LOS ANGELES, October 17, 2013 — You know the story: three girls from the wrong side of the tracks but destined for superstardom navigate through life’s perils, harsh lessons and the proverbial pitfalls of fame and fortune.
The formula has always been the same, beginning in the 1960s in Detroit with The Supremes. These three daughters of Motown set the bar high, becoming one of the most legendary girl groups of all time. They sang sweet kitten-esque songs like “Baby Love” and “Where Did Our Love Go?” making heartbreak and unrequited love sound charming and lovely. It was a time of glamorous gowns, furs, perfectly coiffed wigs, style, grace and lots of sequins.
Then there was TLC. Glamorous gowns and pumps were replaced with baggy clothes and Timberland boots. Sequins were traded in for condoms.
Now, finally, one the greatest and best-selling girl groups of all time will have their story told in VH1’s ambitious biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” on Monday, Oct. 21 at 9/8c.
“Finally” is an understatement. TLC is one of the most influential music acts of the 1990s. Period. Any girl who grew up in the 1990s during TLC’s reign on the music charts used her hairbrush as a microphone to perform in the mirror while copying every cool TLC dance move, from colorful music videos like “Hat 2 Da Back,” “What About Your Friends?” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and “Creep.”
I was always stuck with Left Eye. Everyone wanted to be Chilli. She was beautiful, sexy, sultry, and knew how to dance. T-Boz was beautiful, smart, cool, and chill. And Left Eye—well no one wanted to be her because she was, well, crazy. So as the youngest of my group of girlfriends at the time, I often got what I thought was the short end of the stick because I was a crass tomboy who could never pull off sexy Chilli or cool T-Boz.
But as it turns out, Left Eye is one of the most beloved, polarizing, and enigmatic figures in Hip Hop and R&B. Not only was she the beautiful, fearless rapper and rebel of the group; she was its life force. Her untimely death in a car crash in Honduras on April 25, 2002 left a void in TLC and in the hearts of fans everywhere. Especially mine. It was the day before my 15th birthday.
Left Eye taught me that it was okay to be myself in male-dominated society that tried to tell me and other young women what it meant to be beautiful. And if that was crazy, then crazy it was. All three young women taught me that it was okay to be smart, sexy, silly, and above all else, to have fun. They demanded respect in a music industry where black women were constantly being degraded and treated like pets and property. TLC was truly a beacon of light for young black girls everywhere.
Amid personal and financial struggles as a group, their legendary songs and fierce attitudes made countless fans smile, and that was all that mattered to them. They spoke up and out for girls who were bullied and suffering from low self-esteem and eating disorders in “Unpretty,” and ladies who had to let the fellas know in “Baby, Baby, Baby”:
If you want my heart, huh, and all my time, Well it won’t be there if you can’t deal with my mind.
And if they couldn’t deal with it, they were politely shown the door in “No Scrubs.”
TLC tackled tough issues like drug dealing and safe sex in “Waterfalls,” giving a voice to their generation, a female voice at that. Far too often people forget that TLC was not just another girl group, but three young women who were different in their own right and when combined were a force of nature all on their own.
Behind the big baggy clothes and catchy songs, they had something to say. They kicked down doors with their Timberland boots and they spoke of self-love and doing their own thing with their “Hat 2 Da Back” and pants kicked down real low in a voice that is absent in today’s decadence of flesh. They demanded:
Let me be me, for me, and not what I’m supposed to be
Even as fresh-faced teens they were role models. They had their own style, they were authentic, and most importantly—they had something to say.
So thank you Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. Thank you TLC. There will never be another.
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