Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas will always be the spice of ATL's hip-pop trio TLC. Although she and fellow member T-Boz haven't been recording of late,they occasionally make appearances as a duo. Lately, the southern beauty has been keeping herself busy with her own handbag collection Bags by Chilli as well serving as a spokesmodel for a beauty skincare line. ESSENCE.com caught up with the petite, single mom to discuss her new business ventures,her relationship with Usher and Tameka, and why she isn't a home wrecker.
ESSENCE.COM: You're part of the best-selling female girl group of all time, and now you've entered the worlds of accessories and skincare.
CHILLI THOMAS: Thank you for acknowledging that because everyone always credits Destiny's Child as the biggest-selling female group, but it's just not true. You can't count album sales for each solo project collectively and come up with numbers. I love Destiny's Child, but thank you. My interest in handbags really stemmed from my love for my son. I have a girlfriend who takes pictures all the time. Whenever I think of taking photos, it represents work for me, but then I started thinking, I need
more pictures of my son. When you're out and about, people want to see
pictures of your kid and sometimes a wallet photo just isn't that great
because it gets damaged and crumbled on the edges, but [now] you
can put it on your bag. My bags are leather with nice color and textures.
ESSENCE.COM: So you're the face of Chamonix. Now, tell me, does Chilli from TLC ever get a pimple?
CHILLI: (Laughs.) Of course I do! I don't know any woman who doesn't,
especially during that time of the month. Chamonix caters to all skin types. The owner is an Egyptian chemist and I explained to him that the biggest problem with Black skin is that we have hyperpigmentation issues. The vitamin C Serum for which I am the spokesmodel is so good for your face, it keeps the pores tight and firms the skin. My secret is drinking three liters of water a day. My skin is so much better now than when I was in my early twenties because I drank a lot of soda. As females, it's just important that we keep our faces clean because between makeup and the environment that's a lot for anyone's skin to handle.
ESSENCE.COM: So what's up with your new music?
CHILLI: I'm exploring my options and definitely the indie route. Nowadays, record labels want to sign you to these 360 deals, which means that they get a percentage of everything you do whether it's concerts, merchandising. Back in the day, that's how an artist made their money, but artists aren't selling albums like they used to. TLC had a lot of financial issues and I refuse to bind myself to a deal because I know better now.
ESSENCE.COM: It's been six years since we lost Left Eye. How are you and her family coping with her death?
CHILLI: I see her family every now and then. I still have my moments and probably always will. There's not a day that goes by that she doesn't cross my mind. When I do some interviews, I get so upset when people refer to me as "the former member of TLC." I am always and still am a part of TLC. We are forever no matter what. As long as T-Boz and I are living, we are keeping Left Eye's memory alive. Before Left Eye died we were in a much better place-we were recording "3D," our last album together. All of us were in the studio and it felt like old times. It felt so good; we were acting silly. I still remember when she and I were playing phone tag, and I was trying to get in touch with her while she was in Honduras, and then I received the worst phone call that I could ever receive. But I'm glad that we did get a chance to resolve a lot of the issues we had with one another. I only watched the VH1 documentary special about Left Eye one time. It was almost disturbing to me. Missy [Elliot] told me she felt kind of weird watching that. If anyone knew Lisa, she would have wanted everyone to see that documentary. It was deep.
ESSENCE.COM: Throughout the blogosphere, folks speculated about whether you, Usher and Tameka communicate. Do you?
CHILLI: I don't have any contact with her. I have not spoken to her in years. There's no relationship at all between us. I haven't spoken to Usher, either. When people ask whether or not I think she is the reason we broke up, I have no clue what Usher was doing outside of our relationship. When we broke up, it was because it wasn't working out. I later found out there was some infidelity, but he never said who that woman or who those women were, because I'm sure it was more than one. Again, I heard things, but Tameka never crossed my mind. The first time I strolled across that [infamous] beach photo I thought somebody photoshopped that. I didn't believe it. I did wonder if she was one of the girls, but again, I never asked. My memory of her was that she was the stylist, because she dressed Usher and I for an event one time. Honestly, those are questions I never asked him, and I've distanced myself so much from him. We aren't communicating at all. We broke up, had conversation a few times maybe two years after we broke up, and
it was a wrap. I think what keeps it alive at all is these [blogs]
speculating whether we'd get back together.
ESSENCE.COM: There were rumors that you were a home wrecker and dating CNN's T.J. Holmes while he was married. Is that true?
CHILLI: No, let's clear this up right now. T.J. Holmes was divorced and had been divorced. It wasn't a situation where he was going through a divorce and still married. I would never date a man that is legally separated or tied to another woman. We dated, but it was brief. I'm a godly person and try to do all the things that God wants me to do. I have a conscience; I could never do that. Besides, I want to get married and present a healthy wonderful relationship for myself and my 11-year-old son.
ESSENCE.COM: Yes, we need to show our children examples of healthy
relationships. Speaking of which, how has your relationship with your father blossomed since you reunited so many years ago?
CHILLI: Honestly, I have this weird relationship with my father. My mom
painted a lot cooler picture of him than what is reality. I think in her
own way she was trying to protect me and I thank her for that, but I had to find out for myself who he really is. I don't regret it because I think that every person in the world should know their parent and their background.
For more information on Chilli's handbags, visit Bagsbychilli.com.