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Coko Talks About LeLee

posted by Sista on April 6th, 2007 at 3:07 pm

SWV 150x250 Coko Talks About LeLeeI’m sure by now most of you are familiar with the interview former SWV member Leanne “LeLee” Lyons gave to Jamie Foster Brown of Sister 2 Sister magazine. In the interview LeLee talked of being penniless and homeless, eventually turning to the gay community just to put a roof over the head of herself and her children. Like many of you, I wondered why Coko and Taj, who seem to personally and financially be doing quite well, did not step in to help out their former bandmate and friend. Well Coko sat down to talk to AOL Black Voices about just that and asserts she was just as shocked as the rest of the world to learn of what LeLee had been going through for the past few years.

Below is the article in it’s entirety as told to Jawn Murray:

When the April issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine hit newsstands recently, it sent shockwaves through the music industry with its tell-all interview with SWV founder Leanne “LeLee” Lyons. In the Jamie Foster Brown exclusive, LeLee detailed how she was nearly “destitute” after the group broke up in 1998 and how she would “go to gay clubs and meet girls just to have someplace to sleep.”

The alarming fall from grace story had online chat rooms and blogs buzzing about the state of LeLee and her fellow Sisters With Voices singers. The group’s lead singer Cheryl “Coko” Clemons told me in an exclusive interview that she was just as surprised as everyone else by many of the stories LeLee disclosed in the interview.

“I was not aware of the interview prior to it coming out,” Coko said. “When the magazine first came out, I got a few phone calls from people telling me about the interview and they read some of the things she said in it. I went to get it myself and discovered it was…quite something! I was shocked! I never expected her to say all of that stuff.”

LeLee told Sister 2 Sister’s publisher that she was financially strapped following the group’s demise and was “homeless” for some time. Those allegations have many questioning why Coko or fellow group member Tamara “Taj” George didn’t step in to help. “I didn’t know any of that stuff because we weren’t speaking during that time. We didn’t really start talking again until like 2003,” Coko offered.

The 34-year-old, Bronx-bred LeLee also confessed that when SWV disbanded in 1998, she only received a check for $25,000 from RCA Records and was sent on her way. “I was still on the label as a solo artist so that’s not what happened to me,” explained Coko, who in addition to releasing a solo record ‘Hot Coko’ in 1999 went on to collaborate with everyone from Will Smith (“Men In Black” theme song) to L.S.G. (“All The Times” featuring Faith Evans and Missy Elliott). “I’ve been blessed! I’m not broke and if its God’s will, I’m never going to be broke,” said Coko.

As disheartening as LeLee’s reality is, Coko said that LeLee’s situation isn’t a reflection of her or Taj. “I can’t really speak for Taj, but LeLee’s situation is unique only to her,” explained Coko. Apparently during SWV’s heyday, LeLee’s reputation for missing dates and causing trouble on the road had RCA ready to replace her, a la Destiny’s Child style. “That’s true,” Coko admitted, before adding: “Taj and I were against that. We didn’t want to replace her with anybody. It was going to be the original members or we weren’t going to do it at all. She put the group together and we weren’t going to sing with anybody else.”

The hoopla surrounding this Sister 2 Sister story has shocked Coko. “We ain’t have this much buzz when people learned we were getting back together,” she laughed. And while they’ve been performing regularly with acts like After 7, Bobby Brown and Blackstreet since reuniting in August of 2005, Coko shared that their Toronto tour date with New Edition in late June will serve as an indefinite hiatus for the girls again. “It’s not where I am right now. The reunion dates over the last two years offered us a chance to fix our friendship and helped us launch individual projects of our own,” she confessed. “Spiritually, I couldn’t perform some of those songs we used to sing before and I felt as though if we kept taking songs out the show, we weren’t going to have anything left to sing after a while. That isn’t fair to the fans that are coming out to see us. The next chapter of my life is focusing on my gospel project, ‘Grateful,’ which came out last fall.”

Will the group ever perform together again? “Yeah, we may occasionally reunite for some major events or television specials or something. But just doing spot dates for sake of doing spot dates isn’t where I am right now,” she said.

Coko, who is married to percussionist/producer Mike Clemons and has two sons, just received two GMA Dove Award nominations for ‘Grateful.’ She’s also been doing spot dates on Fred Hammond’s “Free To Worship” tour along with Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore. Her latest single, “I Get Joy,” was the most added song at gospel radio last week.

Taj is still married to former football player turned sports commentator Eddie George and they have two sons. Their life is being detailed in the TV One reality series ‘I Married A Baller,’ which debuts April 21. This summer, the singer will publish her first book, ‘Player HateHer: Why Can’t Women Just Get Along?’ (Amistad/Harper Collins). She also runs Visions with Infinite Possibilities (VIP), a non-profit organization founded by her husband to enrich the lives of women and children affected by domestic abuse.

