Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was the ill-fated member of TLC whose heartbreaking life came to a calamitous end. The scariest part? She saw it coming.
1. Her Story Was A Tragedy
Music fans remember Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes as the ill-fated member of TLC—even if she did try to break up the band. Long before the accident that claimed her life, however, her story was full of heartbreak, tragedy, and fiery disasters. But the cruelest twist in her already calamitous story was that she saw the end coming.
2. She Carried Her Family’s Burdens
Lisa Nicole Lopes was born in 1971 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her humble upbringing should have prepared her for the tumultuous and chaotic life that lay ahead. Instead, it did nothing but sow the seeds for her struggles going forward. Her challenging relationships with her father and grandfather stayed with her for life.
3. She Went To “Boot Camp”
Lopes’ father, Ronald Lopes Sr, was a US Army staff sergeant. According to Lopes, he drilled her just as hard as he drilled new recruits. She said that he was “very strict, very domineering” and ran their household like it was “boot camp”. Sadly, her father would not be the last—or even the worst—domineering man in her life.
4. She Took After Her Father
With a father as strict as hers, Lopes learned a lot about discipline and hard work. But that wasn’t all she learned from her father. According to Lopes, her father had a profound musical talent of his own that clearly rubbed off on her. By the age of five, she was playing and composing songs on her toy piano. She just needed a little more “TLC”.
5. She Joined Her First Band
In the coming years, Lopes would rise to fame as a member of the girl band, TLC. But it wasn’t the first band that she had joined. At just 10 years old, she roped her siblings into forming a band called “The Lopes Kids”. Together, they sang gospel songs and performed at events and churches within their community. But she didn’t play too well with others.
6. She Only Had $750
By 1990, Lopes was ready to break out of her domineering father’s home and try her luck with a real band. She relocated to Atlanta, Georgia with nothing but her tiny keyboard and $750 to her name. But she didn’t need money. She had talent on her side. Plus, fate was calling her name—though it wouldn’t always be for good things.
7. She Answered The Call
As it happens, Lopes arrived in Atlanta at precisely the right moment. The famed music producer, Ian Burke, and his client, Crystal Jones, had just come up with the idea for a “tomboyish” girl group. When they put out an open casting call for two girls to join Jones, they had no idea they would find a true superstar in the making.
8. She Made The Cut
Out of the countless hopefuls who auditioned for the as-yet nameless girl group, two people stood out. One of them was Tionne Watkins and the other was, of course, the promising Lisa Lopes. Along with Jones, Watkins and Lopes formed the band “2nd Nature”. But one of them didn’t belong in the group to begin with and Lopes would let her know it.
9. She Got The Chance Of A Lifetime
With the right band behind her, Lopes prepared for the success and fame she knew she was destined to have. All she needed was the right opportunity. That opportunity came just a short while later when fellow bandmate, Watkins, managed to arrange a once-in-a-lifetime audition. Lopes was about to show her stuff to the mega producer, LA Reid.
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10. She Changed Her Band’s Name
Before their big audition, “2nd Nature” felt that something just wasn’t sitting right. The name of the band didn’t seem to fit the band’s image and musical talents. In a stroke of genius, they renamed themselves “TLC” using the first initial of each band member’s first name. That didn’t mean everyone was going to stay.
11. She Impressed The Producer
With the right name and the right moves, “TLC” prepared for their big audition. Unsurprisingly, Lopes floored Reid with her talent. As did Watkins. But Jones, the founding member of the group, clearly lacked Lopes’ musical gifts. What happened next was just the first in a string of catfights between the members of TLC.
12. She Kicked Out A Band Member
With a standout audition, Lopes secured her position with LA Reid. But, as Watkins recounted years later, “Unfortunately, when we performed for Pebbles, she didn’t like Crystal, so Lisa and me had to kick her out”. The whole situation was “awkward” but Lopes knew what she had to do if she wanted to make the music that was in her heart.
13. She Found Her Third Musketeer
Lopes and Watkins immediately signed a deal with Reid’s production company, all but guaranteeing that Lopes would become a superstar. Shortly after kicking Jones out of the group, they found their third musketeer, Rozonda Thomas. They had all of the ingredients they needed to turn their girl group into a chart-topping sensation.
