Talking About A Woman I Admire on International Women’s Day: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

As most of us assemble here on the internet to honor International Women’s Day, it goes without saying that, quite frankly, there are too many women to admire on this Earth, both past and present. And definitely far more of them to worship than those in the male genre. But let’s not get too sexist, shall we? That’s going to happen imminently as we move along in our one-sided dialogue about Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. As the “Crazy” component of CrazySexyCool, Left Eye asserted her distinctness via her blunt raps, cheeky sense of humor and, of course, often wearing glasses with the left lens obstructed by a condom (at least circa ’92). She was paramount to so many aspects of TLC’s success, including giving Rozonda Thomas the nickname Chilli (a nickname is everything, you know–especially when it’s meant to form the final letter in an acronym).

Her creative contributions to the lyrics and sound of TLC were instrumental (no pun intended) to making their second (and arguably most iconic) album, CrazySexyCool, one of the most significant of the 90s. Obviously, Left Eye might have wanted to take some of T-Boz’s “cool” aspect from that title, as she lost hers before the group’s sophomore record could come out, making headlines in June of 1994 for setting fire to her boyfriend’s, Andre Rison of the Atlanta Falcons, multi-million dollar mansion. The instigating moment for their scuffle? Rison continued to show his insensitivity (in addition to beating her on the reg) by buying a fuck ton of new sneakers without even bothering to think that she might need a pair too. Rather than sitting quietly like a good little woman in response to his thoughtlessness, Left Eye awaited him in his driveway to come home from a night of clubbing with friends (where no doubt there was some cheating afoot). In one of numerous reported instances of Rison’s physical abuse toward Left Eye, he slapped her “in self-defense.” The argument then moved inside where Rison continued in his physical assault. She, a bit tipsy, could not be quelled (drunk people rarely feel pain until sober the next day) and so Rison left the house once again, prompting Left Eye to make the most poetic visual statement of her career by setting fire to Rison’s sneakers in the bathtub, which, of course, spread throughout the entire mansion.

Though Left Eye might not have intended to let things get so out of hand, her act of bravery, of standing against the carelessness of her boyfriend became the stuff of legend, and even managed to be immortalized in song form via Kreayshawn’s “Left Ey3.” She wasn’t content just to stop at arson either, she also smashed the windshields of two of Rison’s cars using a vacuum cleaner pipe. After the fire (literally and metaphorically), Left Eye paid the piper for her revenge financially and personally–though she did remain with Rison. Maybe it just goes to show that all you need to do to get your man to stop beating the shit out of you is destroy his prized possessions.

Apart from Lopes’ unbreakable will and talent, she also possessed a kind spirit that few seemed to address in their accounts of her. While in rehab post-arson incident, Lopes became close to a struggling mother and ultimately adopted her eight-year-old daughter. She had also adopted a twelve-year-old boy a decade earlier. This predilection toward generosity extended in her journey to Honduras. While there, the car her assistant was driving, as though foreshadowing her own death, hit a young boy, Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez, crossing the street. Horrified, Lopes and her party took the dying boy to the hospital where he soon expired. Subsequently, Lopes believed that the similarities of their last name connoted that perhaps Death had taken the wrong person by mistake. She was deeply involved in paying for and planning his funeral, though the family placed no blame on her for the accident.

She proved her prophecy of misplaced death was accurate on April 25, 2002 when, in a cruel twist of nickname related fate, she swerved left while driving in Honduras to avoid an oncoming truck. At the time, she was just starting to come into her own as a solo artist. Her example as an opinionated and highly vocal woman when something angered her remains one of her most important legacies. This, to be sure, gave her the usual rap of being a “bitch.” Even fellow members of TLC tried to pigeonhole her this way when arguments about who carried the group ensued after CrazySexyCool. But Lopes was a hyper-aware woman who could acknowledge of her relationships both professional and personal: “I usually say that you cannot hate someone unless you love them. So, we love each other. That’s the problem.” She suffered no fools when her love vacillated toward hate, and this is what made her such an admirable force to be reckoned with.