The Geri Halliwell of the 21st century is far removed from her 20th century alter-ego, Ginger Spice, as the 2001 Brit Awards showed. The svelte blonde with minimal make-up at the awards bore little resemblance to the fiesty redhead of her Spice Girl days.
Geraldine Estelle Halliwell was born in Watford on August 6, 1972, to a Spanish mother and a half Swedish, half-English father. After doing her A-Levels, the brunette travelled round Europe, picking up jobs here and there a podium dancer in Majorca, a TV hostess in Turkey, a stint as a topless model, as well as more mundane jobs, such as aerobics teacher and barmaid. But fame on a large scale eluded her until she answered a small ad in The Stage
newspaper that was looking to recruit a girl band.
That was the Spice Girls and, after signing to Virgin, their meteoric rise to fame began. With a 1996 single, Wannabe,
hitting paydirt all over the world, within six months the five were the biggest things in popular culture. Two albums and a movie, Spiceworld
followed, with the girls netting high-profile meetings with world leaders that put them on the front pages of all the newspapers.
But something had to give and it was Geri. In May 1997 she walked out of the group after she was told the band's schedule didn't allow time for her to give an interview about breast cancer a subject close to Geri's heart. Forfeiting the girls' tour of America, the redhead went to ground (although it was obviously not going to be for long - her departing press release had the postscript: "P.S. I'll be back") and was later spotted at her chum George Michael
's South of France hideaway, her Shi Tzu Harry under her chair, reading a self-help book.
And sure enough she did come back with a radically different image. After selling off her Spice Girls' memorabilia at Sotheby's, raising $250,000 for charity in the process, she was asked to be a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, freeing her from her bawdy, cartoon "Ginger Spice" image. And in 1999, her first solo single was released. Entitled Look At Me,
the video laid Ginger to rest for good.
In 2001 Geri released a cover version of The Weathergirls' It's Raining Men
a title which was sadly at odds with her private life. Of all the five girls, Geri has had least luck in the love stakes. Although she is said to have dated Robbie Williams
- who was once linked with Sporty Spice - she herself has confessed that her ideal man is "probably gay". Despite this, she gave birth to daughter Bluebell Madonna on May 14th, 2006, after a brief romance with Hollywood script writer Sacha Gervasi.
When Bluebell's christening in April brought all the former Spice Girls - save Mel B, who was in LA with her three-week-old baby Angel Iris - back together, reports started circulating that a reunion tour was on the cards. The stories turned out to be true, with the band going on the road in December 2007, to phenomenal success. However, in February 2008 they announced that they were going their separate ways again due to family commitments.
"I feel a mixture of sadness and joy. I know it's time to come home but I will miss everyone," said Geri as the tour's final date approached. "What I have learnt is that I can never say never. If you"d asked me ten years ago if I would have been at Madison Square Garden with the Spice Girls, I would have said no. But look what has happened, and that is my lesson."