R&B act 3LW is once again true to its name (which stands for “three little women”) with the addition of Jessica “J” Benson. The 15-year-old Severn, Md.-native was chosen from hundreds who auditioned to join founding members Kiely Williams and Adrienne Bailon in the group’s lineup.
3LW was reduced to a duo last year after Naturi Naughton exited over tensions in the group. Williams and Bailon have denied Naughton’s allegations of favoritism and racially motivated mistreatment by Michelle Williams, the group’s manager and 16-year-old Kiely Williams’ legal guardian. Bailon is 19-years-old.
Benson was discovered at a Washington, D.C. audition, the final tryout following sessions in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. She made her public debut as a member of the group over the weekend at the Soul Train Awards in Pasadena, Calif.
“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,” Benson said in a statement. “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.”
“We are so happy that J has joined us as the new member of 3LW,” Williams and Bailon added. “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.”
Although officially a member of the group, Benson will continue her high school studies in Maryland. The group will soon begin rehearsing in New York for a planned summer tour.
The trek will come in support of 3LW’s Epic release “A Girl Can Mack.” Released in October, the album debuted at No. 12 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 15 on The Billboard 200. The set has sold 176,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. The group’s 2000 debut moved 1.3 million copies and spawned the singles “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” and “Playas Gon’ Play,” which reached No. 22 and No. 56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
Following Naughton’s exit from the group, Williams and Bailon went ahead with promoting the release of “A Girl Can Mack” with through appearances and interviews. The duo also filmed “The Cheetah Girls” with Raven Simone (“The Cosby Show,” “Dr. Doolittle”) and Lynn Whitfield (“Stepmom”), which will premiere this spring on the Disney Channel.