Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins graced the ESSENCE staff with her crazy, sexy, cool energy while visiting the Manhattan offices on Thursday, October 29. The single mom kicked it with ESSENCE.com about TLC, what she most appreciated about Left Eye, and why it’s important for her daughter to be self-sufficient.
ESSENCE.COM: As you and Chilli are working on music individually and collectively, would you ever consider working with Pebbles again?
T-BOZ: (Pause.) I would never say never, but as long as we’re the ones getting paid. I had to pay a million dollars for the letter T. I’m thinking T stands for Tionne; my mother named me that. Unfortunately, we were caught in the middle of her and L.A.’s divorce, but in the end it was worth it because we own the name TLC, but it killed me to write that check.
ESSENCE.COM: Understood. Does it feel odd to perform without Left Eye?
T-BOZ: When TLC started out it was just Lisa and me and Crystal. We ended up parting ways with Crystal and someone told us about this girl named Rozonda who could dance and sing. I thought she was cute, but we couldn’t let her think she was in the group right away, she had to work for it (laughs). So eventually we welcomed her into the group and named her Chilli that day and after we gave her a name me and Lisa came up with our names.
ESSENCE.COM: Who knew you named Chilli? What do you miss most about Left Eye?
T-BOZ: Left Eye didn’t care what people thought about her whereas I did. That’s what I always appreciated about her. If she said she was going to do something she did it, whether it was appropriate or not, and all you can do is respect that at the end of the day–even if yo don’t like it (laughs). My uncle is married to her mom so we were family. We were always very close even before we became related.
ESSENCE.COM: Has your daughter Chase shown any signs of wanting to be a performer or singer?
T-BOZ: Chase wants to be a veterinarian, so we have all these weird animals in my house, and I don’t allow her to watch BET and MTV. We watch Disney and Nickelodeon. She was approached for modeling but I wouldn’t allow it. If she wants to do it I’ll let her but she has to work for it. I can help her as her mom and who I am, but I will not make it easy for her.
ESSENCE.COM: As a mom, what’s the one thing you try to instill in your daughter?
T-BOZ: I need to know that if my daughter was stripped naked and left in the middle of the street she could start from ground zero and make it on her own if I weren’t around. That’s how I was raised; sometimes I had to eat watermelon and popcorn, so if I were to lose everything today I know how to hustle and make something out of nothing. I want my daughter to have that survival skill set. I think too many celebrities who have maids and everything else and don’t teach their kids how to take care of themselves are not preparing them for the real world. My daughter will know how to cook, clean and do other things, because she might have a family and be a wife someday and that’s important to me to make her well-rounded.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve proven to be so resilient despite the health concerns you’ve had. How do you learn to keep loving life?
T-BOZ: I believe it’s mind over matter and words have power. If you say I’m going to be sick then you’re going to be sick. My mother, who is handicap, always taught me not to feel sorry for myself, so I never have. My cousin, who also suffered with sickle cell, is no longer here, but he spoke his sickness into existence every day and didn’t allow himself to live. If I want to fly to Chicago then I’m going to travel and if I happen to get sick there, well, there are hospitals all over the country that I could be taken to in case of emergency. Again, life is too short and I’m always going to make sure that I’m living.