Penthouse Magazine:

  • Geri Halliwell, who helped drive the Spice Girls to the top of the charts, boasts about Girl
    Power and Mind Power as she prances onstage. But there's no doubt that it's Ginger Spice's
    Body Power that sends her millions of fans world wide into ecstasy.

She prides herself as being the smartest member of the Spice Girls, the one who prances around onstage in a red sequinned dress that, while its push-up bra leaves little to the imagination, is emblazoned across the chest with the slogan Mind Power. In the two years since she burst into the charts as a member of that all-British quintet, the singer who now uses the stage name Ginger Spice has become one of the hottest, wealthiest, and - if you go by her pronouncements - the most politically correct female pop artists in the world. Sure, she appears to have been cloned in some sort of mad scientific experiment to produce a scaled-down version of Madonna's voice fused to Jayne Mansfield's boobs. But Geraldine Estelle Halliwell, as she was born in a blue-collar English city, claims that the reason she has made it so fast is that she took as her inspiration and role model another daughter of the working class, Margaret Thatcher.

Though she is in a rather different line of work than the Iron Lady, Halliwell says that she too got ahead by using her natural female brain power - Girl Power, as she calls it. Mrs T, Geri elaborates, was the pioneer of the ideology of hard work and achievement that the Spice Girls are trying to spread through song as "Wannabe" and "Spice up your life".

All this talk about empowerment and doing away with the patriarchal society's bad old ways (Girl Power - as defined by Geri & Co "is when your mates reply to wolf whistles by shouting: Get yer arse out!") certainly moves records. The group has earned more than $53 million, with number one hits in 51 countries since the release of their debut album, Spice, in 1996. And it's Halliwell's fervid sloganeering, rather than their lackluster cotton-candy ditties, that, according to industry experts, excercises such a hold on a huge following by impressionable adolescent girls. However, much as this Spice phenomenon
delights conservative intellectuals, who extol the 25-year-old Ginger as a wholesome model for the millennium, it has to be said that, as our remarkably frank photographs demonstrate, a more accurate logo for her cleavage would be body power.

The daughter of a used-car salesman and a cleaning lady (who worked a shopping mall in a town in eastern England), the young Geraldine Halliwell is remarked by school friends as burning with ambition to break away from her grim background and become a star. She wasn't at all sure at the time, it seems, just what kind of star she would be. Perhaps a famous TV personality (she worked for a short while after leaving school as a game show hostess for a station in Turkey). Maybe a dancer. For hours
she practised showgirl routines in front of her bedroom mirror, clad in lacy gloves and fishnet tights. Or maybe, just maybe, she would get her big break as a pop star, though that seemed unlikely since, try as she might (even spending the equivalent of $450 of her own money on demo tapes), she couldn't sing in tune.

The one thing of which Geri Halliwell, as she was identifying herself by the time she hit the job market, was sure was that her ample curves - then considerably more generous than her current 32-23-33 measurements - that would help her, as she put it,make her mark.

"I couldn't believe how determined she was", recalls a sports trainer, Ray McKenna, with whom she worked out for two hours a day. "She said, 'I'm going to be famous, and I want my body to be perfect.' It was already pretty good. Her bum was fantastic, but she was worried about her stomach and upper arms."

Her rubenesque padding is indeed one of the eye-catching features of our series of photos of the young Geri, taken in London and on the Mediterranean Island of Majorca. It was in 1991 that Geri is said to have begun to request that photographs immortalize her in the nude for a portfolio she was accumulating. She explained that she was a "would-be" model, and indeed no one seems to recall any mention of her wanting to follow Margaret Thatcher into the ideology business. Only five feet two, Geri was well short of the stature required of fashion models. But it appears that the sector of the profession that she had in mind is what euphemistically is known as glamour modelling. Soft porn.

According to the London Mirror, she was just 19 when she dropped by the BCM club, a popular Majorca nightspot where photographers would go to recruit ingenues to pose for racy magazines. Demanding to speak to the manager, Tony Palmeri, she asked for a job as an erotic dancer. "She told me I wouldn't be disappointed", he told the London tabloid. "I gave her a weeks trial, but after one night I realised that that cheeky, saucy style of hers was going to pull down the crowds. One day she would be dressed from top to head in leather. The next day she was in a giant red wig."

A deejay, Des Mitchell, recalled that her technique was less balletic than basic. "Geri took the nightclub by storm," he said, "flirting with the deejays, pinching their bottoms, blowing kisses at the boys in the crowd, she would dress in clingy crop tops and hipsters or in basques and suspenders. And every night she gyrated her body in one of the small cages hung ten feet above dance floor. Geri had a star quality even then. In days she had a group of fans begging for dates and autographs. The other girls were jealous of the attention she got, but Geri wasn't interested in the men. If anyone went too far, she would put him down with a sharp retort. Or deliberately tease him by lifting her skirt and flashing her knickers."

