Peruse social media any given day of the week and you’re bound to find someone taking someone else to task over something…or perhaps nothing at all. Celebrities and public figures are often the targets of said “e-criticism” or, cyber-bulling, and many bystanders have been conditioned to believe it is permissible to punch up rather than punching down, as if money and fame shields from all harm. That isn’t the case and T-Boz of TLC recently recounted her personal ordeal of online harassment.
During a recent interview with Tai Savetsila’s All Tai’d Up, T-Boz recollected comments made in a prior interview from 2014 with Sunrise Australia that ignited the volley. The segment showed a montage of Rihanna’s music video clips behind T-Boz speaking out against female sexual objectification in music as unnecessary and deleterious. As one might expect, Rihanna’s massive fanbase – the Navy, as they are called – launched a vile tirade of verbal onslaught against her and her daughter.
As she tells Tai Savetsila,”They were like, ‘Instead of telling Rihanna what to do, you should’ve told Left Eye to wear her seatbelt.’ They were going there. ‘Oh I hope you die from Sickle Cell.’ I don’t allow my fans to do that on my behalf, and if they do, I say something.” She added, “I remember somebody told my daughter to shoot herself in the head. This was over something—people had thought I said something about Rihanna, and I didn’t … Some kid asked a question and I answered it.”
It should be noted that neither T-Boz nor Chili actually name Rihanna, rather it was the segment’s narrator who singles her out during the montage. T-Boz told Savetsila, “I said, ‘The more you show your body.’ And when I did ‘you,’ they put Rihanna’s picture up. So it was the press being messy.”
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes famously died in a car crash in Honduras in 2002 at the age of 30. Tionna “T-Boz” Watkins has battled Sickle-Cell disease her entire life, was told that ‘she wouldn’t live past 30’ and endured a life-threatening trial with an acoustic neuroma on her vestibular nerve – a brain tumor deemed inoperable due to sickle-cell.
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Despite being a member of the best-selling female group of all time with 85 million records sold, four multi-platinum albums, and starring film and television appearances, Watkins has seen her share of troubles – health and financial. A recognition of humanity and extensions of good will and positivity or at minimum – non-engagement – could well serve us all; especially when the critical response becomes outrageously disproportionate to the original perceived offense.
In the words of EPMD’s Erick Sermon, “You Gots to Chill.”