canadian New Woman Magazine July/August 1999
By Leslee Mason
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.
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.
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).
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.
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."
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."
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
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
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."'
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...