TLC Singer T-Boz is Now TLC Network Reality Star Tionne Watkins
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, a brain tumor survivor and, of course, singer for the R&B girl group TLC, which in 2013 will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Tionne has been a little bit under the radar the past couple of years since being fired on air by Donald Trump on the Celebrity Apprentice. She has quietly battled health and relationship issues. But the utterly likable, determined and take-charge Tionne is about to burst back onto the scene. She has a new TLC show, Totally T-Boz, premiering on Tuesday, Jan. 1 (8pm). She has music coming out -- solo and with surviving TLC member Chilli.
Tionne spoke with TVFirstLook about her new show, moving to L.A. and getting ready to drop "Champion."
TVFirstLook: OK, after Donald Trump kicked you to the curb in 2009, what brought you back to reality TV?
Tionne Watkins: This is where entertainment is going. As long as I can do something where I can help others, laugh and have fun, then I'll do that.
I turned down a lot of shows. I wasn't interested in being part of a train-wreck show. This show is about sharing my life and my story.
TVFirstLook: So, on the show you are reinventing your life and jump-starting your career.What has that restart been like for you?
Tionne: I've always been a go-getter. If L.A. is where the money is, then I'm going to get it. I didn't even sell my house [in Atlanta]. I just got up, packed some bags and came out to a hotel in L.A. Like, "Boom, I'm coming to work."
It has been a blessing. I have never been afraid to try things. I do whatever I need to do, as long as it's on my terms, for my daughter and me.
TVFirstLook: All right, what can you tell us about new music coming out in 2013?
Tionne: I'm putting out a new song, it's not a single from my album, called "Champion." I'm dedicating it to kids with blood disorders. That is important to me because I have Sickle Cell.
You'll hear that on iTunes very soon.
I also have two new TLC singles coming out. We have our 20th anniversary coming up. And we have a movie, a biopic coming out. So, we're doing a soundtrack for that. We're re-recording and remixing our hits. We'll have new music and we're going on tour.
I have been in the studio writing for other artists, TLC and myself. It's been crazy. But it is a blessing, especially 20 years later.
TVFirstLook: So, you talk about Chilli on your TLC show. How is your friendship these days?
Tionne: We're always good. We're sisters, so sometimes we agree to disagree, disagree or just agree.
For being in a group for 20 years, that's not always the case. Somehow, we always pull it together. We're discussing the future of TLC, whether we're on the same page or not.
TVFirstLook: All right, so your final episode on Celebrity Apprentice was incredible, when you brought yourself back to the boardroom and Donald Trump fired you for doing it. Do you ever look back and think, "Oh, wow, that was a great moment in TV?"
Tionne: Oh, it's bittersweet, to tell you the truth.
My objective to be on the show was to raise money for the cause. I didn't want to be on the show just to get attention for myself. I was there for a purpose.
They don't show you how hard that show is. You work 14- to 19-hour days. You're up at 4 a.m. and you don't end until 11 p.m. I couldn't remember how long it had been since I worked that hard. It was crazy.
I didn't regret going back to the boardroom.I promised my mom I wouldn't cuss anybody out. I didn't do that, even though it was hard. I stayed on my path. So, it was just my time.
That's how I treat life. If it's my time, it's my time.
What I do wish I would have done is say a few things that really did happen. I respect Donald Trump. I wasn't about to kiss anyone's behind, Trump or not. I'll be honest, I lost some respect for people on the show who did that. I volunteered to come back to the boardroom because I had some people's backs.
And, I'll tell you what, the very next day was my daughter's birthday, so I was like, "Thank you God that I got fired."