14. She Had A Pretty Left Eye
Lopes and Watkins had gotten rid of Crystal Jones, but they wanted to keep the name of the band. As such, they had to come up with nicknames that would make sense. This is when Lopes got her famous nickname “Left Eye”. Apparently, she had chosen the name because one of her friends, Michael Bivins, had once told her that he was “attracted to her because of her left eye”.
She leaned into it.
15. She Wore “Rubber” Glasses
Bivins believed that Lopes’ left eye was slightly more slanted than her right eye, making it more beautiful. With a flare for the dramatic, Lopes decided to accentuate her beautifully slanted left eye at every opportunity. She began wearing a trademark pair of glasses with the right lens covered by a…well, a rubber contraceptive.
16. She Became An Overnight Sensation
With the new band all together, TLC released their debut album. It didn’t take record sales very long to go through the roof. Overnight, the name Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. In just a few short years, she had realized all of her dreams. But not everything was as good as it seemed for Lopes.
17. She Had A Drinking Problem
Lopes had inherited more than just a musical talent from her father. Despite being a disciplinarian, he had also suffered from addiction and Lopes inherited his vices as much as his virtues. By the age of just 15, she had already developed a drinking problem. Combined with her new found fame, it spelled disaster. Fiery disaster.
18. She Began Dating A Falcon
Shortly after the release and success of TLC’s debut album, Lopes began dating the football player, Andre Rison. Her romance with the Atlanta Falcons' wide receiver was every bit as brutal and dangerous as an actual game of football. But without the padding and with a whole lot more fireworks and dangerous pyrotechnics.
19. She Moved In With Her Boyfriend
Following her recent musical success, Lopes moved into Rison’s “upscale” home. With her TLC fame and his football money, they appeared to have the perfect relationship. But that illusion shattered when Lopes filed charges against Rison for assault in September 1993. In spite of the clear challenges, their romance was about to go from lukewarm to scorching hot.
20. She Caught Her Boyfriend Cheating
Assault and battery weren’t the only forms of mistreatment that Rison doled out against Lopes. He also cheated on her—and he wasn’t exactly shy about it either. One time, Lopes walked in to find Rison with another woman. Fueled by her addiction, she had a very intense way of venting her frustrations with Rison’s infidelities.
21. She Was Not Planning A Bubble Bath
Instead of walking out on Rison or confronting him directly, Lopes took out her frustrations on stuffed animals. In a fit of rage, she collected a bunch of teddy bears and dumped them into the couples’ marble bathtub. She wasn’t exactly planning a bubble bath. She proceeded to light them on fire, heavily damaging the marble.
22. Her Rage Fizzled Out
The flames of Lopes’ rage fizzled out. Surprisingly, following her flaming hot outburst, Lopes and Rison managed to patch up their relationship. In a sign of their reconciliation, Rison replaced the damaged marble bathtub with a brand new fiberglass model. That turned out to be a big mistake. One that would nearly cost them their lives.
23. She Had Hot Shoes
Lopes and Rison once again had a heated argument on the morning of June 9, 1994. Once again, Lopes responded the only way that she knew how: with an intense inferno to symbolize her burning anger. But, this time, she was out of teddy bears to burn. Instead, she set her sights on Rison’s prized tennis shoes. There wouldn’t be much left after she was done.
24. She Set The Tub On Fire Again
Lopes threw several of Rison’s favorite sneakers into the new fiberglass bathtub. Just like with the teddy bears, she set the shoes on fire. However, unlike marble, fiberglass was not fireproof. As the inferno grew more intense, the bathtub began to melt and disintegrate. Lopes couldn’t do anything but watch on.
25. Her Rage Consumed Their House
The inferno in the bathtub burned almost as hot as Lopes' rage at Rison. But it was hot enough to burn right through the cheap fiberglass and into the structural framework of the house. The next thing that Lopes knew, the flames kept spreading—and spreading, and spreading. She even surprised herself with the consequences of her actions.
26. She Burned It All Down
Lopes had only intended to burn Rison’s shoes but the entire house went up in flames. However, even if it had only been an accident, she still found some catharsis in the inferno. “[When] I got outside, I looked at that house,” she recalled, “and the feeling came over me like, wow, the house of evil is burnt to the ground, it's burning”.
