April 24, 2002 – Lisa Nicole Lopes, nicknamed Left Eye by her music pals was born on May 27, 1971 in Philadelphia. Her dad was from the Cape Verde Islands, a multi talented musician with a disciplinarian character. By age 10, she formed the musical trio The Lopes Kids with her siblings, with whom she sang gospel songs at local churches.
At the age of 19, having heard of an open casting call for a new girl group through her boyfriend at the time, Lopes moved to Atlanta to audition. TLC started as a female trio called 2nd Nature. The group was renamed TLC, derived from the first initials of its then three members: Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. Things did not work out with Crystal Jones, and TLC’s manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid brought in Rozonda Thomas as a third member of the group. To keep the “initial” theme of the band’s name, Rozonda needed a name starting with C, and so became Chilli, a name chosen by Lopes.
Band mate Tionne Watkins became T-Boz, which was derived from the first letter of her first name and “Boz” (slang for “boss”). Lopes was renamed “Left Eye”, after a compliment from a man who once told her he was very attracted to her because of her left eye. Lopes emphasized her nickname by wearing a pair of glasses with the left lens covered with a condom, in keeping with the group’s promotion of safe sex, wearing a black stripe under her left eye, and eventually getting her left eyebrow pierced.
The group arrived on the music scene in 1992 with the album Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. With four singles, it sold six million copies worldwide; TLC became a household name. 1994 saw the release of CrazySexyCool, which sold over 23 million copies worldwide and cemented TLC as one of the biggest female groups of all time. TLC’s third album, FanMail, was released in 1999 and sold over 14 million copies worldwide. Its title was a tribute to TLC’s loyal fans and the sleeve contained the names of hundreds of them as a “thank you” to supporters.
During the recording of FanMail, a public conflict began amongst the members of the group. In the May 1999 issue of Vibe magazine, Lopes said, “I’ve graduated from this era. I cannot stand 100 percent behind this TLC project and the music that is supposed to represent me.”
In response to Lopes’ comments, Watkins and Thomas stated to Entertainment Weekly that Lopes “doesn’t respect the whole group” and “Left Eye is only concerned with Left Eye”. In turn, Lopes sent a reply through Entertainment Weekly issuing a “challenge” to Watkins and Thomas to release solo albums and let the public decide who was the “greatest” member of TLC.
T-Boz and Chilli declined to take up the “challenge,” though Lopes always maintained it was a great idea. Things were heated between the ladies for some time, with Thomas speaking out against Lopes, calling her antics “selfish”, “evil”, and “heartless.” TLC then addressed these fights by saying that they are very much like sisters that have their disagreements every now and then as Lisa stated, “It’s deeper than a working relationship. We have feelings for each other, which is why we get so mad at each other. I usually say that you cannot hate someone unless you love them. So, we love each other. That’s the problem.”
After that Lopes contributed her self-written raps to many of TLC’s hit singles, including “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, “What About Your Friends”, “Hat 2 da Back”, “No Scrubs”, “Waterfalls”, and “Girl Talk”. She began to expand her solo career. She became a featured rapper on several singles, including former Spice Girl Melanie C’s “Never Be the Same Again”, which went to No.1 in 35 countries, including the UK.
She was also featured on the first single from Donell Jones’ second album, “U Know What’s Up”, and she sang “Space Cowboy” with *NSYNC on their 2000 album, No Strings Attached. She also collaborated on “Gimme Some” by Toni Braxton from her 2000 release The Heat.
In 2001, she appeared in two commercials for The Gap, and was also the host of the MTV series, The Cut.
She was developing a number of humanitarian projects at the time of her death, as well as a new music persona N.I.N.A. (New Identity Not Applicable).
She tragically died in a car accident in La Ceiba, Honduras on April 26, 2002 at the age of 30.
Roughly two weeks before her own death, Lopes was involved in a traffic accident that resulted in the death of a 10-year-old Honduran boy. As reported in Philadelphia Weekly, “It is commonplace for people to walk the roads that wind through Honduras, and it’s often difficult to see pedestrians.” The boy, Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez, was following behind his brothers and sisters when he stepped off the median strip and was struck by a van driven by Lopes’ personal assistant. Lopes’ party stopped and loaded the boy into the car, and Lopes “cradled the dying boy’s bleeding head in her arms” while “someone gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as they rushed him to a nearby hospital”. He died the next day. Lopes paid approximately $3,700 for his medical expenses and funeral, and she compensated the family around $925 for their loss, although it was apparently agreed upon by the authorities and the boy’s family that his death was an “unforeseeable tragedy” and no blame was placed on Lopes or the driver of the van. In the documentary The Last Days of Left Eye, Lopes is shown choosing a casket for the child from a local funeral home. Earlier in the documentary, Lopes mentioned that she felt the presence of a “spirit” following her, and was struck by the fact that the child killed in the accident shared a similar last name, even thinking that the spirit may have made a mistake by taking his life instead of hers.