Before Destiny’s Child and TLC there was En Vogue. With 10 million albums sold and chart-topping ’90s hits like “Hold On,” “Don’t Let Go,” and “Free Your Mind,” En Vogue set the vocal bar for future female groups.
The group most recently made a cameo appearance in “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the nearly eponymous 1988 comedy. Like the original movie, this one was filled with memorable musical moments, including En Vogue singing “Whatta King” exchanging the lyrics of “Whatta Man.” Noticeably absent were two original members Maxine Jones and Dawn Robinson, causing many to wonder about their absence.
While En Vogue is one of the highest-selling girl groups of all time, breakups, scandals, and failed reunions have plagued the group for years.
In 1989, Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson, and Maxine Jones formed the group En Vogue in Oakland, California. They went on to win seven MTV Music Awards — more than any female group in history — five Soul Train Awards, six American Music Awards and earned seven Grammy nominations.
They were the 18th most successful act of the ’90s, according to Billboard. In spite of their many awards and accolades, the group could not avoid controversy. In 1997, at the height of their fame, Dawn Robinson left the group, changing its future forever.
According to Robinson, they were getting paid “two cents a record,” and, at the advice of friend MC Hammer and an attorney, she realized the group was being underpaid, which allegedly led to her departure. However, in a November 2020 interview with “You Know I Got Soul,” Robinson says she didn’t leave the group, she was “kicked out of the group.” because she wouldn’t sign another “two cents” per record deal.
“If they had not kicked me out of the group I would have stayed with the group … when someone gives you an ultimatum it’s not a choice, it’s either ‘our way or the highway,'” Robinson added.
Despite Robinson leaving, the original three members, Ellis, Jones, and Herron, continued as a group. But in 2001 Jones left the trio and was replaced initially by Amanda Cole. By 2003 Cole left and was replaced by Rhona Bennett. Bennet has been the third member, off and on, since 2001.
Then, in 2012, Robinson and Jones formed a group and began touring also as En Vogue. In the same year, Herron and Ellis filed suit against the former members as they had already formed En Vogue Enterprises LLC in 2006. Ellis and Herron won the lawsuit in 2013 granting them the legal rights of the name En Vogue.
While the original members have tried to reunite over the years, such efforts were short-lived. When the group performed at the 2020 Billboard Awards in honor of the 30th anniversary of their hit “Free your mind,” Jones and Robinson were not included. En Vogue performs now as a trio of Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, and Rhona Bennett.