A missing member and a midnight heist: The Spice Girls' journey to a worldwide phenomenon.


As a 22-year-old, Geri Halliwell was struggling to make ends meet, at one point juggling five different jobs in a week to fund sessions in a studio.

She wanted to be somebody, but becoming somebody was the tough part. Housekeeping, bartending, looking after kids. None of it was very glamorous.

Then she saw an ad in a trade magazine – it was the 90s, there was no social media or job sites – calling for young “streetwise” women to audition for an all-female pop act on Friday March 4, 1993.

It sounded perfect… but Geri couldn’t make it. She would be overseas visiting her grandmother.

The midnight mission that set the Spice Girls free. Post continues after podcast. 

Approximately 400 women with similar hopes and dreams did make it. They were placed in groups of 10 and danced to Stay by British R&B group Eternal, then made to perform a solo song of their choice.

Only 12 made the cut for the second round of auditions: Among them were Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown and Melanie Chisholm.

After returning from Spain, Geri felt compelled to ring the men who had placed the ad, Chris and Bob Herbert from Heart Management. She’d kept the ad stuck to her mirror for weeks and well, something just felt right. She asked if they were still looking for talent – they were, and they invited her to the second audition.

A week later, Victoria, Melanie B, Melanie C, Geri and another woman, Michelle Stephenson, were selected to be members of the girl band named Touch.

spice girls

All five moved into a Berkshire house and they spent much of 1994, living, practising and recording, together. There was an internal struggle: one member, Michelle Stephenson, started having doubts early and was replaced by Emma Bunton.

Lauren Bravo, author of What Would The Spice Girls Do?, told Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky, there have been many stories of why Michelle left - that she wasn't getting along with the others, that she wasn't willing to put in the work, that she was going to look after her sick mother and wanted to return to university.


"Poor Michelle... there are lots of different versions of the story. Michelle claims that it was her decision to leave and she says that she's still happy with that decision. I think we have to take her at her word, but you can't help but wonder if she kicks herself just a little bit."

Michelle Stephenson
Michelle Stephenson left the band before their big break (woops) and was replaced by Emma Bunton.

Touch was a band of five women with five different styles and personalities. The name didn't feel representative.

Geri was in an aerobics class, stepping side to side when a light bulb went off: "Spice". She ran back to the house and shouted out it to the other four.

The "Girls" in Spice Girls came later, but it was at this moment the best-selling female group of all time was born.

For more than a year, the Spice Girls worked hard, often making tough career decisions that went against the advice of those in the industry and taking drastic steps, like a night time heist, to make sure they would have control of their own music.


"The story that people don't necessarily know is that, yes they were manufactured up to a point, but when they weren't happy with the direction that Chris and Bob Herbert were taking them in they decided they weren't going to sign this contract," Lauren Bravo explained.

"They all piled into Geri's car in the middle of the night, they broke into the recording studio, stole their master recordings, drove to Sheffield, called the managers and said 'That's it, we're not coming back'. They managed themselves after that for a year."

Viva Forever. Source: Getty.

They also really fought music executives about the music they wanted to release. The execs wanted a song with more of an R&B sound for their first single, but the Spice Girls insisted on Wannabe.

Geri and Mel B fought for it all the way. The women got their way, and they were right.

By the end of that year, Wannabe had a hit number one in 22 countries. It was released in the US in January 1997 and stayed at number one for four weeks.

When 1997 ended, Wannabe was the best-selling single by a girl band with more than seven million copies sold worldwide.

As Wannabe was released, they were still just Victoria, Mel C, Mel B, Emma and Geri. But soon after, Top of the Pops magazine devised the nicknames for a feature article that ran in July 1996.

Posh Spice, Sporty Spice, Scary Spice, Baby Spice and Ginger Spice.

spice girls brit awards 1997
The iconic Spice Girls performance at the 1997 Brit Awards. Image: Getty.

Five women with different style and different personalities, and they were all able to let themselves shine.

Over the next couple of years the band would release three studio albums, 11 singles, and 18 music videos. There was also a movie Spice World, various television specials, and merch sales of $75 million annually.

Put simply, the Spice Girls were a global phenomenon.

And it was all about girl power.

In 1998, Geri departed the group, and in 2000, the Spice Girls announced their hiatus.

spice girls london olympics
Remember we we collectively LOST OUR SHIT over this moment? Image: Getty.

Seven years later a reunion tour sold out in 38 seconds and for four minutes in 2012, the entire world stopped (and tweeted - seriously, there were 116,000 tweets per minute) for their medley of Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life at the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony.

On November 5, 2018, the Spice Girls announced a Reunion Spice World UK 2019 Tour without Posh. The first show in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday saw an attendance of 75,000 people.

It's been 23 years since Wannabe was released and 19 years since the band first went their separate ways.

It's been a long time between performances, but thanks to the Spice Girls, girl power has never ended.