TLC never had to go chasing their gay fans — we came to them. And not just because “Waterfalls,” one of pop history’s most prominent HIV/AIDS-awareness anthems, made a generation of LGBT people more sexually responsible, or because “Unpretty” affirmed you’re fine just the way you are. Ever since their debut dropped in 1992, the self-proclaimed “prissy tomboys” — nobody could wear condoms quite like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas — led us all to embrace our own crazy, sexy, cool selves, gender norms be damned.
But when Lopes, the trio’s swagging rapper, was killed in a car accident in 2002, T-Boz, 47, and Chilli, 46, took a long break from the recording studio to tour and pursue solo ventures. Now, 15 years post TLC3D, and thanks to a Kickstarter that funded the project, one of pop music’s flyest girl groups is taking their final bow with their self-titled fifth studio album TLC and opening up to their gay fans.
And no, they didn’t just stick to the rivers and lakes they’re used to. During our nostalgic and, ahem, educational interview, TLC talked about how “No Scrubs” gets the queers “crunk”… and, you know, just casually reminisced on that time they got schooled on what it means to be a top and a bottom.
Dallas Voice: Have you ever been to a gay club when “No Scrubs” comes on? Because you’ve never seen anything gayer or more inspiring. Chilli: You know what’s funny? One of my friends works for VH1 and, oh my gosh, it’s hilarious. He’s gay and I’m the only girl who could be his play girlfriend he tells me, and he always sends me — and, I mean, he just sent one the other day — video of when “No Scrubs” comes on, and he’s like, “Chilli, I love you!” And he’s singing and showing me everybody singing. It is crunk!
So, I take it you’re aware of your LGBT following? T-Boz: Oh, very aware. Very, very, very! The thing I love about our fans is, we’ve grown with them and they’ve grown with us. Some of them have kids now, so we have generations there. But, yes, we are very, very, very aware of the community, honey, ’cause all of our friends let us know. I love it!
When did you first know you had a gay following? T-Boz: I did a party around [1994’s] CrazySexyCool and that was one of the best parties I hosted. I learned so much! Like, I didn’t know there were certain terms and stuff! They hooked me up with a lot more knowledge of stuff that went on than I really realized. I was like, “Ohh?!” It was just such a free, fun party. No judging. No anything. It was just one of the best environments I had ever been in, so I thought that was cool. So, probably around ’95-ish when I was really aware.
What did you learn about the gay community that night? T-Boz: I learned what a top was, a bottom was. And versatile! I learned all of those terms! I was like, “Oh my god — this is so cool.”
Chilli: Oh, Lord. Oh, Jesus. I wasn’t at that party!
Sounds like you really missed out, Chilli. When was your gay awakening then? Ha! Chilli: I don’t know why I feel weird saying it now, ’cause you already said it! The bottom part. And you know… the top. I keep laughing!