Bronx, New York City, born Leanne “Lelee” Lyons is the founding member of one of the most successful girl groups of all-time, Sisters With Voices [SWV]. Along with neighborhood friend, Cheryl ”Coko” Gamble, who later introduced Lelee Lyons to Brooklyn native Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, is officially credited with putting the trio together. SWV eventually went on to sell more than fifteen million units worldwide, ranking them the 5th best selling female collective in R&B music her-story.
Parlé Magazine recently checked in with the outspoken single glam-mother of two adult children and this is exactly what transpired…
Parlé Mag: This past July 17th you released your very 1st book boldly entitled “I Regret the Day I Lost My Virginity: You Are Not Your Past”. Talk to me about why you chose that tile and what it means to you.
Lelee Lyons: The title represents a little girl who grew up in a world she didn’t quite understand. Being the youngest of four siblings, by the time I was old enough to ask questions about what I was hearing and seeing around me as a young girl, my mom pretty much was worn out trying to figure life out herself after my dad left. Therefore, the streets and experience taught me all the lessons I needed.
Parlé Mag: At this particular stage in both your life and career, what actually prompted your decision to even want to write an autobiography?
Lelee Lyons: I was asked the question, “Is there anything in life that you regret?” from my boyfriend at the time. I thought about it and instantly I replied, “Yes, my virginity!” That’s where the title of the book came from. As I spoke to women in my life, I found out that their past experiences had them in bondage to the point that they were controlled by the people who shared some of the journey with them. They were afraid of the things that people would find out about them and afraid of being exposed. I realized that there were incidents in my personal life that I wasn’t necessarily proud of, but it was my story and my journey. Knowing that, I refused to allow my past to be who I was today and take control of it. I talked about everything that controlled my life, my thoughts, etcetera. I wrote this book for young girls and women in the world who were just like me. To let them know, no matter what they’ve been through, that was not who they were. From the little girl and her experiences, she grew up to be a special woman.
Parlé Mag: For someone who has yet to pick up a copy, which might I state for the record is doing oneself a major disservice considering it’s a definite must-read, what then would you say can be expected from your life story?
Lelee Lyons: Control and own your truth. DO NOT allow people to dictate your wrong or your right. You are special regardless of what you’ve done in your life. There is always room for change. But you have to do the work—and sometimes doing the work is not comfortable. You are the light at the end of the tunnel.
Parlé Mag: Of course, I both respect and applaud you on your courageous bravery for being so candid and transparent in your memoir — Was writing this tell-all very therapeutic as far as from a healthy and healing point of view?
Lelee Lyons: It took me over four years to write this book. It’s funny that you call it a tell-all because I just scratched the surface. There was so much more to talk about, but I chose to talk about the things that I felt held me in bondage most of my life, and I was sure that there were millions of young people and women who felt the same way. If not all the stories, I knew that at least one or two stories would be relative to someone else’s life experience.
Parlé Mag: At any particular point in time were you at all hesitant or even somewhat worried about maybe revealing a little too much?
Lelee Lyons: If I can be completely honest, there were moments when I’d be typing where I’d go back and forth with my thoughts and hit the backspace key on my computer. Not because I didn’t want people to know my journey, but my concern was how they would hear the story and their state of mind at the time. There are so many immature people out there, especially on social media, they will take your real life and use it as clickbait. I’m not the average person in entertainment. I’m really comfortable talking about the things that make other artists uncomfortable, because perception is everything. Well, if you’re gonna judge me based on my choices thirty years ago, that says a lot about who you are as an individual.
Parlé Mag: Switching gears here, there have also been talks of a Lelee Lyons’ solo debut — Is this something that’s still a possibility? If so, what is the timeline for something like this?
Lelee Lyons: Of course a Lelee recording is definitely on my bucket list! I want to do an EP of the songs that were dear to my parents’ heart. SWV as far as music is my first priority of course, but outside of the brand I am my own person with aspirations of my own. The music that I enjoy is far different than what you hear us do as a group.
Parlé Mag: Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Lelee Lyons: I don’t believe that there’s a particular formula for longevity, because everything is continuously evolving. I always believed if you put out something that’s quality and timeless, people will always want to hear it and be a part of it. Everyone wants to be around something that’s special. Because of social media, many aspiring artists post covers of our songs and bring new life to it. For that, we are forever grateful.
Parlé Mag: Would it be fair to say you’re happy with the current state of R&B?
Lelee Lyons: As much as they try to kill the genre, I’m really loving the music that H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar have contributed for this new generation of R&B. I also never believed that R&B went anywhere; I just didn’t believe that people weren’t falling in love anymore, which eliminated the need for a good love song. No one is courting anymore, and making love has been watered down to microwavable, meaningless sex. There wasn’t really anything to talk about. But Daniel and H.E.R. made this new generation want love music again.
Parlé Mag: To date, what has been your greatest career moment?
Lelee Lyons: My greatest career moment was going double platinum. The fact that my mother was able to see my accomplishments before she passed away made me feel so good. I’d never forget that moment.
Parlé Mag: BET’s “Ladies Night” was a big success — Are there any plans in place for a season two? Whatever became of the track that y’all were recording with Salt-n-Pepa? And just curious, why was En Vogue initially included but later ousted prior to taping?
Lelee Lyons: Thank You! Unfortunately, there won’t be a season 2, but it was fun filming with the ladies. The song is at a standstill as of now, but I hope to revisit the idea really soon. I personally think the idea is pretty cool. En Vogue made a business decision not to be involved, which happens in entertainment. I don’t think it had anything to do with the other groups, but career wise En Vogue does a great job managing their opportunities. All money is not good money sometimes.
Parlé Mag: Also, what’s up with SWV? You all haven’t dropped anything since 2016’s ‘Still’ — Is there new music on deck?
Lelee Lyons: SWV is continuing to travel all over the world and loving it. Recently we’ve made some necessary administrative changes, and we plan on reaching fans we’ve never touched before. The fans are still in love with the classic SWV songs, so new music is not a priority at the moment… but who knows what may happen in the future. We recently recorded a song [“Found A Good One (Single No More)”] for Chance the Rapper’s album that we’re really proud of.
Parlé Mag: Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Lelee Lyons: I definitely see myself alive, in good health and spirits. That’s my main priority right now. I’d love to be married and more into the production side of television. Whatever it is, I want to have peace.
Parlé Mag: As for the immediate, what’s next for you, Lee?
Lelee Lyons: I have a podcast in the works called “Sht Talking w/Lelee,” a small apparel line called “BUMGIRL,” which stands for Black Girl Underestimated by many, definitely more television, and more traveling. I hope an engagement ring is somewhere in God’s plan *Giggles ensue
Parlé Mag: Any parting words?
Lelee Lyons: I appreciate the love and support for SWV, and each of us as we explore our goals individually. God Bless You!
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