The one man she was interested in on Majorca, the Mirror claims, was Sebastian Amegual, a Spanish photographer to whom she laid siege after she learned he was searching for a fresh-faced newcomer for a sexy magazine shoot. He had settled on another club when Geri "sidled up to me, gave me a cheeky smile, and said: 'Please do some photos for me as well'", he told the Mirror.

"I needed a tall, slender model. But she had a fantastic body. Geri wouldn't take no for an answer. She was so persistent. She told me she wanted to be famous, and she would try anything. She begged me to take the photos. She kept on until I agreed. I warned her she would have to model topless, but she didn't care."

For one shot she donned dominatrix-style thigh-high stiletto boots. In another one she stretched languorously on a towel. "I had to catch my breath, she looked so fantastic", said Amengual. "I have never seen a body like it. I was fighting to control myself. She was fighting to control myself. She was so sexy. I just thought, Oh my God."

Amengual continued, "I have photographed many girls, but they are all so skinny. Geri has a fantastic figure with huge breasts, I am used to naked girls, but she was special." Geri posed for him several times, and during one especially memorable session peeled off the top of her hot-pink bikini and, attired just in G-string, lolled back, giggling, over a rock. "A group of soldiers were staring at Geri through their binoculars," the photographer said. "She was really cool about it." Later that afternoon, he says,
he taught her such intimate tricks of the centerfold business as tipping icy cold water over her breasts to make the nipples hard.

Soon after that photo shoot she returned to England. It was there that she began to work out with Ray McKenna, going on dawn runs and then returning to her little apartment, where she would strip to a leotard and lift weights. She took a job running an aerobics class down a gym, where she would don a tight T-shirt over the leotard. "Men came down just to watch her," a
manager at the gym said. "When she jumped up and down, they steamed up the glass panel wall. I removed it in the end because we had to clean it so much. Everyone fancied her, but she was brilliant at verbal judo and could put men down without being cruel." It was a repeat performance, in short, of Majorca.

For all her boasts about her potency being due to her brain. Geri's most noticeable natural endowments were strictly below her neck. Her lips had yet to blossom into their current rosebud beauty, which some cynics claim is owed to implants of collagen. But she had absorbed the first crucial lesson of stardom, which is that all truly great divas exude an aura of being sexually knowing yet unattainable.

In November 1992 she turned up at the West End studio of a London photographer. She did not have an appointment. She asked him to do a round of "test" shots of her in the nude. "At that time she was an unknown model, and any assistance that she could receive would obviously be helpful to her," the photographer says. For one portrait she posed in a come-hither pose that emphasized her pendulous DD-cup breasts and lavish buttocks. In another she archly parted her lips, staring right down
the camera.

"I recall that she was quite satisfied with the photographs," the shutterbug says. "I simply stored the photographs for future use and thought no more of it. The next occasion when the question of Geri Halliwell came about by chance was when I was in a pub in February or March 1997 and talking to a friend." The friend's daughter was a fan of the Spice Girls, and she showed the photographer the pictures she was collecting of the "Big-brained Spice." He instantly recognised Geri Halliwell. Only now she
was known as Ginger Spice.

Her transition from nude model to mascot for hip conservatives (British Tories festooned their war room during the last election with posters of the Spice Girls) was brought about. Geri claims, in one of those moments of self-awareness that seems to bless most great, well, figures in history. "I was doing nude stuff, although I didn't do any crotch shots," she says. "That
wasn't my thing. It was great money, and I was getting some attention. Then, after a while, the novelty wore off and I thought, 'What the fuck am I doing? Time for another change.'"

She returned to college, which is where the brains supposedly start to come in ("I read Sons and Lovers and Hamlet and things like that.") Meanwhile, she was also commuting to Turkey for the game show. Its producers recruited her because they wanted a girl "who looked half-descent, but who had some personality," she says with her customary modesty.

It was early in 1994 that she spotted an ad in an entertainment magazine: "R.U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated?" it asked, soliciting candidates for a girl group that two pop-music entrepreneurs were starting. Geri was one of the firsts they hired. "Geri was stunning, with a fantastic body - just what we were looking for," said one of the men who would coach the girls in their routines (somehow, guys still weren't appreciating that
Geri was the reincarnation of her nation's most-missed Prime Minister). "She couldn't sing in tune, but could dance a little.
When we asked how old she was she simply said, 'I'm as old or as young as you want me to be. I can be a ten-year-old with big
tits if you want.'"

The newly minted foursome (the fifth eventually would be chosen by the group) was given accommodations in a house in a London suburb and groomed the nineties successors to all those other gooey girl groups that had come and gone before: the Go-Gos, the Bangles, the Ronettes.

