Emma modeled from the age of three. But she didn't call it modeling. She called it "Smiles". You can see why.
Her first job was for a Mothercare catalogue. She was on TV extolling Polly Pocket toys, travelcards, and Mentadent P toothpaste (she had to pretend to brush her teeth on an aeroplane). And in Switzerland she was known as the girl who are strawberries.
Her father was a milkman. Still is. She used to go on the rounds sometimes, sitting on a shelf next to him, helping out. Collecting the tips at Christmas. Her parents split when she was 11. "Everyone says, 'It was the worst time of my life', but it wasn't, really," she says. She was into her dance and drama, and she would sit in her bedroom for hours, recording her own radio shows. (She offers me a little flavour: "...and now we've got the weather! ...and now we've got Bananarama!...")
When she was 14, her parents had to withdraw her from stage school. No more money. "It just sort of went all front. It was awful." She had to go to normal school. It felt so odd. Then, three weeks later, her old stage school offered her a scholarship. Life's been like that. Smiles. Whenever she's on a stage, or in a TV studio, the mouth muscles start working. She can't help it. "Whenever I hear one of our songs I do still get goose-pimples."
What if you're really pissed off?
"It might not be a big one. It might be one of these (she demonstrates a less full smile). It won't be a (she gives the full teeth-forward toothpaste-selling beam)."
She's scared of big things. Anything, you know... big. Like, if she sees an aeroplane on the ground, she can't look at it. Maybe it comes from when she saw a huge King Kong on the side of a building in Oxford Street when she was a kid. And she'll never forget when she read that book about Myra Hindley. Particularly that one scene where one of the boys was struggling and he tried to pick a lampshade to whack on Ian Brady's head. "I just remember that feeling that poor boy must have been feeling," she says. "Fucking hell. Do you know what I mean?" It's the sheer cruelty she can't believe. "I don't think I'd like to get in the same room as her but I'd like to see her, because I think she must have very cold eyes. I wonder if she has."
I ask: do you think she likes the Spice Girls?
Emma starts visibly. "Fucking hell! Oh my God! I've never thought of that. That is very scary. I think if she did it would be creepy. God, that's really made me shiver." She shouts out into the ether at Myra Hindley: "Don't like the Spice Girls!" She looks spooked out. "I don't want her to," she says. But that is one of the many things even Spice Girls don't get to choose.
There is a Spice Girls movie in the works. The first draft has been written and they will film it later in the year.
"I don't think we should talk about it," says Geri. "I think we should save that."
"Cindy Crawford wanted to play me," says Victoria, "but I said no."
"Winnie Mandela wanted to be me," says Mel B. They fall about.
"Fergie wanted to be me," says Geri.
They have also signed up with Pepsi, for 1 million pounds each, according to the Sun.
"We fucking wish," says Mel C.
"They're only a few million out," says Victoria.
Do any of you prefer Coca-Cola?
"I don't think we can say that," says Mel B. But they do, anyway. "I don't really like fizzy drinks," she says. "I like Pellegrino. I like fizzy water."
"I don't like fizzy drinks," says Mel C.
"I can honestly say," says Victoria, who is drinking a Diet Pepsi as we speak, "I can taste the difference and I do actually prefer Pepsi."
"Emma's a Coca-Cola girl, isn't she?" says Mel C.
I turn to Geri: what do you prefer to drink?
Afterwards, when the hysteria has faded, Geri will answer with a typical mixture of fact ("I do drink Coke. Either one.") and front ("whoever's got the biggest chequebook"). But right now, Mel B interrupts. She chooses to speak for Geri on this one.
"Sperm," she says.
"Everybody who's written about me has never got me right," says Mel B. "They either go on the sex thing - loud, boisterous, outspoken - or they go, oh she's non-materialistic, quite spiritual and yet she's driving a so-and-so flash car. So what? they never quite get the balance right. So you better get it right." A stern pointer: "I'll tell you what people have describes me as, which I've been described as about four times and it pisses me off: 'A charming naivete.' You don't fucking know what you're talking about! What does that word mean? What are you implying?" Precisely because she is not stupid, she knows perfectly well what they're implying: "I hate that."
Mel B's parents met in Leeds. Her father had just come over from the Caribbean. Nevis. He was black and she was white, and there was a bit of an uproar, but they got married. "My surname's Brown," Mel B says, "and I thought when I was really young that I was called Brown because I am brown. I wasn't black and I wasn't white. And I couldn't understand why so-and-so wasn't called White..."
Those early days: Mel B got into serious shit when she tied her sister to the banister and brought all her mates round to laugh... On her own, she used to think about things like where we'd be born if we weren't born on earth, or if the whole planet was wiped out. She'd write it all down in her little book. "Mumbo-jumbo stuff," her mother would say when she read it. "I've always been a deep thinker," Mel B explains. "I don't know what triggered it off. But then again, I'm loud, so that doesn't quite go with it. I'm loud and spontaneous and a bit of a twat sometimes so that doesn't really go with being a deep thinker."
Mel B visited her father's family in Nevis over New Year. They don't know about the Spice Girls there yet. "I said to my grandma 'Girl power!' She just kind of looked at me funny.
