (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Manzo restaurant a key part of Eataly
Nicole Brisson, executive chef of Eataly, at Park MGM in Las Vegas, talks about new restaurant.
Designer Makes Festival-style Crowns
Designer at MAGIC trade show Makes Festival-style Crowns (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excalibur Raises tent that will house "Fuerza Bruta" show
Workers at Excalibur raised a tent, which will be the home of "Fuerza Bruta," a temporary show that will run from March 7 to September 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roc Boots Make For Glittery Festival Wear
With 3-inch-tall chunky heels, cleated platforms, and sparkly glitter, you’ll want to wear these to dance the night away. Sally Cull, product and development for Roc Boots Australia, assures you that you can. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get A Custom-painted Jacket At Las Vegas Fashion Event
On the first of the two-night Commotion event, clothing brands connected with consumers, offering shopping, giveaways and customization opportunities. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Venetian Celebrates The "Year Of The Pig"
The Venetian hosted dancers to celebrate the Chinese New Year and "Year of the Pig." The dancers performed a traditional eye-dotting ceremony and lion dance. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pepe the truffle-hunting dog
Jose Andres knows that quality black truffles can also be found in his native Spain. He’ll be sharing some with the world for a week, starting Monday. From Feb. 11-17, his Cosmopolitan restaurant Jaleo will be showcasing four special dishes made with Spanish truffles discovered by the truffle-hunting dogs of his friend Nacho Ramírez Monfort. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tony Abou-Ganim mixes drink at Libertine Social
Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist, helped change the cocktail culture in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masaharu Morimoto talks ramen in Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto talks about bringing a ramen restaurant to Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto considering full-time Las Vegas ramen spot
Morimoto talks about a full-time ramen spot in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to new home at Neon Museum Boneyard
The famous and newly restored, Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign is working it's way to a permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to Neon Museum Boneyard
The famous and newly restored, Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign has been moved to its permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign moves to new Las Vegas home
The famous and newly restored Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign has moved to a permanent home at the Neon Museum Boneyard in downtown Las Vegas. It will be moved in six pieces and take five days for reconstruction. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas band Otherwise release song and video in tribute to slain cousin
Adrian and Ryan Patrick, brothers in the band Otherwise with drummer Brian Medeiros, talk about the release of a tribute song to their deceased cousin Ivan. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing