Following a decade of succeeding with fellow members Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, TLC disbanded when Lopes expired in 2002. Her mom, Ava Thomas, had met her dad, Abdul Ali, when Ali was a soldier stationed in a military base in Columbus, Georgia. Their brief love affair finished before Thomas was born, and she did not meet her dad until she was 25 years old. Thomas’s ethnicity joins her mom’s African American and Native American tradition along with her dad’s Middle Eastern and East Indian history. Raised with one mother in Atlanta, Thomas attended Benjamin E. Mays High School, where she graduated in 1989.
A number of years after high school, Rozonda Thomas was employed as a back-up dancer for the R&B duet Damian Dame, represented by LaFace Records. LaFace had just signed on a fresh R&B trio called TLC, and the label’s executives needed to replace vocalist Crystal Jones with another girl. Thomas was chosen and was given the stage name of “Chilli,” making her the “C” in TLC.
Thomas’s smooth vocals and sultry good looks were fundamental ingredients in TLC’s recordbreaking attractiveness. TLC would finally sell 45 million records globally. The 1994 album CrazySexyCool (referring to Lopes’s “mad” persona, Thomas’s “hot” charisma and Watkins’s “cool” border), created TLC as a crossover success on the R&B and pop charts. CrazySexyCool and the group’s subsequent album, FanMail, both won Grammy Awards.
After Lopes’s untimely death in an automobile crash in 2002, Thomas and Watkins completed work on TLC’s final record, 3D, that was released later that year. TLC’s success, genre-mixing musical style and public image a good-tuned message of sisterhood and female autonomy affected other female groups, from Destiny’s Child to the Spice Girls. In the 2000s, Thomas and Watkins released a TLC greatest hits compilation and sometimes performed jointly. The two girls also joined up for the reality television competitors R U the Girl? in 2005.
Thomas appeared on her own in the 2010 reality television program What Chilli Wants, where she went on dates while media persona Tionna Smalls acted as her matchmaker. She was likewise featured as an actress in modest parts on the television situation comedies That ’70s Show and The Parkers, as well as a recurring character in the show Single Ladies. Thomas is among the producers of the 2013 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. The celebrity Keke Palmer plays the real life Thomas in the production. During her time as a part of TLC, Thomas was romantically involved with Dallas Austin, the group’s producer.