Some gratuitous talk of royalty...
It gets sillier. According to the Sun, Emma is Prince William's preferred pin-up (WHAT WILLS ROYALLY ROYALLY WANTS), displacing Pamela Anderson in the prime site on the wall of his room at Eton College.
"It was quite weird, actually," Emma says. "I was quite gobsmacked. Especially taking down Pam and putting me up. I was, 'Hold on a minute - it's not real.'" She considers this. "but he's not the most gorgeous person in the world, is he?" One of those smiles. "The girls were going: 'Can't you get us invited round to tea?'"
What would you say to him?
"Probably 'Hi, sexy'. Something like that, to shock him a little bit."
It has also been reported that the Spice Girls are Fergie's current favourites.
"I like Fergie," says Mel B.
"I like Fergie," says Geri.
"I like Lady Di," says Victoria, pointedly.
"I don't think what Fergie does it quite right," says Mel C. "She is on every programme, isn't she?"
"She's a professional holiday-maker, isn't she?" carps Victoria.
"She's just probably taking the piss," reasons Mel B, "like we do."
"I really respect Lady Di a lot," says Victoria. "I think she's really been dragged through it, and she is a real lady. I feel very sorry for her."
"Well," says Mel B, deadpan, "I would have shagged Prince Charles."
"Fair play to her," says Geri. "She married a prince, she earned a billion."
"And, I mean," says Victoria, "Camilla is just an old horse, isn't she?"
There is a drawing of breath.
"That's Victoria's opinion," says Mel C. "Moving swiftly on..."
"Me," says Victoria, "and the rest of the country."
"This is a historic shot! Like the Beatles! It's gonna be all around the world!"
Their press officer tries to encourage them. The tired, freezing Spice Girls are on top of the Empire State Building, posing for a photographer who - in true action-film style - is hanging out of a hovering helicopter, while curious tourists are held back by security guards. This photo session is to be released to celebrate the arrival of "Wannabe" at number one in the American charts. The Spice Girls do two principal poses. For one, they hold out an American flag and look over-excited. (We've conquered America!) For the other, they hold out a Union Jack and look over-excited. (The Brits are on top of America!) Never mind that "Wannabe" is, on this day, only at number six. records move in the American charts in a far more predictable manner than they do here. And, naturally, if it somehow doesn't go to number one everyone will deny that they expected it to in the first place.
Back at the hotel, Mel B explains that she has left a note for another celebrity pop guest, Tori Amos. "I want to meet her! She's a freak!" Then, to the tune of "Professional Widow" she adds, "She sucks on pig!"
"No," says Mel C, "Pigs suck on her!"
"Pigs suck on her tit!" retorts Mel B. "you gotta bring it close to my hips! Sucking on pig!"
They are referring, in part, to the photo on Tori Amos's last album which shows her with a pig sucking at her naked breast.
"It's just rested there," asserts Mel B.
"Do you know what?" says Geri. "Do you know what I know that is true? Because when an animal is taken away too early from its mother, you know? There was this little kitten, I got it too early and I was in bed..."
"Oh, shut up," says Mel B.
"...and it did it to me," Geri concludes.
"That's going to be all over the tabloids," counsels Mel C. "you shouldn't have said that." She may be right, though implied pop-star kinkiness with household pets is complicated material for the tabloids.
"I'm not going into it now," says Geri. "It was purely innocent. I just thought, Oh, get off there you twisted..."
"You put cream on your ninnie!" teases Mel C. Much hilarity.
"Put catnip on there!" hoots Geri. "Kit-e-Kat!"
"I'm repulsed by this," says Victoria.
"We were all signing on the dole four years ago," says Geri. "You've just got to think for a moment: you're in New York!"
"Even though we're really tired and we really moan..." begins Mel C, "I truly believe that we are the luckiest five girls on earth. I know that sounds eurghhhh, but I do."
"Yeah," says Victoria, "it does sound..."
"Victoria!" chides Geri. "You were rich anyway."
"No, she wasn't," defends Mel C. "She was... comfortable."
"But now she's rich," says Mel B. "Now we're all fucking rich!" They all laugh. They got what they call "A little bit of money" just before Christmas.
"And," says Mel C, "we were all going, 'Do I look different? I'm...'" - she stands up and thrusts her hips - "'...rich!'"
This is life with the Spice Girls. They are tired. They are ill. They are delighted. They write songs. They are always number one. They are getting the things they always wanted. They are getting things they never wanted. They are real. They are in the papers. It's pop music, and so they'll be like this forever, and they'll be like this only until it changes.
A comment on celebrity from Victoria: "Do you know that the bad thing about being known is that you think twice when you pick your nose now?"
A characteristic response from Mel B: "I don't. I don't even think twice when I fart."
A handy piece of vegetable trivia from Geri: "Did you know that asparagus makes your pee smell?"
A useful reminder from Emma: "There's different levels of smiling, there is definitely."
A final, wise reflection on life as a Spice Girl from Melanie C: "When it all started, you couldn't get your head round it," she says. "But now we realise you don't have to get your head round it."
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