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The 90′s group TLC weathered its fair share of drama – everything from Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes torching her NFL boyfriend’s mansion to the group’s bankruptcy and subsequent fallout with manager Pebbles even while selling millions of records. And then, of course, Lopes’ untimely death in 2002 at the age of 30 truly signaled the end of a triumphant era for the trio. Though Rozonda “Chili” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins are celebrating 20 years in the business, interest in the group remains high as evidenced by the through the roof ratings of their VH1 biopic “Crazysexycool: The TLC Story” which aired last week. The movie drew 4.5 million viewers, the highest ever in VH1 history for an original movie.

The revelation of the movie was not just the story itself but in the stellar performances of the actresses who stepped into TLC’s sneakers – actress/singer Drew Sidora as T-Boz, Keke Palmer as Chili and rapper Niatia “Li’l Mama” Kirkland as Left Eye. Even Lopes’ sister Reigndrop Lopes said that she was impressed by Kirkland’s eerily accurate performance.

Kirkland says that she had to play Lopes. The Harlem native who came to fame from the song “Lip Gloss,” and then moved on to judge “America’s Best Dance Crew.” She says she auditioned several times for the role.

“No one else could play Lisa,” she told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I had to play Lisa. I didn’t have a big thing for acting at the time, but I always knew there was something in acting for me. My mother was an extra in many different movies and when I heard about the role, I wanted it to be done correctly. I wanted her to be portrayed correctly and I wanted people to be proud of whatever work was done. I didn’t want it to be cheesy. I felt like it was a big responsibility to be part of it and I went for it.”

Li’l Mama: ‘I Had To Play Left Eye’  was originally published on

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