TLC’s T-Boz always looks timeless, so it might surprise you to learn that the R&B superstar turns 50 on Sunday (April 26) — and she’ll be celebrating on Billboard‘s Instagram with a virtual bash for her big day.
The four-time Grammy winner and four-time Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping artist has reached a number of career accomplishments in her life, and Billboard gave her call to find out some lesser-known information for her birthday, including her favorite films, childhood memories, music, paranormal experiences and more.
See 50 facts about T-Boz in celebration of her 50th birthday below.
1. T-Boz (real name Tionne Watkins) was born in Des Moines, Iowa.
2. Her star sign is Taurus.
3. She is of African-American, Native American and Irish descent.
4. One of her favorite childhood memories included a special Christmas present from her mother at a time when she had a rocky relationship with her father. “I wasn’t happy, but my mom would overcompensate,” Watkins told Billboard. “So when I woke up, my mom cleared out the living room, and she had a miniature roller coaster and one of those merry-go-rounds that used to be in Kmart and Target that you would put a quarter in. My mom had that in our living room! That was the best Christmas ever. I had a baby amusement park in my house. That’s so dope.”
5. When she was young, she moved to Atlanta, where she worked at a hair salon.
6. One time, her mom came into the hair salon to settle a dispute. “The hairstylist that actually took me on, Pebbles, I was her and this other guy’s apprentice,” Watkins recalled. “The owner, for some reason — I was one of the little hot girls with my blond hair and my dresses on and I had an attitude — and she asked me to be her apprentice. I said no, and it rubbed her the wrong way and she called the police on me and kicked me out. But she didn’t know my mom was crazy. So I called my mom crying, and she was there in 2.5 seconds. That was hilarious. That girl was so scared of my mom. Everybody always remembered me after that.”
7. Watkins took part in (and won) a number of Atlanta hair competitions. “I was 14 and would do all the hair shows, and that’s how I made money. I would win, because I knew how to dance,” she said, noting that these competitions featured all kinds of wild hairstyles. “I would never never let them go too far, so I would do the cute cuts. They make the pieces and set them on your head. I wouldn’t do any of the outlandish things, but it was heavy as hell, but I was like, ‘I want this money so I’m going to walk with this crazy thing on my head.'”
8. Speaking of style, her favorite shoes are a good pair of combat boots. “And blinged-out sandals,” she said as an honorable mention. “My big toes have been messing with me since we’ve been doing dances, so I can’t stand in heels anymore, which is killing me because I’ve got some awesome heels.”
9. She loves Giuseppe Zanotti sandals. “He has a lot of big diamonds in his shoes. And he has these butterfly ones that I love, because there’s all diamond butterflies on your toes.”
10. It’s no secret that T-Boz is the queen of hair transformations. Her favorite color so far? “Blond, of course! I think it looks the best,” she exclaimed, before adding that “plum” is a close second.
11. As a child, she was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, which causes red blood cells to stick to vessel walls, blocking blood flow and preventing oxygen from reaching tissues. As a result, the lack of oxygen often damages organs and causes severe pain.
12. In 2011, she opened up about a life-threatening brain tumor. “I started having headaches. They were so frequent; something was wrong,” T-Boz told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “My doctor called but his voice sounded funny. And I said, ‘You’re going to say something like I have a brain tumor or something, right?’ And he got quiet.” T-Boz found a surgeon who successfully took out the tumor, leaving her with one side effect: poor balance.
13. She is one of the spokespeople for Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
14. She is a national co-chair of Health Care Voter, which educates and advocates for proper healthcare.
15. Watkins and rapper Mack 10 welcomed daughter Chase Anela Rolison on October 20, 2000.
16. Chase played the younger version of Watkins in the 2013 VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.
17. Watkins adopted her son Chance in May 2016, nine months after he was born.
18. She sleeps in her closet when she needs a moment for herself. “I used to hide from my kids,” Watkins joked to Billboard. “They’re figuring it out now, but there’s no better place to be than with your shoes and your clothes.”
19. Through Watkins, TLC arranged an audition with Perri “Pebbles” Reid, who had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone.
20. Watkins and TLC were signed to LaFace Records in 1991.
21. The group’s original name was 2nd Nature, but was changed to “TLC” as an acronym for the girls’ initials.
22. To maintain the acronym after Crystal Jones left the group, Watkins became “T-Boz,” Lisa Lopes became “Left-Eye” and Crystal’s replacement Rozonda Thomas became “Chilli.”
23. Watkins’ nickname came about when her Atlanta friends would say, “Tionne’s a boss.”
24. T-Boz’s favorite music includes a variety of icons. “Everybody and their mother knows that I love Michael Jackson,” she told Billboard. “My favorite Michael Jackson song is ‘Billie Jean.’ I don’t care if you’re in East Bumble! You would know those drums, that bass line.” She also included Marvin Gaye‘s “I Want You” and Prince‘s “Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” “Mike and Prince are my top two forever,” she noted.
