NEW YORK — 3LW's Kiely Williams and Adrienne Bailon say they took the manner in which Naturi Naughton departed personally, and they refute Naughton's claims that she was kicked out of the group and that a food fight was the final straw.
"At no point in time was she asked to leave this group," Bailon said Wednesday (August 28).
Williams and Bailon claim Naughton's decision to leave, which she announced August 21 on a New York radio show (see "3LW Become 2LW: Naturi Says She's Out of the Group"), caught them completely off guard, though they do admit tensions between the members had been mounting for some time.
"It was a shock," Bailon said, "because although we were a group, we were friends. And that's what kind of throws us off after hearing everything she said."
Naughton used the airwaves to declare that she was driven out of the group by their manager, Michelle Williams, Kiely's older half-sister, because she didn't "fit the Girl Can Mack image," a reference to 3LW's second album, A Girl Can Mack, due October 22. Amidst swirling rumors, Naughton also said Michelle Williams complained about her performance, her image and loyalty to the group. (The split drew impassioned reactions from fans. Check out what they said in "You Tell Us.")
The remaining members of 3LW are following through with the release of A Girl Can Mack and, despite talk of the contrary, aren't re-entering the studio to re-record the LP. They're also in the process of setting up a tour, which, for the time being will be staged by just Williams and Bailon.
Despite an urge to press their friend for an explanation immediately after the controversial radio interview, Bailon and Williams were advised to lie low and not engage in a mudslinging match.
But it wasn't mud that Naughton claimed was slung her way; mashed potatoes were the final salvo (see "Naturi Describes Alleged 3LW Food Fight That Led To Split"). The ex-member said Kiely Williams threw a plate of food in her face, and she deemed the action assault. "Nobody has the right to hit me," she told MTV News last week. "That's not what I'm here for ... to be physically abused."
The girls said Williams' 3-year-old sister was actually the culprit. While the girls and their entourage were enjoying a KFC meal, the excited child was flailing her arms about, which flipped her plate and showered everyone in the vicinity with food.
"[Food] was on everybody," Bailon said. "It was on me, it was on Kiely, it was on our manager. ... For her to turn around and say she was physically assaulted, ... we had to laugh."
Williams and Bailon cite the end of last year's TRL tour in September, which also featured Destiny's Child, as the first time they saw signs that Naughton's heart and mind were not in sync with the other members, and they said the events of September 11 may have played a part in her decision to leave. Naughton's initial reaction, they recalled, was to return to Newark, New Jersey, to be with her family and re-evaluate her life. Their response to the tragedy, like that of many others, was to stand strong and try not to let it disrupt business as usual — which in their case included finishing their album.
The girls also said Naughton's allegations that she was booted because she was the darkest-skinned of the three are completely unwarranted and insulting. They claimed to have overheard Naughton tell their production manager that they were trying to kick her out because of her color. Bailon, who is Latino, added that Naughton had alleged that she carried a switchblade and had threatened the former member with it.
"The whole issue of color saddens me as a girl of color," Bailon said. "We never felt we had to [explain] the whole racial thing, but it's hurtful for her to say something like that. This group was formed to bring girls of color together and not rip them apart."
"We were hand-picked for this group," Williams added. "If we wanted to have three light-skinned girls in the group, that's what we would have had."
The solo album that Naughton says is coming also came as a surprise to Williams and Bailon. And while they admit that an understudy was hired for Naughton's part in the group, they said she was only employed as a precautionary measure while the group was attempting to iron out its differences.
"I don't ever intend on bashing Naturi," Bailon concluded. "I don't care what she has to say about us. I know there was a point in time where there was a friendship there."