Energy Never Dies…It Just Transforms
By J. Isaac Noel Benjamin, II
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And, sometimes they are right in front of us and we don’t know it. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes was a hero in disguise. Lopes had a brash, but confident demeanor and was one of the driving forces behind TLC. What people didn’t know was that she had a heart of pure gold.
Lopes engineered the group's (TLC’s) brand of empowered womanhood that vaulted the trio to the top of the pop charts. Singer and rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Nicole Lopes was born on May 27, 1971, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was best known as one-third of the R&B girl group TLC, alongside Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas. She received more co-writing credits than the other members. She also designed the outfits and staging for the group and contributed to the group's image, album titles, artworks, and music videos. Through her work with TLC, Lopes won four Grammy Awards.
On June 16, 2019, Lopes was renamed "Left Eye" after a compliment from a man who once told her he was attracted to her because of her left eye. Lopes emphasized her nickname by wearing a pair of glasses with the right lens covered by 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.
During her short solo career, Lopes scored two US top-ten singles with "Not Tonight" and "U Know What's Up", as well as one UK number-one single with "Never Be the Same Again", the latter a collaboration with Melanie C of the British girl group the Spice Girls. She also produced another girl group, Blaque, who scored a platinum album and two US top-ten hits. Lopes remains the only member of TLC to have released a solo album.
On April 25, 2002, Lopes was killed in a car crash while conducting charity work in Honduras. She swerved off the road to avoid hitting another vehicle and was thrown from her car. She was working on a documentary at the time of her death, which was released as The Last Days of Left Eye and aired on VH1 in May 2007.
Lopes was in the process of setting up two educational centers for Honduran children. One was built on an 80-acre plot of land she called Camp YAC. The other center was called Creative Castle.
In 2003, shortly after Lopes' death, her family started the Lisa Lopes Foundation, a charitable group dedicated to providing neglected and abandoned youth with the resources necessary to increase their quality of life. Her spiritual motto was the one used for her foundation: "Energy never dies... it just transforms." Her foundation went into various underdeveloped villages and gave new clothes to needy children and their families. In August 2007, the foundation hosted a charity auction, selling items donated by celebrities. It raised approximately $5,000 for the Hogar de Amor ("Home of Love"), an orphanage in Honduras. In 2012, the foundation began hosting an annual music festival, known as "Left Eye Music Fest", in Decatur, Georgia. In the 2018 Boots Riley film Sorry to Bother You, members of a fictional activist group called "Left Eye" use as their symbol a stripe of eye black under the left eye, in an unmentioned reference to Lopes.