Nov 24, 2013
My Childhood Idol Coped with Chronic Illness Too!
Every oh so often I get nostalgic for the great 1990's. For me, my childhood represents a simpler time when I was blissfully healthy and carefree. I was always singing and dancing. And so were my friends. I fondly and distinctly remember one of our favorite childhood pastimes was to "play TLC." We would spend hours getting dressed up like TLC, performing dance routines to their music videos that we had memorized and singing along with the lyrics of every song. We even did our makeup to do our best to resemble our respective songstresses: T-Boz, Left-Eye and Chilli, the CrazySexyCool girl group that dominated the 90's and revolutionized the faces of hiphop, R&B and pop music. They were the epitome of girl power long before the Spice Girls ever came to be. All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a member of TLC. Nevermind the fact that I was a little white girl from the suburbs. In my eyes, they were the coolest, prettiest chicks on the planet. I identified with them. They were three petite young women who could sing and dance with style. They preached about self-esteem, safe sex and friendship among other things. I absolutely idolized them. I'm certain many other little girls of the '90's shared my sentiments.
The other night I finally watched CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, VH1's biopic of the epic girl group's rise to stardom. I was extremely impressed with the casting of this film, as the actresses were dopplegangers of their characters, especially 'Lil Mama who portrayed Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes with a keen awareness of her character. She had clearly done her homework. I also appreciated the music video reenactments which were spot-on. I had a fun walk down memory lane but was also shocked by the level of turmoil each TLC member experienced behind the music. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins' story struck a nerve within me as it hit particularly close to home. She battled a rare chronic, genetic and life-threatening condition called sickle-cell anemia and was hospitalized for it on several occasions. Initially she kept her illness a secret from the public and the press as it is largely an invisible illness. At the height of TLC's fame she came out about her illness and went on to become a spokeswoman for the Sickle-Cell Anemia Association. She was told she'd never live past 30 and never have children and she has done both. She has a beautiful little girl named Chase and is still managing to live a full life in spite of her illness.
Her voice is still as rockin' as ever, as she and Chilli reunited in the recording studio at the end of the movie. What I didn't realize was that while TLC was touring, their second manager scheduled hospital breaks for T-Boz and had EMT's on hand at all times who were prepared to manage her condition. When I was a little girl I had no idea what my favorite singer was going through with her health behind the scenes of what I perceived as a glamorous lifestyle. Now that I have a better understanding of their personal struggles, I have even more respect for the girl group I already revered. They will always, always be my favorite. If I could ever do lunch with the remaining members of TLC, my life would pretty much be complete.
For more information about sickle-cell anemia, please visit http://www.sicklecelldisease.org/.