Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins for two decades hasn been part of Atlanta’s TLC, a trio who had a raft of huge hits in the 1990s including “Unpretty,” “No Scrubs” and “Waterfalls.”
But since Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in 2002, T-Boz has had more than her fair share of financial, personal and medical problems. The worst of it: a life-threatening brain tumor in 2007 which caused her to lose part of her hearing, her sight and her balance. She divorced and filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in late 2011.
T-Boz, who has chronic sickle cell anemia, said she has flareups which makes it tough for her to tour. But she said she’s healthy and ready to get back whole hog into the music business to “reinvent” herself. So it’s time to do a reality program, debuting on TLC called “Totally T-Boz.” It’s more like a test run given that TLC committed to just four one-hour programs starting Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The premise: she moves to Los Angeles from Atlanta with a few of her closest friends and family members to help get her going.
“Unlike a lot of shows I turned down, the network was interested in following my life and some of the positive things, not just doing the train wreck. They’re interested in doing something that has substance but we can have fun along the way. I love to laugh. That’s the best medicine.”
And she wants to show that she’s a survivor. “God spared me,” she said.
She doesn’t mind doing just four shows. “I have to see if this is something I want to do. We’re on the same side. Let’s see if it works.”
“At least I got something out there. It wasn’t like I had to shop it around and wait for this. It fell in my lap.”
With the 20th anniversary of TLC’s existence, they are remixing old TLC songs and adding two new ones. She recorded a solo song “Champions” she’d like to release to support kids with blood disorders. She wrote a song “Red Planet” for a U.K. “X Factor” group. She and her TLC mate Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas are working with VH1 on a biopic they hope to have ready in 2013. She said they are still scouting for a director and actresses to play their younger selves.
She is also unapologetic about being a little heavier than she was in the 1990s. “I learned being a little thicker, with more meat on my bones, has helped me. I just have to tone up,” she said.
T-Boz also plans to root for Chilli, who will be on “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Food Cook-Off” starting Jan. 6. “We’re both good cooks,” she said. “She just talks about it more than I do. We don’t compete. I make her cheesecake. She makes me her eight-hour chicken. It’s all good.”
I sampled part of the first episode. T-Boz comes across as rambunctious and opinionated. Her agent Bill Diggins tries to get her to think about a TLC 20th anniversary comeback tour but she is reluctant to focus so much on TLC instead of her own solo career. She’s worried about her health. “I don’t want to tour like that the rest of my life. It’s hard on me,” T-Boz said. (Chilli begs to differ.)
T-Boz meets with a big-time producer Bangladesh, who is skeptical about her commitment. She goofs around with Chilli on the set for a new video for “Waterfalls.” Her good friend and “taskmaster” Tae Tae tries to get her to judge a “No Scrubs’ karaoke contest. (”She’s my gurl – g-u-r-l, not girl,” she told me.) We learn T-Boz loves to shop, which may have contributed to her financial ills in the past. (She even has a friend Tara who is her “shopping buddy.”)