Modern Woman Article

From the canadian New Woman Magazine July/August 1999

By Leslee Mason

"It's not faaiirr," wailed my five-year-old. "How come you get to meet Ginger?" Haley, my Spice Girl-loving wannabe-singing daughter was finding my upcoming interview with Geri Halliwell a bitter pill to swallow. Who could blame her? My interview with the seasoned ex-Spice would be a dream come true for virtually anyone under the age of 12. Patting my baby's head, I promised not to return without fair Geri's autograph.

Meanwhile, at MuchMusic, a mixed crowd made up predominantly of screaming 'tweens' had begun to gather. When Geri arrives, she greets her fans cheerfully as her small entourage moves her quickly inside. Outside, the crowd is contained by security guards who desperately hold back their laughter as crying 12-year-old girls kneel down to kiss the ground Geri has walked on.

In just a year, the pavement beneath Geri's feet has gone from solid to shaky and back to steady. The tremors started in May 1998 when she announced she was leaving the mind-numbingly successful Spice Girls. While it appeared Geri had forgone the last few of her 15 minutes of fame, in a Schwarzenegger-like statement, Geri swore she'd be back.

Keeping mum amid a storm of rumors, the flamboyant redhead cocooned herself, emerging less than a year later with an EMI record deal, a new role as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations and a fresh new image. Gone were Ginger's two-tone hair, platform boots and knickers-flashing Union Jack dress (sold at an auction to raise money for kids with cancer).

"Hello," the pint-sized Geri greets me with a kiss. Her strawberry-blonde hair is straight and long (courtesy of extensions) and she's sporting a pink top, black capri pants and ballet flats. Her face has a freshly scrubbed, English maid look to it. She looks about 10 years younger than Ginger 'makeup-by-Tammy-Faye-Baker' Spice did. Heck she really could be 26. Settling into chairs we quickly get down to business. "I fell in love with those girls," she says other ex-group members. But like many passionate love affairs, the romance eventually fizzled. She told the girls she'd be leaving thc group in September of '98 to pursue other interests, when a scheduling conflict forced her to cancel a TV interview about the breast cancer scare she'd faced at 18, Geri says she flipped. "I was furious." What good is talking about girl power if you don't actually have time to empower anyone? Feeling like a liar and a hypocrite," she made the decision to leave the group early - within hours. "It was a gut instinct. You know when it's in your tummy and you've just got to do it."

She relied on that same instinct when she decided to record her solo debut album, Schizophonic ."I didn't know whether I was good enough, but I think automatically we are drawn to what we are afraid of. I think we have to conquer our fears."

Or at least face them, since filling those five pairs of platforms would be a feat for even those with killer pipes. While notorious for her leadership abilities, Geri's talent in the vocal department has always been questionable.

" I know that I'm not Celine Dion." she admits. Even if people think [the album's] crap, I'm personally fulfilled because I've managed to complete it. But I suppose I want people to like what I've done. I hope you like what I've done," she says, eyeballing me.

Actually I do. I'm a sucker for catchy tunes. And while Geri's not a songbird, her voice has a nice ring to it. Besides, I've always liked her spunky 'guhl powa' attitude. That message hasn't changed, but the woman behind it definitely has. "I've grown up a little bit and I've decided not to wear a push-up bustier and hot pants, but my heart and mind is the same," she insists. "What I'm giving is so honest. I am not perfect. I struggle. I'm afraid but I try to be the best I can."

Her sincerity is, in part what made Geri a strong asset to the Spice Girl team. As Ginger, she hoped her music would inspire young fans. But now she hopes to inspire their parents as well. Born in 1972 in Watford, England, to a Spanish mother and Swedish-English father, Geri says she grew up feeling like an outsider and turned to books and music for comfort. "There's two kinds of people in life: There's the ones in high school, they're the best in everything. They get all the boyfriends, they're cheerleaders and everyone loves them," says Geri. "Then there's other's who are not quite fitting in and that was me. I was too short and too whatever and not good enough."

All those ego-bashing years have stood her in good stead. "I don't wake up in the morning and think 'oh my God. Everybody loves me!"' she laughs. Still, she says, "l must have an ego, 'cause I'm doing the pop thing." Of course, having your clothes, hair and weight

Scrutinized and criticized on a regular basis can keep you humble. Or insecure, Geri, who recently admitted she struggled with both anorexia and bulimia during her modelling days and after her father's death when she was 21, says keeping perspective isn't always easy. I had a photograph taken for a women's magazine. I've lost a few pounds but you know that little bit here?'' (She stands, lifts up her top and grabs nonexistent love handles.) In a particular pose, Geri says her little loveys were hanging over the side of her trousers. When the magazine asked if she wanted the fat airbrushed out, her first response, she says, was a resounding "Yeah. Do it!" But she quickly reconsidered. "I thought 'I'm not going to do that' because the average woman is not size eight or 10, she's a 14. And I want to be as real as I possibly can." She shakes her head. "I'm the same as everyone else. If only I was a few pounds lighter, if only whatever. It's important to realize that there are skinny women out there that have the same problems as everyone else. Nobody is ever satisfied."

In the past, Geri says, she had always bought clothes a bit too small, thinking "I'll just slim into them." Then one day she decided to be kind to herself. "I brought this dress and it was a little bit too tight. I took it back and bought a bigger size. It was just like saying 'you know what? If you lose a few pounds that would be great. But if you don't that's okay. You can still wear that nice dress."' It was a turning point for her. "It was like saying 'Geri Halliwell I accept you for who you are."'

Whether the rest of the world will follow suit remains to be seen. Later that night, my wide-eyed daughter marvels at the yellow lined notepaper bearing Geri's signature scrawl. "Read it to me mama," she demands. 'To Haley, Love Geri.' "Geri?" she cries, dismayed. You told me you were interviewing Ginger." This is the new improved Ginger, I tell her. Squinting suspiciously at me, she pauses for a brief second before shrugging her shoulders, "Girl power," she screeches, flashing me a peace sign before dashing off with Geri's autograph in hand. One down...