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How Did TLC Pick Left Eye Stand-In for the AMAs?

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photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Surviving TLC members Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins couldn't pick just anyone to stand in for the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes for their performance on the American Music Awards Sunday.

So they chose rap start Lil Mama, who has received rave reviews for her portrayal of Left Eye in the group's VH1 movie, "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" that premiered in October, scoring the network's strongest ratings for an original movie.

Lil Mama joined Chilli and T-Boz for their performance of "Waterfalls," dancing and rapping Left Eye's lyrics over an instrumental of Drake's "Started From The Bottom."

Chilli and T-Boz said they immediately bonded with Lil Mama, a former judge on "America's Best Dance Crew," during the audition process for the movie.

During an exclusive interview with Yahoo Music, T-Boz explained why they were impressed by the artist who scored the top 10 hit "Lip Gloss" in 2007 and raps on Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend."

"We thought it was going to be harder to find Lisa, but that was the easiest," she said. "Lil Mama nailed it so good it was ridiculous. And her real eyes are like hazel and she came in with these black, big contacts like Lisa's real eyes; they are beautiful. And she was dressed in character. She had it down so pact, it was crazy. She was like that's it. No question about it. Hands down. We didn't have to look no further."

Lil Mama's acting received an overwhelmingly strong response via Twitter:

Though the news of the casting initially sparked backlash from Left Eye fans who didn't believe Lil Mama was fit for the role, the rapper began changing the perception of her detractors months before the movie's debut.

During the summer, Lil Mama performed Left Eye's part of their song "No Scrubs" for the MTV Mixtape Festival and Drake's OVO Fest.

Though Lil Mama had struck up a good rapport with Chilli and T-Boz during the filming of the "CrazySexyCool" movie, she told Vibe magazine that she was surprised when the group asked her to join them on stage for the Mixtape Festival.

"When they asked me to perform with them at Hershey Park I was like, 'Nah they're playing,'" Lil Mama told Vibe. "They were like, 'Girl, listen. You're gonna come out with us, we just want you to come out and be a special guest. Nothing big, we don't want to put too much pressure on you.' Because they knew that people were saying 'Don't replace her!' It's not a replacement.

"We're not taking anything away from Left Eye," Lil Mama continued. "That's the most powerful part about it because that experience let me know TLC has come across many artists, many female emcees are very close to TLC, and for them to choose me to do that says a lot. For them to choose me for this movie says a lot."

TLC anticipates that Lil Mama will be getting more opportunities to act. "If she hasn't gotten some calls, she should," T-Boz told Yahoo Music. "She can act," Chill added.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of TLC's first time attending the American Music Awards.

The ladies joked that they have bittersweet memories from that year.

"I remember who we lost to," T-Boz recalled. "Yeah, that was a sad night," Chilli said. "Sir Mix-A-Lot. It wasn't even for 'Baby Got Back.' 'Put 'Em on the Glass?' I was like, 'Are you serious? Are you serious?' I would at least felt a little better if it was at least 'Baby Got Back.' 'Oh, Becky her butt is so big.'"

During the exclusive Yahoo Music interview, Chilli and T-Boz also discuss who they want to see at this year's AMAs, their love of Lady Gaga's "ARTPOP" album, and positive and negative feedback to "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story."

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