by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who won worldwide fame as one-third of the groundbreaking R&B trio TLC, is trying her hand at television stardom with the VH1 reality series “What Chilli Wants.”
Fans should not assume, however, that this foray into another medium signals the end of Thomas’ singing career. After selling more than 11 million albums in the 1990s, the musical forces behind the bestselling albums “Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip,” “CrazySexyCool” and “FanMail” are ready to reclaim the industry dominance they enjoyed for an entire decade. Eight years after the tragic death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Thomas says she and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins are ready to bring their voices back together.
“We never stopped being a group,” said Thomas. “T-Boz and I are eager to get back into the studio and make — according to how Lisa used to define it — our TLC music.”
In the meantime, Thomas is focused on the reality show, which chronicles her attempts to find true love as a single parent. “My reality show is different then the other dating reality shows you have seen on television,” she said. “It is about my life and how I manage to be a mother to my son, Tron, and find that special love of my life. Yes, I am totally open about utilizing various means to find love, because I am very picky. I haven’t had a boyfriend in years, and at first I was apprehensive; but I decided to do it after the producers were receptive to my idea of doing it differently than the other reality shows. I don’t go out to clubs, and I don’t think it is wrong to use other vehicles to meet people.”
The series is not the first time Thomas’ personal life has been cast into the spotlight: She was in a three-year relationship with fellow superstar Usher, a high-profile romance that ended in 2004. Given Usher’s recent divorce from his wife of two years, Tameka Foster, some have wondered whether Thomas has kept in touch with the other half of the erstwhile power couple. “Wow, that has been so long ago — over six years since we were together as a couple,” said Thomas. “I don’t know what Usher is doing. I haven’t talked with him, to be honest with you.”
Focusing on her life and career, Chilli is determined to maintain her priorities — which means always putting motherhood first. “Being a mother is my greatest accomplishment, hands down,” she said. “From the time I was a little girl, I dreamt about two things: being an entertainer and being a mommy. My first priority is being Tron’s mother, and everything else falls into place after that. Juggling my career, business and other accomplishments happen after I make sure Tron is taken care of. God put this beautiful child in my hands, and my job is to raise a great man that will one day make a great husband and father.”
Thomas takes comfort in the fact that she and Tron’s father, noted producer Dallas Austin, have a lot of support in raising their child.
“It gets really difficult at times,” she acknowledged. “You have to have health, family and a nice group of friends to help you out sometimes. It is necessary to have a good system in place to be successful. I don’t have a nanny for my son because that is just not for me. But Tron’s father … has a great family and his mother helps a lot, along with my family. That is there for us.”