It was, however, a costly form of anger management.
27. She Took The Blame
Before long, the blaze in the bathtub had consumed Lopes’ Rison’s entire home. After the flames fizzled out and embers cooled down, Lopes found herself in real trouble. Despite her protestations that the incident had been a terrible accident, the authorities charged her with first-degree arson and gave her a sentence of five years probation and a $10,000 fine.
28. Her Relationship Was Hot And Cold
Even though their burning house of love fizzled out, the embers of love between Lopes and Rison still burned hot. To everyone’s shock, the couple reconciled their differences following the fiery event and dated on and off until Lopes’ unexpected demise. There’s never been any word on whether or not she replaced Rison’s shoes.
29. She Was The Rockstar Of TLC
As bad as her legal and romantic troubles had become, Lopes’ public image never truly recovered from the fire that burned her house down. Throughout the rest of her career, everyone believed that she was the wild child of TLC. The rockstar in the group, with her tattoos, pyromania and penchant for the dramatic. Oh, and the razor cutting.
30. She Carved Her Feelings Into Her Skin
Throughout her life and career, Lopes struggled with her inner demons. Tragically, they often got the better of her—like that time she set her house on fire and burned it to the ground. Other times, the damage was a lot more personal. Years later, she revealed that she had carved the words “love” and “hate” into her own skin with a razor blade.
31. She Had A Boy
Despite her many, very public, struggles, Lopes did her best to maintain some degree of privacy. Surprisingly, she kept the parts of her life that mattered most to her out of the spotlight. It’s unclear exactly when, but at some point, she adopted a 12-year old boy, Jamal Lopes. It was obvious that she had a keen maternal instinct.
32. She Had A Life-Changing Interaction
Even though she had a fiery personality (sometimes literally), Lopes had a soft heart. While she was in rehab, recovering from her drinking addiction, she had a life-changing meeting. She encountered a mother who was struggling with addiction herself. The moment so moved Lopes that she made a decision that would alter the course of her life.
33. She Found A Daughter In Rehab
Lopes’ encounter with the woman in rehab had an unexpected outcome. She couldn’t bear to see the woman’s struggle without doing something to help her out. So, in a move that stunned her millions of adoring fans, she adopted the woman’s 8-year old daughter, Snow, and raised her as her own. But as she built her own family, she tore the TLC family apart.
34. She Aired TLC’s Dirty Laundry
Lopes sparked even more controversy when, after the release of TLC’s third studio album FanMail in 1999, she aired the group’s dirty laundry. Lopes revealed that she felt that the group didn’t appreciate her contributions to their success. What she said next, however, had TLC’s millions of fans biting their nails and bracing for the worst.
35. She Was Ready To Move On
In May 1999, Lopes gave an interview to Vibe magazine that rocked the music world. Despite selling millions of albums with TLC, 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”. Her bandmates simply couldn’t let the comments go without a response of their own.
36. She Was Only Looking Out For Herself
Watkins and Thomas fired back at Lopes’ incendiary comments with some public comments of their own. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, they said Lopes “doesn't respect the whole group”. They went even further, saying categorically that “Left Eye is only concerned with Left Eye”. The group was on the verge of splitting up.
37. She Challenged Her Bandmates
Whether it was with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Rison, or with her bandmates, Lopes never backed down from a fight. But no one could have imagined her next move. In response to Watkins’ and Thomas’ comments in Entertainment Weekly, Lopes issued a challenge. She had the entire music world on the edge of their seats with this one.
38. She Wanted To Be The “Winner of TLC”
Lopes believed that she was the real talent behind TLC—and she was willing to put her music where her mouth was. She issued a challenge to Watkins and Thomas through Entertainment Weekly in which she dared her bandmates to release solo albums of their own. Then, she said, they would let the fans decide who was the “winner of TLC”.
39. Her Bandmates Thought She Was “Evil”
Watkins and Thomas lacked Lopes’ fire. In an effort to diffuse the tense situation and prevent it from turning into another house on fire, they declined Lopes’ challenge. They did not, however, stop issuing insults in the press. Thomas, in particular, called Lopes’ challenge “selfish," “evil,” and “heartless”. This was one family feud that could only end one way.
