The pop band that inspired a generation of women


The Spice Girls inspired a generation of young women with their girl power manifesto

Their pop-friendly version of girl power may have been smirked at by 90s feminists, but 23 years later it seems they’ve helped raise a generation of women inspired to be whatever they “really, really want” to be.

While their tunes were belters, the Spice Girls were more than just a band.

“When I was an 11-year-old, seeing Mel C in a football shirt, being a Northerner and still being able to be successful, I went, ‘Oh, I can get out of here’,” actress Faye Marsay revealed to Kate Thornton on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time.

“It wasn't necessarily about image that made them uber feminine and sexy. It was about being an individual. And I think people forget the impact that the Spice Girls had on young women.”

The Spice Girls met royalty and politicians alike during their reign

Back in 1994, when Kate was the 21-year-old editor of Smash Hits magazine, she remembers being in a meeting with her publisher when the Spice Girls burst into their office.

“I'm in this meeting and all I could see all their shoes jumping up and down and they caused mayhem!” recalled Kate on White WIne Question Time.

“I said to my publisher, we've got to go down and see what this is all about. And as I open the door, I literally just got bombarded by Geri and Mel B going ‘Girl power! You're a girl, you got this.’ And they gave me this whole kind of manifesto of theirs.”

The girls went on to beg Kate for coverage in the magazine: “I said, listen guys, girls don't sell magazines at the moment, but if it [Wannabe] gets to number one, I'll give you your cover… And we did! We're still friends to this day. I love them so much.”

From the very start with the release of anthemic Wannabe in 1996, the Spice Girls really did take the music world by storm. Since then they’ve sold 85 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling female group of all time, while mega merchandising deals with the likes of Walkers and Pepsi allegedly netting them over £300 million.

Faye isn’t the only high-profile name to have fallen under the Spice Girls’ spell either. One of their biggest celeb fans is Adele, who attended their recent reunion gig, where she came face-to-face with her favourite Spice, Ginger.

“It’s no secret how much I love them, how much they inspired me to run for my life and never look back,” the singer said on her Instagram account. “I finally got to meet Ginger, I got drunk with the girls and quite frankly I can’t believe how far I’ve come!”

Another big name at that gig was actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who dressed the part as 90s Mel B.

“When I tell you what it meant to 7-year-old me to see @officialmelb on television... to see myself on television, singing, dancing, jumping around shouting about girl power... I will NEVER forget that feeling” she posted on Instagram.

And it doesn’t end there. Actress Emma Stone is such a fan, she was brought to tears when Mel B recorded a special message for her, Blake Lively admitted she used to dress just like Baby Spice, while screenwriter of the moment, Phoebe Waller-Bridge said Scary Spice was the inspiration behind Villanelle in Killing Eve.

"It was because she was scary, a bit like Villanelle, perhaps I've never let Scary go," the Fleabag star explained at the BAFTAS earlier this year.

"She was wild, she was out there, she didn't care about what people thought about her. She was just really cool. And wore trousers."

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It’s not just famous folk who were inspired by the Spice Girls and their Girl Power manifesto. Many in their late 20s or early 30s thank Sporty, Ginger, Scary, Baby and Posh for showing them they could be anything they wanted to be.

Sharn Rayment, 30 is a digital producer and an avid Spice Girls fan since the age of 7.

“They were the women I wanted to be when I grew up: strong, fun, and unapologetic,” she explains. “While the female role models in my real life were homemakers and housewives, the Spice Girls were independent go-getters, and I was so inspired by their ability to break that mould of what women 'should' be.”

Their brand of feminism received many a dig in the media, especially when Geri called Margaret Thatcher the “original Spice Girl”. But for many, like Sharn, they were a first taste of feminism and showed young girls what girl power really could achieve.

Their unique personalities showed young girls they could be whoever they wanted to be

“Growing up in a suburban town with working class parents who weren't educated in feminism or women's rights, the Spice Girls were a huge gateway into social equality for me,” says Sharn.

“I know for a fact that had it not have been for the Spice Girls, I would not be the passionate feminist I am today. They opened my eyes to the possibility of tearing up gender stereotypes, which had a profound effect on me from a young age.”

Faye agrees. “At the time, none of us had the internet or mobile phones. They [The Spice Girls] were so different to anything we'd ever seen and gave so much hope to young people.”

The big question then is will there ever be another band like the Spice Girls? One who can hit the top of the charts and empower young girls? Sharn doesn’t think so.

The Spice Girls were one of the first bands to really capitalise on big marketing deals, netting over £300 million

“In my opinion, girl bands today like Little Mix like to think they're doing their bit for feminism, yet keep quiet on so many feminist issues. They refuse to admit they're feminists and rarely offer an opinion on social issues when questioned,” she says.

“What made the Spice Girls brilliant is that they didn't hold back when it came to calling out sexism - they didn't just swallow it and smile, they made sure their voices were heard. Until another band starts doing that, the Spice Girls will always have that edge.”

Hear Faye Marsay and Natalia Tena discuss their love of the Spice Girls, plus what it was really like working on Game Of Thrones on White Wine Question Time on iTunes and Spotify.