The Spice Girls’ look: Plenty of zest

The girls now: Melanie Brown (Scary), left, Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Geri Halliwell (Ginger), Emma Bunton (Baby) and Victoria Beckham (Posh).
(Ian West / Associated Press)
Los Angeles Times

In the run-up to the London Olympics’ closing ceremonies, rumors have swirled that the Spice Girls, Britain’s quintessential girls pop group, will reunite for a special performance.

If they do — and promoters have been cagey about it, with no firm confirmations or denials as of press time — it may seem hard to believe that 18 years have passed since they came on the scene and, with anthems such as “Wannabe,” went on to become the No. 1 selling girl group in music history. But one thing is certain: though their “brand” was strong, Sporty, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Posh have all moved gracefully through time, modernizing and updating their looks instead of making the all too common mistake of sticking with a tried and true style. In other words, none has fallen into a beauty rut. And that’s an example worth following.

Libby Gill, brand strategist and author of the book “You Unstuck,” says it’s important for any woman to have an up-to-date image. If your look is dated, “I think people make an assumption that you’re not up to date with technology, that you would be the last person that would know how to use Twitter or even a smartphone,” Gill says. “People make assumptions. They may or may not be true but you run the risk of people assuming that you are out of fashion, out of step. You don’t know what’s happening in the world of arts, media, entertainment, technology or politics.”


But it is easy to pick a look and remain fixed in time. Makeup artist Karin Darnell, who has worked with the Spice Girls since the beginning, sees it happen all the time.

“The year that a woman thinks she was the most successful, confident, or when she got her man, or at a pivotal point in their life, she sticks to that [image],” Darnell says. “So if she thinks she was truly happy when she was X amount of years old,

and that happened to be 1995, then she is going to think that works and is going to stay there. But actually she needs to move on.”

After releasing their album “Forever” in 2000, all of the Spice Girls went on to solo careers, reuniting for the 2007-08 Return of the Spice Girls tour, and their individual images have evolved along with their professional and personal lives.

Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), whose fifth solo album is slated to debut in September, has swapped out her fighting ponytail for flattering long, beachy waves. Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) is a television host and entrepreneur, known for winning second place on the fifth season of”Dancing With the Stars.” She’s more often seen with sleek, straight hair than the curly halo of tight curls she wore in the 1990s.

Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) has written an autobiography, a children’s book series called “Ugenia Lavender” and has traveled extensively as a U.N. goodwill ambassador. She said goodbye to crazy multi-color hair and caked-on makeup in favor of sheer, glowing makeup that seems to take a decade off her appearance.


Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) still has a candy-sweet smile but the pig-tails have been replaced with a sexy side-sweep. In addition to hosting a drive-time radio show, she designs babywear.

And Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) is famously married to soccer star David Beckham and runs a thriving fashion empire, looking just as posh as ever.

When the Spice Girls got together in June for a press conference to promote “Viva Forever,” a West End musical based on their hit songs that’s slated to open this fall, they looked chic and modern, age appropriate but not like fuddy-duddies.

“When we were together a couple of weeks ago we were all definitely like

‘Wow, we’ve all grown up.’ We’ve all matured gracefully — well, hopefully I think so!” says Los Angeles resident Brown. “We’re all in our 30s — well, Geri just turned 40 — and we’ve just refined our look a little more.”

“I love change,” she says. Through the years, she’s experimented with hair pieces, hair colors, hair textures and different styles from tiny ballet buns to all-out curly to super-straight — which is the way she likes wearing her hair now.

“[Hair] kind of dictates the way that you feel,” Brown says, comparing changing a hairstyle to clearing a closet of the clothes that you know you’re not going to wear. “It’s a huge mood-shifter and life changer I think. And if you’re stuck in a rut there’s nothing more refreshing than sitting down at a hairdresser,” she says. “Go for it, there’s nothing better than actually getting it done. Today’s the day. There’s going to be no more excuses. You feel like a whole different person.”


Darnell has been with the Spice Girls since their debut video “Wannabe” and did the group’s makeup for the “Viva Forever” press conference. “We’ve all grown up together, me included,” Darnell says. “We all met years ago when it all first began, and we all look through the old looks and have a good laugh as well because time has moved on.”

“Now [the Spice Girls] have sophistication about them — they are not kids anymore, they are grown-ups. But they still look youthful, and they look expensive and youthful,” says Darnell. “They all have an elegance about them now — very polished, natural and feminine.”

In 1994, makeup was used more like paint, reforming features (lips, cheeks, eyes) and sculpting with contour and color. “Back in the ‘90s it was more, more, more of everything. The hair was more exaggerated, the clothes were exaggerated, and the whole image of each person was more exaggerated,” Darnell says.

The key to keeping her celebrity clients looking fresh is great skin with youthful moisture and keeping makeup sheer. Her advice for others who want to achieve an up-to-date look: don’t over-powder, avoid heavy foundation, dab on lipstick with your finger, use cream blush for a healthy natural glow and blend, blend, blend. “Lifted, separated eyelashes make eyes look open and awake,” she adds. “Aim for a look that’s sparkly-eyed, gorgeous, alive and bright.”

Updating doesn’t mean you have to completely change, Brown says. “We’re all still those same girls — at least elements of them.”

Just keep it fresh.