We are the black Laverne and Shirley, “says Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, giggling over a fried lobster dinner in Atlanta with her BFF, fellow TLC member Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. They’ve already made their dreams come true—with four Grammys, hit songs like “Waterfalls” and over 33 million albums sold, TLC is the biggest girl group in history. On a break since the April 2002 death of bandmate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, T-Boz, 35, and Chilli, 34, have returned with R U the Girl?, a UPN reality show in which contestants vie for a chance to perform live and record a single with TLC. The best buds—who are planning to make another album together-chatted with People’s Andrea Billups about babies, breakups and the search for the perfect man. (Hint: “No Scrubs.”)
What do you say to people who think you are trying to replace Lisa in TLC?
Chilli: We are not, I repeat, not replacing Lisa. She could never be replaced.
T-Boz: TLC is T-Boz, Lisa and Chilli. That’s it…. Of course we miss her. Sometimes we talk about it. We didn’t really get a chance to grieve privately. I had to share my personal business with the world, and that wasn’t cool.
What have you been doing since then?
T-Boz: I chose to take a break. I opened a children’s boutique in Houston, Chase’s Closet. But I miss it. When Chase [her 4. year-old daughter with her estranged husband, rapper Mack 10] was young, she didn’t get to see her mother perform. She gets to watch [videotaped] concerts, and she always plays Lisa. She always says, “Mommy, are you going to be T-Boz today?”
Chilli, you stayed in the public eye with your romance and breakup with Usher.
Chilli: I want everyone to get over it. I’m over it. Let it go. It’s been over for a long time, and it will never be again. I am a woman scorned. I’ve never had a man, a real man, in my life. I want someone who takes commitment seriously. Even if you hurt my feelings and you lie, be a man and admit it. I’d rather someone be honest to me…. I am dating. I’m very picky. It’s scary out there.
T-Boz: For me, somebody has got to fall on my lap because I ain’t lookin’ for that. But when they get me—I have two years to have a baby boy!
How do you balance work with being single moms? (Chilli is raising Tron, 8, her son with her ex, producer Dallas Austin.)
T-Boz: I’ve been through a lot of health stuff sickle-cell wise. [She has lived with the disease since she was 7.] I get sick when I get stressed out. I have learned how to manage it. I wake up every morning and take my child to school. I’m not going to miss the first soccer game or first time my baby does something for a job. You can’t replace that. I reschedule things.
Chilli: I personally don’t understand a lot of moms out there, particularly in our industry. I don’t get that with the nannies. What’s your point if you have a child and you aren’t raising it?
T-Boz: Our kids go to school together. They call each other cousins. They really think they are family. Tron takes up for Chase at school. He goes up to her teacher and asks how she’s doing.
Any regrets about doing a reality show?
T-Boz: I laugh at some of the things I say.
Chilli: Doing the show gave us time to hang out together again, and it has been so much fun. I always say that we are gonna be here when we are 60, just sitting back laughing and reminiscing.