3LW Become A Trio Again ... Finally

Restructured group made first public appearance at Soul Train Music Awards Saturday.

After eight months of missing a third member and nearly four months of auditioning hundreds of girls in New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, R&B youngsters 3LW have finally replaced former member Naturi Naughton with 15 year-old Jessica 'J' Benson.

"We are so happy that J has joined us as the new member of 3LW," the remaining members, Kiely Williams and Adrienne Bailon said in a statement on Tuesday (March 4). "In the short time she has been with us we have become like family. She has proven that she is a hard worker and a fast learner — the exact qualities we were looking for in a third member. We are also glad that with J we can move forward as a positive image for all girls of color.”

Benson, who now becomes the youngest member of the trio (Kiely has a year on her), was discovered right outside of her hometown of Severn, Maryland, at the D.C. tryouts in January (see "3LW Plan Audition To Replace Naturi Naughton"). Like all the other girls who auditioned, she had to sing 3LW tunes, dance, and of course, get along with Kiely and Adrienne. Once the two founders had an inkling they wanted J down with the squad, they went through a series of separate performance rehearsals with Jessica and held subsequent meetings with J and her family. Things came together two weeks later and Benson was officially made a member of 3LW. The restructured group made its first public appearance this weekend in L.A. at the Soul Train Awards (see "Nelly, Ashanti, Musiq, B2K Win At Soul Train Music Awards").

"Wow, what an incredible opportunity," Benson marveled in her own statement. "Just a few weeks ago I was just a high school student with dreams of a professional music career and now it's happening so quickly. I'm so happy that Kiely and Adrienne have so fully embraced me and are teaching me the ropes of how to handle this hectic, fast paced life."

She's right. For the next few months, J will be shuttling back and forth, finishing the 10th grade in D.C., doing press and practicing for shows in New York, as well as performing in several other cities at spot dates, which last through the spring.

3LW's current LP, A Girl Can Mack, was recorded with Naughton, who bolted from the group in August of 2002 (see "3LW Become 2LW: Naturi Says She's Out Of Group"). She filed a lawsuit in October against her former groupmates for loss of income, alleging that she was unfairly dismissed from 3LW (see "3LW Sued By Ex-Member Naturi Over Split, Money"). That case is still pending.

3LW will go on tour this summer though dates have not yet been finalized. No info is available yet about ladies' new single or future album plans.