40. She Only Hated The People She Loved
Even though she never shied away from a fight, Lopes was always the peacemaker. In order to save the band from breaking up, she reconciled with her TLC bandmates publicly. “It's deeper than a working relationship,” she explained. “I usually say that you cannot hate someone unless you love them. So, we love each other. That's the problem”.
But you can’t love the people you can’t find.
41. She Was Not Around
In the end, Lopes got the best of both worlds. She remained a member of TLC but also struck out on her own as both an artist and producer. She released her first studio album as a solo act, Supernova, in 2001 and immediately began working on a second album, N.I.N.A. (New Identity Not Applicable). It should have meant “New Identity Not Around”.
42. She Simply Disappeared
In late September 2000, Lopes caused another media firestorm. This time, it had nothing to do with burning tennis shoes, bloody razor blades, or in-fighting with her bandmates. Her family knew that something was wrong when she failed to show up at a family get-together in Atlanta and later skipped out on a press event in Las Vegas.
43. She Needed To Get Away
News reports began pouring in: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes had gone missing. No one had seen the 29-year old music sensation in over a week. Miraculously, however, she reappeared without so much as a scratch on her—except for the ones she had already given herself. It was becoming apparent, however, that she needed a proper getaway.
44. She Felt Someone Stalking Her
In early 2001, Lopes traveled to Honduras on a spiritual retreat. But she couldn’t retreat from her spirit. While filming a documentary, she recalled a feeling that she simply couldn’t shake. It was the ominous feeling of a spirit, stalking her every move. Deep down, she must have known that her time was coming to an end.
If the spirit stalking her caught up with her, that is.
45. She Couldn’t Stop In Time
In early April 2002, Lopes experienced a terrible omen of her own demise. Her personal assistant was driving their rental car through the narrow and winding streets of Honduras. Seemingly out of nowhere, a 10-year old boy, Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez, stepped in front of their vehicle. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to stop.
46. She Blamed Herself
Lopes’ rental vehicle struck the young boy at full velocity. Tender-hearted as she was, Lopes sprung into action. She had her assistant drive the young boy to the hospital as she held his bleeding head in her arms. Despite her best efforts, however, the young boy succumbed to his grievous injuries the next day.
However, the story didn't end there.
47. She Knew Better
The Honduran authorities called the boy’s passing an “unforeseen tragedy”. Nevertheless, the accident deeply affected Lopes. She even doled out thousands of dollars for the boy’s medical expenses and funeral. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a terrible thought began to haunt her.
48. Her Spirit Claimed The Wrong Life
Even though the authorities had cleared Lopes and her crew of any wrongdoing in the tragedy, Lopes believed there were other forces at play. She remembered the feeling of that spirit stalking her every move. She believed that the spirit had intended to take her life that night, not the boy’s, but had gotten them confused because of their last names.
That daunting spirit would not make the same mistake twice.
49. She Lost Control
Just two weeks after the grizzly accident that claimed young Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez’s life, Lopes’ spirit finally caught up with her. Once again, while driving her rental vehicle, she swerved to miss a truck then swerved again to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Much like her with her own life, she lost control of her Mitsubishi.
50. Her Spirit Found Her At Last
Lopes’ rented Mitsubishi Montero flipped several times and hit a couple of trees. The force of the accident launched all of the passengers from the vehicle as it came to a rest in a ditch. This time, however, Lopes’ haunting spirit found its target. She was the only one who lost her life in the tragic accident. Thankfully, she didn’t suffer.
51. She Went Instantly
Lopes hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Fortunately, after a life of heartbreak and fiery feuds, she didn’t suffer long. She succumbed to her injuries—a “fracture of the base of the cranium” and “open cerebral trauma”—instantly. But the fire of her talents still burned.
52. She Transformed
Even though her time in the spotlight had been brief, Lopes left an enduring musical legacy behind. While those in the music community, including her TLC bandmates, and her millions of adoring fans mourned her loss, they knew she wasn’t truly gone. Her spiritual motto, and the words she left behind still burn brightly: “Energy never dies…it just transforms”.