LeLee has plans on launching an entertainment company to develop new artists. In addition, she recently shot a pilot for a syndicated radio show that she hopes will get picked up. She also commented about the online backlash from her Sister 2 Sister interview on her MySpace page. She wrote: “Lelee is not homeless. I sleep very well at night (smile). PS. The media is really concerned about who I’m f@&#in. Is she gay or what? To satisfy everyone’s curiosity who is interested please go to www.kissmyass.com.”

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10 Comments

  1. It’s not Coco or Taj’s job to care for Lelee. She had the same opportunities as the other two girls so why didn’t she take advantage of that? I remember Lelee was considered the pretty one of the group while Taj and Coco was considered the two ugly darkskin girls.How ironic they went on to marry well and have fame and fortune why Lelee did not. Just something that crossed my mind.

  2. [quote post="1794"]To satisfy everyone’s curiosity who is interested please go to kissmyass.com.[/quote]

    Okay, I’m loving that comment right now.

    I didn’t know all of this happened to her and I am glad to know she is keeping her head above water and doing well now.

  3. Why would anyone allow Lele to manage them when she could not even manage herself? I read her interview in S2S and she is still a very immature woman who has much to learn about life and how to deal.Plus that fluck the world attitude of hers will not get her far in the music industry as a singer or manager.

  4. Wow.. so much goes on these girl groups its hard to believe what was what when it all comes out. Lele is in charge of her own well being and she could have managed the 25K that was giving to her in a better way. :confused: She was obviously having some other issues which were not diclosed but going to gay clubs to find a woman to take home is very dangerous although she felt it was necessary. There has to be a reason why the girls did not keep in touch and know what was going on. I was a publicist for a girl group here in Houston and even after the ( childish but hella talented) group broke up , they were still able to remain semi cool…… I do not see why the girls would not help her unless it was DRUGS involved. Coko’s entire life has changed and well I can see why you could not assist a person who is not following the same spiritual guidelines as you are… I just wish I knew the entire story!!!! :wink:

    Just glad she is better :banana:

    http://www.elle-word.blogspot.com

  5. I don’t believe that they didn’t know about her being homeless. I really think they split up and didn’t help at all with anything. But thats something that went on alot with groups from the 90′s. H-town, Dru Hill, Shy. Alot of them were played or memebers didn’t stick together about that paper. Some are richer and then again some used there talents around the whole industry. Nokio is richer than all of Dru Hill but it’s because he was producing for big names. He was getting that big big check. Unlike Jazz or Woody. Sisqo may have a little cheddar from the first solo album. Not that second one though.

  6. I am very shocked at the disconnection that exclaimed by CoCo of SWV. I would imagine if I had a career touring, eating, sleeping, sharing and praying with two other woman that a apecial bond would have evolved from that. So many times :brownsista: distance or disinvolve themselves from one another for selfish reasons. No one is blaming the other two members for LeLe’s demise – we are just shocked to hear they were unaware of her and her children’s lives. GOD Bless LeLe, her children and the other SWV members.

  7. I find it funny that they had no way of knowing that that girl was homeless but if you pay attention she says that she was still a artist so only recieving a $25,000 check didnt happen to her and she said they wasnt speaking well that says it all they didnt care about her issues COCO was secure and so was Taj . I think she was a bit insensitive aswell like when she said ” I’m not broke” and she suppose to be so spiritual if you ask me it was every man-woman for themself then and still now

  8. I WAS THE FIRST ONE TO ADD A BLOG WHEN I HEARD COKO’S RESPONSE AND IT WAS TYPICAL OF PEOPLE LIKE THAT WHO SCREAMS I’M A CHRISTIAN THE LOUDEST BUT NEVER SAY OR DO CHRISTIAN LIKE THINGS. SHE’S JUST ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE YOU SEE IN CHURCH ACTING OUT FALSELY. IT’S REALLY SAD!

  9. Well even if the group did know she was homeless, my question is how come she couldnt have gotten a regular job???? If their was nothing wrong with her physically then there is no reason why she couldnt work. Its not their responsibility to help her finicially especially if they were having problems and not getting along, thats what your blood is for. Her family should have stepped in or maybe there were some other underline issuses that didnt get explained. Whatever the case, we are all grown and just because they were in a group and worked together for a while, doesnt mean they are responsibility for her happiness or finances….

  10. When Gary Coleman went broke some years ago after his parents mismangaed his money, he went on to just get a regular job and go on with his life. He worked security and many other jobs and I remember people laughing at him but he was smart.He didn’t whine or get on drugs or start robbing video stores, he just picked himself up and went on to do what normal people do and that is to work normal jobs.So many people who are at one time or another were in the industry always think they are too good to go back to normal life and work a 9 to 5 like everyone else.Those types always end up homesless, drugged addicted or involved in some other foolishness.Lele is clearly one of those people.She wasn’t so famous that she couldn’t just go back to school and get a normal job.It was her ego that kept her from doing so and she payed the price.