Style Celebrity

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Scary but true... 20 years later, Girl Power lives on

Victoria Beckham is now worth €265m - while 'Scary Spice' is bringing a blast of plain-speaking to the X Factor

Spice Girls
Spice Girls
Mel B, judge on X Factor.

Hannah Betts

Once upon a time, in a land called The Mid Nineties, five heroines in their late girlhood were brought together to form a crack unit to challenge the supremacy of boy bands. They did this using strategic self-stereotyping, platform trainers, and some metaphysical entity entitled "girl power".

Their ethos - fun, sisterly love, lachrymose maternal sentimentality - was rather more successful than their collective musical abilities, which ranged from "loud" to "better when miming". However, Posh, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Ginger created a global phenomenon.

The Spice Girls sold more than 100 million records, making them the best-selling female pop group of all time, the biggest British pop phenomenon since the Beatles, and a posse of the canniest merchandisers-cummerchandise the world has ever seen.

Questions were raised about their sexualising of young womanhood (questions that seem nostalgically naïve given that they remained clothed and untwerking).

By the time the girls hung up their crop tops in December 2000, all were wealthy enough to settle in obscurity. And, yet, the extraordinary thing about the Spice Girls is that they have not. And even more extraordinary is what they have gone on to do as women.

Foremost among the popstrel high-achievers is Victoria Beckham, formerly the ironically named "Posh". As the wife of footballing icon/one-man-global-brand David, and a mum-of-four, 40-year-old Victoria is the one who might have been thought likely to vanish into blingy domesticity. Yet, the least vocally equipped Spiceling was always the most ambitious, from her love of designer garb to her strenuous clawing in the direction of good taste.

So successful has her reincarnation as fashion maven been that this week she was awarded head place in Management Today's list of Britain's top 100 entrepreneurs, beating inventor James Dyson and rag trade veterans Dame Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith.

Beckham is now worth e265m. Her business has grown from a turnover of e1.3m to e38m in five years, and she now employs 100 people. Her new flagship store on London's Dover Street has proved to be a rip-roaring success, while her appointment as a UN goodwill ambassador in September was the icing on her global power broker cake (not that she has any truck with such trivia as food).

Meanwhile, Scary Spice Melanie Brown - though still scary; indeed, some of us may feel she is positively loutish - has harnessed her pugnacity for good as a judge on X Factor. Her bluntness-cumviciousness is such that she makes fellow judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini seem insipid, Simon Cowell appear genial and Louis Walsh look like a saint.

However, viewers have embraced Brown (39) for her humanity (witness Sunday night's genuine tears when her act got the boot) and the twittering masses have pronounced her the show's true winner, regardless of which dolt gets elected at the finale. Cowell is reported to have already asked the Scary One to return next year, complete with a hefty pay rise.

It is no coincidence, either, that Sporty Spice - aka "the one who could actually sing" - is also the one whose solo career actually worked.

Melanie Chisholm (40) has sold over 12 million records and is the only woman to reach number one in the charts as part of a quartet, quintet, duo and solo. She held her own in 2012's TV spectacular Superstar, in which Andrew Lloyd Webber searched for a Jesus to her Mary Magdalen, together with the UK arena tour.

Known for her philanthropic work, Sensible Spice has recently called for starlets such as Rihanna to stop promoting themselves in such a hyperbolically sexual manner.

Meanwhile, "Baby" Emma Bunton (38) appears remarkably well-adjusted, given that she was 18 when the quintet achieved global domination.

No Lohan she. Instead, mum-of-two Bunton seems happy with family life with long-term partner Jade Jones and content to chug along in continued semi-celebrity as host of British radio station Heart FM's breakfast show.

It is only the foghorningly self-promoting Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell (42), who is yet to enjoy a renaissance after a commercially, if not critically successful solo career, together with stints as a children's author and yogi.

And so, 20 years after Girl Powerdom ruled the world, its legacy, and indeed its stars, reign on. In another 20 years, could the spice rebels be rebranded as the UK's national treasures? Reader, they just might.

Irish Independent

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