The TLC singer spoke to PEOPLE about her “special love” for the “I Like It” rapper while launching her DAYO x Chilli collection in Atlanta on Wednesday, and she said she could especially relate to everything Cardi is going through right now with her estrangement from husband Offset.
“I have gone through a public breakup, and it is not easy,” Thomas said, referencing her split from Usher in 2003. “When strangers know your business and want to chime in while you’re still dealing with the pain yourself, it’s difficult. Breakups are hard on anyone, but can you imagine if strangers knew your business? It’s rough.”
On Dec. 5, Cardi revealed in a since-deleted video on Instagram that she and the Migos rapper — who share 5-month-old daughter Kulture Kiari — were calling it quits because they “grew out of love.” Recently, Cardi, 26, defended Offset after people bullied him for crashing her headlining set at Los Angeles’ Rolling Loud festival on Saturday to beg her to reignite their romance.
“I am proud of her for being strong and standing up for herself during a time that is obviously a very hurtful one,” Thomas, 47, said. “She has a strong sense of self. That’s why fans have connected with her this way. She talks about her highs and lows; she is fearless.”
Thomas thinks Cardi “is braver” than she was because she “just sort of shut down” when her two-year relationship with Usher came to an end. After Thomas and Usher split, many thought the songs off his album Confessions — which hinted at an affair and impregnating another woman — were about their relationship, though Thomas has since denied this.
“It seems like she is owning [it] and she is like, ‘Hey this is what happened,’ and then she is still moving,” she said. “She may just look like that, yes, but I think that is a better image to portray than the damsel in distress person all the time. Because you are going to have those moments, that is obvious. But at the same time, I think it is very important to showcase your strength because no one ever died over a breakup. You may feel like you are going to, but you are going to be fine.”
Though Thomas said she and her fellow TLC bandmate Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins typically don’t collaborate with women in honor of their late bandmate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes — who died suddenly in a car crash in 2002 — she said they would be open to working with Cardi.
“I don’t usually like to collaborate with females, and the reason why is because of Lisa,” she said. “That is just a little weird for me, personally. But I think with Cardi B, she is an exception to the rule. TLC and Cardi B all day long. We’ve gotten a lot of love from Cardi. It’s really an honor.”
Cardi has publicly paid tribute to the iconic ’90s girl group multiple times. During her Coachella performance in April, she wore a custom design inspired by TLC’s style. She also mentioned Lopes in a lyric on her song “Thru Your Phone.”
Aside from sharing her support for Cardi, Thomas is empowering women in other ways. She is the face of DAYO women, which is a loungewear brand that focuses on lifting up women, and recently launched the DAYO x Chilli campaign.
“I believe that self-love is the foundation of true beauty,” Thomas said. “For most women home is the core, the extension of self. I love that DAYO is empowering women to define themselves on their own terms.”
The line of loungewear features wrap dresses, crop tops and high-waisted skirts which work as perfect transition items from day to night. And Thomas made it clear this doesn’t mean she’s “giving up” her onesies.
“You know the ones with the footsies that zip up?” she said. “That is what I am wearing when I am at home. They don’t make them the same anymore before they don’t have the footsie built-in. But no, what I am saying is that it is nice to have something to alternate with, an option that is just as comfortable yet very elegant. It makes you feel beautiful and that is what this is about, self-love.”
Next, Thomas will tour with Watkins in January.