Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

From clueless to cool and back

Saturday, September 15, 2007 by

Tanja Cilia

Tanja Cilia charts the sorry saga of the Spice Girls

Will they, won’t they? It’s not as if they need the money… although the gup is they will get £10 million each for their 25-date “farewell” extravaganza.No expense is being spared – each singer will have a private jet, courtesy of Virgin Records, to take them and their respective families and entourages, all over Europe, the Far East, the US and the Middle East.

Recently, the much-vaunted Spice Girls Reunion, to which most are looking forward to like a zit on the nose, was said to be “in doubt”. There were “fears” that Mel C might pull out, because she was “desperate” to keep her solo career alive – rather as if it would be marred if she became tainted with her erstwhile fellow chanteuses once more.

So much then for the headliner that Donatella Versace was to design the clothes for the quintet’s comeback. Having been quoted as saying she would “retain” the personas (read nicknames Baby, Scary, Sporty, Ginger and Posh) that had made them “famous”, she had mitigated this by intimating that there would be no more Union Jack dresses, or scruffy sportswear or grunge outfits. I would have hoped so – after all, £200,000 is a tidy sum to spend on clothes, so you might as well get something good for it.

This tour – with our without Mel C – is something that girls who were eight years old at the time the Spice Girls were manufactured, are eagerly awaiting. The rest of us could take it or leave it – and I’m with the latter group.

The Spice Girls’ “phenomenon” is but a ballistic, 21st century version of the Monkees and Partridge Family of my youth.

These, too, were manufactured groups – but there was “only” television behind their creation. The Spice Girls were made to be big.

They were chosen on account of their physiogamy, and definitely not because they could sing. This way, all types of girls could “relate” to one of the singers… and the sum total of fans was translatable into hard cash.

It is obvious that they were merely the human equivalent of spices – something that can be bought for a few cents at any good shop, and optionally added to the main ingredients of a recipe.

In March 1993, the advert appeared in The Stage “R U 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R U streetwise, ambitious, outgoing and determined?” The chosen five were christened Touch by father and son team Bob and Chris Herbert.

In 1996 Touch became Spice Girls under new manager Simon Fuller. The repackaged team launched their career with the aptly-titled Wannabe.

Victoria Beckham, born Victoria Caroline Adams, or Posh Spice has made multi-tasking an art form, designing jeans, wearing outrageous outfits, marketing husband David, nibbling edamame beans, and being a mother. She had acquired her nickname in connection with the fact that her father, electronics engineer Tony, used to drive her to school in a Rolls-Royce and their house boasted a pool. So it was not her accent, as some people mistakenly think, that had landed her the nickname.

This woman, who thinks nothing of doing the school run in five-and-a-half-inch Christian Louboutin heels, and of attending the opening of the Chanel store on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, and spending £25,000 in an hour, has become famous for her dour face. She is the only Spice Girl who has not had a solo Number One hit.

Having assumed the Americans would lap up her every move and make her a star, she was chilled to the bone when NBC demoted what had to be her very own reality TV show (à la Ozzy Osbourne) to a single one-hour programme. And for “being herself” in two episodes of Ugly Betty, she is going to earn £70,000.

So, she is the equivalent of: Five-spice powder, combining sweet, sour, bitter, savoury and salty.

Emma Bunton sang What Took You So Long? in 2001 and imagined herself Petula Clark as she sang Maybe, Free Me, and Downtown, doing its charity cover version.

Much water has flown under the bridge since she won a “pretty baby” contest aged three. When she was four, she asked for – and got – dancing lessons (which were paid for by her modelling work). She was born on January 21, 1976, in North London to a milkman dad and karate instructor mum. She acquired her nickname because, at 18, she was the youngest of the five, and was stereotyped as “the girl next door”.

Her partner is Jade Jones, a former singer with boy band Damage, whom she met when she was 21 and he was 19. They share a huge home in Hertfordshire.