25. Her first concert was The Commodores.
26. The last concert she went to was Justin Timberlake with her daughter. “She’s a concert person,” Watkins said of 19-year-old Chase.
27. But music isn’t her only talent: “I’m good at impressions,” she revealed. “If I listen to you long enough, or stare at you long enough, I can pick up your ways, how you sound and your walk. People will be like, ‘Tionne, do him!’ and I’ll be like, ‘OK!’ I’m like a kid.”
28. There’s a silly side to her. “It’s crazy because people always go, ‘Oh, you’re the cool one, or the one that looks mean all the time.’ But if you really knew me, I’m a goofball and I’m a hip nerd.”
29. Her impressions somewhat led to her talent in dancing. “That’s how I found out I could dance,” she recalled. “I would stare at Michael Jackson, and then copy it.”
30. The group released their debut album Ooooooohhh…On the TLC in 1992.
31. The iconic CrazySexyCool followed in 1994, which featured the No. 1 Hot 100 hit “Waterfalls” and received diamond certification by the RIAA.
32. A TLC song she wishes was a single was CrazySexyCool‘s “Case of the Fake People.” “To me, it’s like a second part of ‘What About Your Friends,'” Watkins noted.
33. TLC recorded the theme song to Nickelodeon’s All That.
34. She once had a guest appearance on the animated Adult Swim series Black Dynamite. “I was the reverse stripper,” she explained. “It was funny because I was supposed to be sexy, but I started off naked and put my clothes on.”
35. Following her animated voice-overs, Watkins almost was part of André 3000’s Cartoon Network series Class of 3000. “I did the voice, but they ended up going with someone else because I couldn’t get my voice to sound younger,” she said.
36. Her favorite cartoon is Scooby-Doo.
37. Watkins’ love of horror films causes her to sleep with the lights on. “I’m scared of the dark,” she said.
38. Though she gets spooked by the dark, she loves the gory aspect of horror films. “When everyone else is scared, I’m laughing like, ‘What was so bad about that?’ It’s just so funny to me.”
39. She also “won’t put pictures in my house of people with eyes,” in case they’re watching her. “I walk past them and I think their eyes are moving with me,” she explained. “My mom called me one day and she was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Did you see her eyes move? Can’t you tell they’re following me?’ And she said, ‘You’re crazy, you need to stop watching all that sh–.'”
40. Watkins also casually mentioned the ghosts living in her house, which she discovered during an episode of The Haunting Of. She was told that the spirits in her home were of the slain child star Judith Barsi and the father that murdered her, József. “Her dad was mad at what he did and he likes to mess with us,” the songstress said, noting that a mysterious presence woke her brother up in the middle of the night, and they all once watched their dog slide across the floor.
41. On a lighter note, her favorite popcorn is Smartfood’s white cheddar, because “I bite off all the crunchy parts and chew the balls, the soft balls. [Laughs] I eat them last because I like the texture of the balls. [Laughs]. The white cheddar popcorn’s balls are big.”
42. Watkins also eats Twix in a funny way. “I look like a little rabbit, because I bite off the sides and bite off the top, and then I just eat the caramel and the cookie,” she explained, revealing that she actually doesn’t like chocolate. “To me, it’s no different than taking the top off the Oreo and licking it.”
43. In addition to TLC, Watkins recorded the solo singles “Touch Myself” for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Fled and “My Getaway” for the 2000 film Rugrats in Paris: The Movie.
44. In 2013, Watkins released “Champion,” with proceeds from the song benefiting children with sickle cell anemia and leukemia.
45. While onstage, T-Boz always needs a sleeve on her right arm. “If I don’t dance with sleeves or something tied around my arm, I feel like my equilibrium is off and I can’t perform.” She added that men often perform with sleeves on because “it makes the dance look more precise.”
46. Watkins appeared in Hype Williams’ 1998 film Belly alongside rappers Nas and DMX. She also served as one of the producers for the 2006 movie ATL featuring T.I..
47. From November 2016 to January 2017, she portrayed tough prison inmate Sheila on Days of Our Lives. She returned to the role from September to November 2017, and then from September 2018 to November 2019.
48. In 2013, Totally T-Boz aired on TLC. The four-episode miniseries followed Watkins as she worked on her new music career, plus conversations on healing from Lopes’ death and discussions on her own health.
49. As an author, Watkins published a book of poems called Thoughts in 1999.
50. In 2017, she published A Sick Life: TLC ‘n Me: Stories from On and Off the Stage, which, according to the memoir’s description, “chronicles Tionne’s journey from a sickly young girl in Des Moines who was told she wouldn’t live to see 30 through her teen years in Atlanta to how she broke into the music scene and became the superstar musician and sickle-cell disease advocate she is today.”