TLC soared to unthinkable heights with the success of timeless hits like “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs,” leading the trio to sell more than 85 million records worldwide as the best-selling girl group in America. But the climb to the top came with its own set of obstacles. 

During her acceptance speech for TLC’s Legacy Award on Tuesday, Chilli got emotional as she recalled some of the group’s hardest moments and their biggest triumphs as women of color in the music industry. 

“When you are a woman of color, it’s real hard — it’s a huge struggle,” she told the audience of tastemakers and breakers at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon. “I’ll always remember when ‘No Scrubs’ came out and it was actually our first number one…I always wanted to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine…we didn’t get the cover. I won’t say who [got the cover], it’s okay because he deserved it too but we also did. The message was ‘the last time we had someone Black on the cover, it didn’t really sell well.’” 

She continued, “I have to say that just because you hear many ‘nos’ does not mean that you don’t have the talent because you do — we never stopped believing in ourselves and each other.” 

Chilli then pivoted her speech to give thanks to TLC’s long-time manager Bill Diggins, who was spotted getting tear-eyed in the crowd. She went on to highlight his loyalty after the death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 2002 when the group was overwhelmed by grief and financial burdens. 

 “Bill Diggins believed in us when we were on top of the world,” Chilli said, getting emotional herself. “And when everything happened — losing our sister — and no one believing in us anymore, thinking that it was over…he never felt like that.” 

In her closing remarks, Chilli said she and bandmate T-Boz (who was not present at the event) “forever keep our sister Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes’ memory alive through everything that we do.” Addressing the rumors that the band had always been on the lookout for a replacement, Chilli joked, “We never ever even thought about replacing — even after she burned the house down…by the way it was an accident!” 

TLC was honored at this year’s Power of Women event, presented by Lifetime, alongside Rosie Perez, Judy Blume, Natasha Lyonne, Kelly Ripa and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. Chilli was introduced by Tom Poleman, chief programming officer and president of national programming for iHeartMedia, who gave a few remarks about TLC’s lasting impact. Poleman was followed by a preview of the first trailer for “TLC Forever,” a two-hour documentary detailing the rise and enduring legacy of the band. 

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