In 2006, baby Spice became an instant hit in Strictly Come Dancing, matching professional Darren Bennett step for step.

Lately she wrote the track Lady which pays homage to Princess Diana – “Lady, you are an inspiration to us all, you made every woman stand so tall.”

Equivalent: Lemon mint – refreshing with a subtle zing.

Melanie Jane Brown, Scary Spice, released the No. 1 R&B hit I Want You Back with Missy Elliott in September 1998. This was the realisation of her childhood dream – “to become a pop star” – for which she played truant from school to attend auditions and dance rehearsals.

When her debut album Hot sold only 50,000 copies in Britain, she crossed The Pond, starred in the Broadway production of Rent, and hosted This is My Moment on ITV. Her second solo album was released in 2005 – but it was her relationship (and child) with Eddie Murphy that really set tongues wagging.

Since then, the gossip about her turns more and more, well, scary: Her new husband Stephen Belafonte had phone sex with an ex-lover just weeks before their wedding (according to the ex-lover herself, Coralie Robinson), and recently she was outed by two women – Christa Parker and Elizabeth Rodriguez – who say she stopped seeing them because she had begun her passionate affair with Eddie Murphy.

This, then, is the Spice Girl who was born on May 29, 1975, and grew up in a mixed-race household in Leeds. Her mother Andrea is English, and her father Martin is from the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Equivalent: Green za’atar, a mixture of dried thyme, toasted white sesame seeds, and salt, to make mind alert and the body strong.

Melanie Chisholm was Sporty Spice, who scooped up her hair in a ponytail, and lived in tracksuits… Her solo debut album Northern Star (autumn 1999) sold three million copies and launched five hit singles.

Proceeds from If That Were Me were donated to a charity for the homeless.

After the break-up, she was signed up by British TV station Channel 4 for The Games in 2003, as part of a celebrity athletics team, in which she was seen sprinting, hurdling, swimming, skating, hammer throwing and performing judo moves. This was the year her second studio album, Reason, was released.

She spent much of 2004 setting up her record company Red Girl Records, with her business partner and manager Nancy Philips. In April 2005 she had the release of Beautiful Intentions, her third album, and in the spring of this year This Time, her fourth compilation, went on sale. Not bad at all for the one-time Mel C who was born on January 12, 1975, in Liverpool and was for a time a session vocalist and ballet dancer.

Equivalent: Green cardamom: An intense punch in a small pod, used in sports medicine.

Geri Halliwell, born Geraldine Estelle Halliwell, left the girl band during a world tour in May 1998. She was the first Spice Girl to release a solo album – Schizophonic – in 2000. It had three UK number one hits and sold over three million copies worldwide.

Her solo career, however, appeared to have come to a standstill after It’s Raining Men… and in her second autobiography admitted to filching cake from George Michael’s bin.

Since then, she has also written stories for children… about nine-year-old Ugenia Lavender, which she started when she became pregnant.

The former Ginger Spice is a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and she has a daughter, Bluebell Madonna, by LA screenwriter Sacha Gervasi.

These days, she goes around with a grim face and gaunt figure, rather than feminine clothes she wore a few weeks ago; she wants to emphasise that she has been in raring to get into perfect shape.

Her new man is Russian multi-millionaire Evgeny Lebedev, who is 26 years old.

Equivalent: Ginger, of course… used to hide the taste of nauseous medicines!

These pretentious posers have reiterated several times that they would never sing together again – for several reasons not least a mighty clash of egos. Yet, here they are, on the brink of actually doing that… despite individually denigrating the rest of the group, several times, in public.

They flaunt obsessions with eating, single parenthood, a succession of parents… and make a mockery of the term that was supposed to bring empowerment to those who do not have enough clout or money to indulge in these gaudy foibles.

Conclusion: A little bit of Spice does you good; too much is bad for the body… the brain… the mind… the soul… the digestion…. and the bank account.

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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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