In the late 90s, manufactured pop bands were at their height, and as every generation before us, we wanted to be able to complete the full dance routine, sing every word, and perform at breaks in the school playground. There was one band that transcended beyond just learning the dance routine and songs, the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls brought along the idea of identity.
For anyone who disappeared in the late 90s, the Spice Girls were a British all girl group manufactured by Simon Fuller. In 1996 they released their first single, Wannabe, and for the next four years Girl Power ruled the world (they were the One Direction of their day) and met some of the¬†most influential people in the world, including Nelson Mandela. Each member had their own distinct image and personality based around the words (and their names) Scary, Posh, Baby, Sporty and Ginger. Whether this was marketing genius or the perfect mix of image and music branding was no concern to me as a nine year girl. Instead‚Äìfor me at least‚ÄìMel Brown, Victoria Beckham (n√©e Adams), Emma Bunton, Melanie Chishom, and Geri Halliwell represented my first obsession with pop music and the first time I was interested in what an identity represented, even it was just from a single word. For the first time I wanted to learn the entire song catalogue, every dance move, and every opinion.
Due to the strong marketing of identity around the Spice Girls a new challenge was brought to the friendship groups: not only learning dance routines but also, which Spice Girl were you? Were¬†you Mel C, the Sporty one with the most powerful voice; or were¬†you Emma, the baby of the group, the sweet one and the only blonde of the group. Were you Victoria, the posh one the group with the most fashionable dresses and the most professional haircuts; or were you Mel B, the loud, noisy, and sometimes Scary; or were you Geri, Ginger Spice, the most confident and outspoken of the group. These distinct personalities meant there was an identity for your friends to compare you to and represent who you were at school. There were different reasons why you were chosen to be that particular Spice Girl: sometimes it was just down to your hair colour, the only blonde girl had to be Baby Spice or if you were ginger meant you were you Geri. Sometimes basic characteristics, like being the loud one in the group, meant that you had to be Mel B. Whatever the reason there was almost a pressure once your Spice Girl had been chosen that you conformed to that identity’s characteristics.
In my group of friends I wasn‚Äôt the blonde one, the popular one, or the sporty one, and I certainly wasn‚Äôt considered the feisty one so Geri and Mel B were out. Instead I was chosen to be Victoria or Posh Spice. This was for two reasons: I had short brown hair and no one else wanted to be her. Victoria was not as feisty or as outspoken as the other girls in the group; she was into fashion and didn‚Äôt seem to sing any of the cool songs. I was Victoria because I still didn‚Äôt know who I was supposed to be to myself or my friends. But now that I was Victoria, I was a little bit aloof and had good fashion sense but not a dominate force. Over time I told myself Victoria was my favourite Spice Girl so I would conform to the identity and we could then practice and perform the songs to the rest of the playground. Secretly I always loved Mel C because she is a tremendous singer although I do respect and admire Victoria Beckham much more now for her post Spice girl career.
It seems silly now to think of dividing all of the girls of the U.K. into five different personality groups, but isn‚Äôt that part of girlhood to try and discover who you are, what your identity is, and to gain that confidence to be able to express yourself‚Äìwhich I did after the Spice Girls were no longer popular. Although I conformed as Victoria it did make me aware of the importance of identity. No individual member of the Spice Girls represents my personality. Instead I am a mixture of the feistiness of Geri, the caring heart of Emma, and the loudness of Mel B, but it allowed me as a girl to play and perform with my friends and gain some understanding of identity. So in answer to the¬†question ‚ÄòWhich Spice Girl are you?,‚Äô my answer at school would have been Victoria, but my answer now is a mixture.
Girl Museum Inc.