Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas is speaking out about the early days of her time with the Grammy-winning group TLC.
Ahead of a documentary about the legendary trio, Chilli revealed that she was almost kicked out of the group. The original TLC included Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Crystal Jones, and the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
The name was created using the first letter of the ladies’ names, and when Thomas joined the group after auditioning back in 1991 to replace Jones, Lopes gave her the nickname, “Chilli.”
In an interview with People magazine, Chilli said she was almost kicked out of TLC by management after she began dating LaFace producer Dallas Austin. The former couple currently share a 25-year-old son, Tron Austin.
In the ’90s, TLC was managed by L.A. Reid, and when his then-wife Pebbles found out about Chilli and Dallas’ romantic ties, she allegedly tried to have her removed from the group.
“They were holding auditions to replace me but never saw anybody that they liked,” recalled Chilli. “I don’t think anybody cared about the Dallas thing but Pebbles.”
Pebbles previously denied ever trying to have Chilli removed from TLC. She also accused her of having an affair with her then-husband.
“I suspected a couple of things, but I didn’t want to believe that. And for years, I didn’t want to believe that because I felt like they were daughters to me,” Pebbles said in 2013.
Chilli and other members of TLC denied having an affair or even sleeping with Reid despite accusations from Pebbles. The group continued moving forward with album and song releases and worldwide tours all over the world until the untimely passing of one group member.
Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002 at the age of 30. She was there on a spiritual retreat with friends. Some eight years before her death, she was in the news and legal trouble in 1994 for burning down the million-dollar home she shared with her then-boyfriend, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison. Lopes was fined and escaped jail time after being charged with felony arson for destroying the home following another spat in her tumultuous relationship with the NFL star.
Chilli said she still misses Lopes and noted if she was still alive, she would still be in the news.
“I miss her every day. I often wonder what things would have been like if she was still here,” she said, noting that Lopes would still be making headlines if she was still living.
“Boy I’m telling you, people would be so entertained. She was always like, ‘All news is good news’ — that’s how she felt,” Chilli continued. “She would have more followers than Selena Gomez!”
TLC’s story is being told in a new documentary that will cover the group’s success, struggles, as well as Lopes’ death.
“TLC Forever” airs on Lifetime on June 3 at 8 p.m. EST.