The story of TLC has been well covered by the press and even the musicians themselves with a 2013 VH1 scripted series based on the Atlanta trio’s career.
But there has not been an official documentary until now. Lifetime’s “TLC Forever,” out June 3, chronicles the group’s journey from its humble roots in the early 1990s to current day nostalgia-based touring mode.
The two surviving members of TLC, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, 52, and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, 53, said after more than three decades, it seemed like as good a time as any to look back at their travails and accomplishments and assess their careers.
“What we’re most proud of is we’re still here to tell it ourselves,” Chilli said in a Zoom interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Los Angeles the day after performing on the season finale of “American Idol.”
“From us,” added T-Boz. “That is the most important thing. I don’t want to be gone and someone slaughter our story.”
The documentary highlights the powerhouse, groundbreaking success of the group in the 1990s with legendary hits like “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs” that paved the way for the likes of Destiny’s Child in the 2000s. It also doesn’t shy away from the conflicts with management, the financial upheavals, T-Boz’s health issues and tensions within the group that led to its break up in 2000.
It’s also a love letter to TLC’s sassy third member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died in 2002 in a tragic car accident while shooting a documentary in Honduras. She is heard frequently in archival video (with no shortage of footage from MTV News, which recently shuttered its doors after 36 years.)
“It was a walk down memory lane,” T-Boz said. “It reminded us of the good times we had together.”
In fact, the producers placed the two women in a movie theater and had them watch vintage clips of the trio back in the day from awards shows and talk shows.
“We watched a lot of things I had totally forgot about,” said Chilli, who teared up when she saw a 1999 clip of Lopes hugging the two of them on stage after they won a Lady of Soul Award.
She also laughed at scenes on an airplane of the three of them goofing around. “I used to keep a camcorder or camera around my chest and film everything back in the day,” T-Boz said.
The long-standing conflict with Perri Arlette Reid, better known as Pebbles, who helped found TLC, is addressed but not surprisingly, Pebbles did not participate in the doc. (Pebbles filed and settled a lawsuit over what she perceived to be an unfair portrayal of herself as “conniving and dishonest” in the VH1 movie.)
“Things will never be copacetic” with Pebbles, T-Boz said. “And she only managed us for two years. The biggest part of our career, she wasn’t even involved. But she helped us get our start. We appreciate her for that.”
TLC manager Bill Diggins, the man who righted the financial ship for TLC a quarter century ago, is given a lot of love in the documentary.
“He saved the day for TLC on so many levels,” Chilli said. “He helped us with our business because that was really jacked up and to have a manager who simply believes in you as an artist and truly loves you as a family, that’s rare. We will never let him go. He can’t leave!”
TLC is doing a six-week, 23-date tour starting June 1 in Birmingham, Alabama, but won’t be making a stop in hometown Atlanta.
“When Live Nation did the routing, the arena [in Atlanta] wasn’t available,” Chilli said. “Everybody is on tour.”
They are also working on a TLC Broadway musical. “We may have found the right writer,” Chili said. “The rest of our team is solid. That was our missing link.”
While both T-Boz and Chilli have done reality TV shows over the years, they aren’t necessarily keen on doing more. “I think people sell their souls for a check nowadays,” T-Boz said. “People don’t have morals nowadays. It’s embarrassing.”
“I am not going to mess up the TLC brand,” Chilli added. “It’s not going to happen!”
IF YOU WATCH
“TLC Forever,” debuts 8 p.m. Saturday, June 3, on TLC