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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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."