The difference was that this group chirped allegiance to a message for the age of post-feminist neoconservatism. A message that Geri - sorry, Ginger - insists is absolutely genuine. From the bosom - sorry, heart. "When I talk about Girl Power I fucking well believe in it," she told a British magazine.

"Everyone wants to see it as some great marketing ploy. It's not. It's something that has helped me. It's given me strength. All I represent is myself, basically. If people want to see a bubbly redhead with large breasts, then that's fine. But then, if people can maybe subconsciously receive a message - you know, that the average woman is a size 12 or 14, and they can see that I'm not a skinny supermodel and I can still be up there It means that with the right spirit and a good heart you can achieve

Her partners in the band also perform under nicknames, and just as Geri's image is said to be of Deep Thought, they each have their own motif.

Baby Spice (real name: Emma Bunton) describes herself as a "mummy's girl" and is blonde, perky and, as one male fan recently put it, "the cutest case of arrested development you can imagine". In Spice World, the group's goofy first movie that opened last winter (Boxing day 1997), Baby's big scene is when she tells a pumped-up man that she has so many stuffed animals there is not enough room for him in her bed.

The sulky looking Posh Spice (Victoria Adams) is the only member from a non-blue-collar background. Her father "owned his own business" as well as a Rolls-Royce, we are breathlessly informed by the film and record-company handlers, whose own chief business these days is drumming up Spicemania around the planet.

Scary Spice (Melanie Brown), is the only black Spice Girl. When a writer for Vogue asked her about the group's reputation for constantly being in search of the next gimmick, she shrieked: "You can't manufacture this mouth!" The writer noted, however, that Scary's non-natural attributes included a pierced tongue.

Lastly, there's Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm), who has a gold tooth and a Celtic cross tattoo on one arm, and usually appears in a tracksuit and sneakers. "Plus, I had been told that she was the only member of the group who could really sing,"the Vogue writer reminisced. "Then I saw her on the MTV Video Awards and realized that she was more of a screamer than a singer, and didn't appear to be the brightest bulb."

When the band asked was asked by People Magazine to clarify just what went on in that suburban London house in order to create so much, well, talent, Scary snapped, "Listen, we are controlling this interview, not you."

Some critics suggest that Geri is turning into a modern-day Lady Macbeth, who'll burn out, as one put it, "in a blaze of her own ruthless ambition."

Her ex-boyfriends have been pursued relentlessly by the tabloids. "There were no love-letters, flowers, or meals - just sex," one complained. "She was a career girl who thought more of her future than she did of me." She dumped one lover, it was reported, by sending him a typewritten letter after he told a journalist that she was "good in bed."

Last fall the British press was in a full hue and cry, alleging that she had turned into such a "bossy old moo" that she had strong-armed her bimbo mates, as the Observer sardonically put it, into sacking their manager and installing Geri herself instead. "Oh, for God's sake," Geri riposted, "that's an insult to the other four girls. The four of them has got just as much intelligence of their own What we have shown is actual Girl Power in action. We've shown we do take our business seriously, and we take our destinies into our own hands." Her most recent (at least as we go to press) beau was 21-year-old Jamie Morrison, the son of a millionaire rock-pop promoter, as well as being a top polo player and a friend of Prince Charles's. Jamie reportedly dropped his girlfriend of three years, Julian Parker, after he got together with Geri in an Irish castle where they both happened to be spending the Christmas holidays.

"I think Geri is so tacky," Parker told the press. "I'm shocked Jamie's going out with her." But the romance was not to last long. By March a British paper headlined: "Geri gives 'boring' lover the boot."

What does destiny hold for the bounteously gifted Ms Halliwell? Not much, if you go by the torrent of scorn poured on her group not only by the critics, which is as may be expected, but by the person whom the quintet claim as their music industry role model: Madonna. That superstar reportedly said that she hated a photo of her that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone's women in Rock issue because "I look like a Spice Girl."

There has been speculation that the group, devoid of professional management, will fall into the trap of believing it's own hype. Girl Power has a certain shelf life, the doomsayers observe. At some point the group will have to either grow up, in the same way that Madonna parlayed her toy-boy image into one of mature sensuality, or shut up.

The Spice Girls were glaring absent from the nominations of this years Grammy Awards, but claimed they are unalarmed by an industry snub that does not reflect the fever that they still arouse in their pubescent fans. Asked if they worry about Andy Warhol's legendary pronouncements, Geri admits she calculates that they already have had "about 15 and a half" minutes of their entitlement. "But, you know, people are saying that Elvis to Elvis when he started out. Not to compare ourselves to Elvis, but even if it ended tomorrow I feel bloody proud of my four friends and having gotten this far."

To borrow from another clich?, do not expect Geri Halliwell to go quietly. Luscious (How I love that word mentioned together with Geri, luscious Geri... ) it may appear, she has skin, she has observed proudly, "like a rhino."