Unpretty
by TLC

Album: Fanmail (1999)
Charted: 6 1
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song talks about girls' inner beauty. The first line (sung by T-Boz), "I wish I could tie you up in my shoes make you feel unpretty too," is talking about the people who say that a person is ugly. Chilli sings about satisfying her boyfriend for what he wants from her. In the video, directed by Paul Hunter, she and her boyfriend are looking at an online web page of a hospital which specializes in breast implants. Her boyfriend would like Chilli to get bigger breasts, but she thinks that she shouldn't. The video continues with more scenes of people compromising their health and principles for the sake of beauty, including a girl who uses bulimia to stay thin. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Christopher - Farmington, NM
  • Dallas Austin, who also wrote and produced the trio's #1 hit "Creep," wrote this song based on a poem T-Boz composed called "Unpretty." He explained to Billboard: "Once I saw the title, I went to my keyboard and guitar and started playing melodies that would complement it. I didn't want it to be aggressive. I wanted it to be friendly - for a song called 'Unpretty' talking about how much you don't like stuff about yourself - so the message would come across to people with those kinds of problems or issues. I thought it would be unique to get it across in a sweet way."
  • Austin, who had first met the group back in high school long before they were famous, was careful to stay true to the girls' personalities by tailoring the verses for each of them: "When I write for TLC, I write for each one of the members. So when I do a Tionne part, it's different from what Chilli's part would be. When we first did 'Unpretty' it was one of the most exciting records we'd ever done because it was different. And it still stayed along the lines of TLC having messages for people."
  • T-Boz has sickle-cell anemia; she had just gotten out of the hospital when she wrote the poem that formed the song's lyric. "I was really bruised and frail because I had lost a lot of weight," she told Entertainment Weekly. "My boyfriend went out, and I felt like I shouldn't have to ask him to stay. It prompted me to write a poem."

    She added: "I didn't realize at the time that so many people felt the way I felt, but it came to help inspire people."
  • This earned Grammy Award nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2000, but lost both to Santana (for "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," respectively).
  • This was used on the TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in the 1999 episode "Aging, Not So Gracefully."
  • The characters Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Rachel (Lea Michele) sang this on the Season 2 episode of Glee, "Born This Way," in 2011, mixing in some lyrics to the song "I Feel Pretty." Released as a single, this version went to #22 in the US.

Comments: 8

  • Theodore from Beverly Hills, Ca (at Time Of Video Production)After all of these decades, of never bothering to IMDB this TLC Video/Credit page, it took an original Apple-tv, self-mocking spoof dialogue line, by an actress on M Night Shamalayn’s streaming series titled Servant, where the actress (the nanny) breathed and asked if her breath stunk to the other actor.
    I laughed so hard because I recognized the sarcastic line as being a Shamalayn signature work of greatness, from the block buster film starring Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense back in the late 1990’s & I was wondering what I was doing when Shamalayn’s film was the buzz? Where was I during that time frame? I was actually on a dinner date with one of the lead actresses, Tamika, who played the young girl with the body image problem in the TLC video. I was complimenting her on the toilet scene (because of her natural acting ability at inner dialogue) and how they applied the fake prop vomit.

    Her manager was the mother of famous Hollywood actors, Kirk Cameron and Candace Cameron; which meant her talent manager actually had little interested in a TLC Video & hadn’t heard of the groundbreaking black-American, diva girl group of mega talented sistas out of Atlanta. I am originally from the Southern US or Dirty South of hip hop and LaFace was huge in my life as a music fan.

    Tamika went out for the audition and being that she was a NYC area transplant, her background was mostly in stage & musical.
    I recall that she auditioned for a white guy & she made a creative decision, via instincts,(which is the beauty mark of a great technique actor) to turn around & show her appealing asset and smacked her booty as she strutted out the audition studio room and he cast her almost instantly due to her charm, charisma and boldness but yet he isn’t listed on IMDB credits and this So Unpretty Video actually had at least a few directors because Tamika’s scenes were basically directed by the same guy that held the auditions...also unlisted on IMDB (therefore the music industry doesn’t credit proper co-directors, casting people and even song composers). The consolidation of music credits, into the more high profile label media executive personalities (like Left Eye unlisted writing credits per TLC’s own legal complaints against their manager) is how the music industry cannibalizes their own talent, to the point that MTV/VH1 turned into reality tv shows and artist started releasing their own music, via a single track via streaming, which killed the record stores and selling of entire albums and or CD’s.
    Why? Because the listed credited director and producer on IMDB relied on more experienced sub-directors that could create a mini-film narrative; like Tamika’s story line as a young girl with the eating disorder but in real life & therefore different actors may have had different directors & they aren’t credited.
    Anyway, I was so proud of Tamika for getting that role in the biggest selling diva girl group (TLC) our at the time.
    I encouraged her to order the most costly and biggest thing on the menu, she talked about working with the co-director and her NY Stage Theatrical Roots where she sung Send in the Clowns as an audition portfolio before the two of us got into the car and blared TLC and newly released Jay-Z while zooming down Sunset Blvd. The Hollywood Stars were definitely shining that night.
  • Nancy from Washington, DcEvery time I feel "ugly" or "unpretty", I listen to this song and it inspire me to look within myself...and then I begin to realize that what matters the most is what's inside you. Looks will fade, but your heart and soul stays the same...
  • Nikki from Chicago, IlUnpretty" originated from a poem of the same name written by T-Boz, which dealt with a woman's struggle with her self-image. The poem also addressed the comparisons many females make between themselves and the sometimes unrealistic concepts of beauty, as it is commonly portrayed in the media. Upon reading the poem, TLC producer Dallas Austin helped T-Boz adapt the poem into a song. The poem "Unpretty" can be found in T-Boz' 1999 published book of poetry called "Thoughts".
  • Fulu from Limpopo, South Africawhen it comes to women, i think the beauty counts more than anything. that's what man wants,,, a beautiful lady.. but ladies should not stress much if they are ugly.. take it from the song, you will come into terms with the reality of beauty..
  • Phoebe from Belchertown, MaWow...
    Excellent.
  • Tynee from Birmingham, Alboth the song and video are good it just sad that left eye is no longer here
  • Neha from Oakville, CanadaI thought this song was wonderful the first time I had heard it. It is one of my all-time favourite songs and has a very deep meanning to it.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesHanson are not the first band you'd associate with TLC, but when this song came out in 1999, more than a few people began to remark on the similarity between "Unpretty" and Hanson's 1997 #1 "MMM-Bop"!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New York

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New YorkSong Writing

Our chat with Barney Hoskyns, who covers the wild years of Woodstock - the town, not the festival - in his book Small Town Talk.

Daryl Hall

Daryl HallSongwriter Interviews

Daryl Hall's TV show is a hit, and he's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - only one of these developments excites him.

Motley Crue

Motley CrueFact or Fiction

Was Dr. Feelgood a dentist? Did the "Crüecifixion" really happen?

Bryan Adams

Bryan AdamsSongwriter Interviews

What's the deal with "Summer of '69"? Bryan explains what the song is really about, and shares more of his songwriting insights.

Dr. John

Dr. JohnSongwriter Interviews

The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.

Second Wind Songs

Second Wind SongsSong Writing

Some songs get a second life when they find a new audience through a movie, commercial, TV show, or even the Internet.