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The 90’s group TLC weathered its fair share of drama – everything from Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes torching her NFL boyfriend’s mansion to the group’s bankruptcy and subsequent fallout with manager Pebbles even while selling millions of records. And then, of course, Lopes’ untimely death in 2002 at the age of 30 truly signaled the end of a triumphant era for the trio. Though Rozonda “Chili” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins are celebrating 20 years in the business, interest in the group remains high as evidenced by the through the roof ratings of their VH1 biopic “Crazysexycool: The TLC Story” which aired last week. The movie drew 4.5 million viewers, the highest ever in VH1 history for an original movie.
The revelation of the movie was not just the story itself but in the stellar performances of the actresses who stepped into TLC’s sneakers – actress/singer Drew Sidora as T-Boz, Keke Palmer as Chili and rapper Niatia “Li’l Mama” Kirkland as Left Eye. Even Lopes’ sister Reigndrop Lopes said that she was impressed by Kirkland’s eerily accurate performance.
Kirkland says that she had to play Lopes. The Harlem native who came to fame from the song “Lip Gloss,” and then moved on to judge “America’s Best Dance Crew.” She says she auditioned several times for the role.
“No one else could play Lisa,” she told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I had to play Lisa. I didn’t have a big thing for acting at the time, but I always knew there was something in acting for me. My mother was an extra in many different movies and when I heard about the role, I wanted it to be done correctly. I wanted her to be portrayed correctly and I wanted people to be proud of whatever work was done. I didn’t want it to be cheesy. I felt like it was a big responsibility to be part of it and I went for it.”
T-Boz and Chili may be going out on tour in support of the movie and it’s soundtrack “20” which has jumped to #5 on iTunes after the movie premiere. Li’l Mama says she loved working with them and would be happy to be part of any tour that happens, although nothing has been set up yet.
Though the success of the “Crazysexycool,” movie may help Kirkland reboot what has been a somewhat stalled music career, one of her biggest challenges is doing it all without her mother, who died of breast cancer some years ago while she was still a teenager. Her mother struggled to beat the cancer for about four years, Kirkland says, but eventually succumbed to it. Kirkland says her family was treated abominably by a doctor who told them that their mother would not live, an experience she describes as the worst of her life.
Despite that, she does encourage families to seek medical help for themselves and especially for their loved ones.
“If you really want to know your status and what’s going on with yourself and you’re serious about great health and being there for your parents, children, your husband or your wife, it’s time to be checked out and take your family to the doctor and just be committed to great health and knowledge of self.”
“Crazysexycool: The TLC Story” re-airs this weekend on VH1 on Sunday, October 27 at 8 p.m.