“I remember I didn’t listen to the radio for a long time ‘cause I didn’t wanna hear reports about her,” the 52-year-old singer exclusively told Us while promoting the upcoming documentary TLC Forever, which will be simulcast on both Lifetime and A&E Saturday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET.
Left Eye died at age 30 after a car crash in Honduras in April 2002. She contributed to TLC’s first four studio albums, including 3D, which was finalized and released after her death. Chilli revealed that she and her fellow TLC musician Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins avoided going “to the mall” in the wake of the tragedy.
“We didn’t want people coming up, saying, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’” the singer explained. “And I know that they meant well, but when you’re in pain, you just don’t wanna hear any of that. It took me a long time to refer to her in the past [tense], because I couldn’t believe it. And I think it has so much to do with, when you’re young like that, you think you’re invincible.”
Although losing her fellow “Waterfall” songstress was devastating, Chilli was “so thankful” that she had spoken to Left Eye shortly before her death.
“I was talking to her [when] she was over there [in Honduras], and I was like, ‘When are you coming back?’ … I said, ‘When you get in town, just come over.’ ‘Cause I wanted that bonding time with her,” she recalled. “And we were so excited and looking forward to that, and even though it crushed me too that that didn’t happen, I was still happy that we had plans to get together and we were just on a good note. She knew that I loved her. I mean, she always knew. But … when something tragic like that happens and you haven’t said ‘I love you’ to that person, it can haunt you in a different way.”
As for the Georgia native’s relationship with T-Boz, 53, Chilli described them as more like “sisters” than friends. “It’s so [much] deeper than just the friend thing. It’s like, friends can come and go, but family is forever,” she shared adding that they’ve learned to “pick and choose [their] battles” when it comes to professional disagreements. “But I mean, we’ve always been very close. And obviously when we lost our sister, that brought us a lot closer.”
The musicians are kicking off their Hot Summer Nights Tour with Shaggy on Thursday, June 1, in Pelham, Alabama. The What Chilli Wants alum told Us that if it were up to her, the group would tour more often.
“Touring is the best thing ever. Tionne is not in love with it like I am. Like, I could totally be on tour for a year,” she shared. “I love the tour bus. I cook on the bus. … It’s like an apartment on wheels.”
Although she loves being on the road, Chilli has someone special in her life to miss while she’s away. The “No Scrubs” singer described boyfriend Matthew Lawrence — whom she began dating in November 2022 — as someone who “checks off” all her boxes. She added that her son, Tron Austin — whom she shares with ex Dallas Austin — approves of Lawrence, 43.
The Boy Meets World alum — who split from ex-wife Cheryl Burke in February 2022 — gushed about Chilli in March, telling Entertainment Tonight that he’d “never gotten” to experience a relationship like theirs before. “She’s really. really special,” he said.
For more on Chilli, watch the video above and pick up the newest issue of Us Weekly, on newsstands now.
TLC Forever airs on Lifetime and A&E Saturday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi