|+ Learn To Fly... With Victoria Beckham!|
From the time we'd signed with Virgin in July 1995 we'd lived on 'wages' which Simon gave us of 250 a week plus expenses. He'd warned us that the real money wouldn't start rolling in until we started selling real records. But with two number is, and an album that had gone platinum within five days of going on sale, Spice Girls earnings were no longer financial projections, but a cash reality.
At the time Simon was also managing Gary Barlow of Take That ' the beginning of his solo career ' and at a party for Gary, Simon took us into a little side room and handed us each an envelope. I thought it must be an early Christmas card but inside was a cheque for ^200,000.
This was more money than I could even imagine, but I still couldn't help feeling guilty. Although my mum and dad look as though they've got a lot of money, they've never had anything like 200,000, and what they've got they've worked for and most of that they've spent on us.
Simon had promised us three weeks off for Christmas, and the one thing I could do as a thank you was take the whole family away on holiday. Unlike the other girls in the band, foreign holidays were something we had always had in my family. The first time I went abroad I was sixteen months old and we went to the Canaries, and there was trouble because we'd left my special bit of blanket behind. I'd been to Florida, to Disney World, and to Spain where my parents had a house, and skiing in Switzerland. But we'd never been to the West Indies, it was just too far and too expensive. Until now. The other girls had the same not-so-original idea, and we all ended up in the Caribbean, though on different islands. But first I had to do what every pop star does with their first mega cheque. Go shopping. Where? Where else but Bond Street. All the hype about me wearing nothing but Gucci and Prada was just that. I did have my Prada handbag, which I bought with my Bertie money, but none of the other stuff was the real thing. How could I have afforded it on ^250 a week?The original little black dress actually belonged to Geri, but she never wore it. She had hundreds of things she never wore. We shared everything from clothes, to knickers, to shoes, to make-up, to hair products. Not boyfriends.
The first time I wore it was out to dinner with Stuart and everyone had said, 'God, what a lovely dress, it really suits you.' But it was only Miss Selfridge or Top Shop or something none of us had any money to spend on clothes. Anyway, because Geri was smaller than me at the time, it was a bit too tight so I had it copied by a dressmaker who still lives down the road in Goff's Oak called Violet. The original shoes that went with the outfit were black patent and came from a cheap shop in Carnaby Street and one of the heels kept falling off so I was always having to glue it back on. That dress, the one everybody said was a little Gucci dress, was never a little Gucci dress. The material and paying to have it made cost no more than 20 pounds.
Second on the more-money-than-sense pop star's shopping list was obviously a sports car. So what was it to be? A Porsche? A Ferrari? Not for Mrs Sensible. I went down to a dealer my dad knew in Waltham Cross and bought an ex-demonstration M G F. So not rock 'n' roll. This is typical; even when I've just been handed more money than my grandparents earned in a lifetime, I don't buy new, I buy an ex-demonstration model and save five grand. But I'd always been careful and I wasn't about to stop now. After all, it could all just disappear. Anyway, I just loved that car, bright purple metallic, nice wheels, all the extras and a roof that went down at the touch of a button.
Everywhere that Christmas was wall-to-wall Spice Girls. Which Spice Girl do you fancy? Which Spice Girl do you want to kiss under the mistletoe? Who is the world's favourite Spice Girl?
That was the funny thing. There were Bob and Chris wanting us to look the same, but the Spice Girls worked because we all brought something different to the party and not just the fantasy thing for men though it's probably fair to say that when the Spice Girls were at their peak, every man in the country probably fancied one or other of us.It went right across national prejudices. We were huge not only in Europe and in America, but in Japan and India and Indonesia and Malaysia and South Africa. There wasn't a single country that didn't have a Spice Girls hit and everybody had their favourite. There was something for everybody and that was attitude-wise as well, not just the way we looked.
Any time I feel sorry for Chris and Bob and Chic having missed out on the pop phenomenon of the nineties, I have to remind myself that if they'd had their way we'd all be dressed the same, and one of us would have been the lead singer. The Spice Girls were so huge precisely because we didn't do any of that. Now you only have to watch MTV to see that everybody's doing it. But what made the Spice Girls different and will always set us apart is that we were the first, like Elvis, like the Beatles, like the Sex Pistols. The ones who do it first make it possible for everybody else.
By Christmas 'Wannabe' had sold three million and was number l in twenty-seven countries. I don't think I could even name twenty-seven countries without looking at an atlas.
Our first week in the Caribbean was on Grenada, the second on St Lucia. It was a real family holiday with everyone, even Louise's ex-boyfriend, Sharky, who I still really liked, and Stuart. For me not to think about what I was wearing or what I looked like was a holiday in itself. I can't stand wearing make-up in the sun; the most I'm prepared to do about my appearance is to shove my hair into a ponytail and slap on the suntan oil. It was quite funny really, because everything there is tied in with what's happening in the States, and I kept hearing 'Wannabe' being played it was released there on i January. Soon there was a rumour going around about a Spice Girl being at the hotel. Before long cameras were snapping. I knew I looked vile, but these were just kids and I didn't really care. It wasn't till we got back that I saw just how lucky I was. Poor Emma and her mum had been photographed by the Daily Mail going into the sea, just showing their bottoms.
We'd conquered Britain, now came America. This was the big one, as Simon never stopped telling us. However big you make it in the UK, if you make it big in America, it's like gold-plating. It gives you credibility. There's this glamour thing attached to America, the land of dreams, the land of opportunity. If you're successful in England, you're famous, but if you're successful in America, you're a superstar.The next six weeks were like a nightmare version of a kaleidoscope I remember getting one Christmas when I was little. Mad colours, changing at a twist into a different pattern, but somehow staying the same.
It was everywhere you went. All over the world. You'd go to countries you hadn't even heard of and you'd get mobbed. People would know everything about you, not only your name, but your parents' names. It was weird. I still couldn't really believe how massive it all was. One day I was walking along the beach somewhere in a bikini with my dad and there's this man collecting coconuts to sell to tourists. And instead of trying to sell us a coconut, he says, you wouldn't be a Spice Girl would you? And you wouldn't think this man even had a wireless, let alone knew who the Spice Girls were.
'Wannabe' had gone straight into the Billboard Top 100 at number n, the highest entry for a debut single ever, British or American. As 'Wannabe' rose in the chart, so too did our daily quota of interviews. America has literally hundreds of radio stations and every one of them wanted the Spice Girls. Now. Fortunately, because it was radio we did the interviews down the line sitting in a New York studio. But being witty and wacky on air can be difficult without the visuals. Sometimes the only thing to do to spice things up was to say outrageous things. For all its in-your-face sex on TV and in films, America really is very strait-laced.
I'd been looking forward to a bit of New York shopping now that I had the elastic plastic - all those names, Barneys, Macy's, Bloomingdale's. Not to mention Tiffany's. Fat chance. It was interviews, photo-calls and more interviews. Good morning, America.
Right from the beginning I said I wanted to be as famous as Persil Automatic. Why stop at selling records? As long as we were careful about who we signed with, we'd decided, then what harm could it do? Now we were famous, we could sell anything. But there were casualties - the first was the Diet Coke that I lived on. The massive deal we'd done with Pepsi, who became our major sponsors, put paid to that. Another deal that came through early on was with Mercedes Benz. In return for doing the launch of the new MacLaren Fi, each of us had the use of a tiny little Mercedes SLK convertible for a year. We didn't actually get them for another six months: they were delivered on the last day of shooting of our film Spice World the Movie which we shot that summer.The MacLaren launch was on St Valentine's Day, when we had just heard that 'Wannabe' had hit number i in the American Billboard Hot 100. The news had come just as we were wrapping on the set of the 'Who Do You Think You Are' video, our fourth single. Two days of the three-day shoot were unlike any other video shoot we had ever done before, or are ever likely to do again.
Simon Fuller's brother Kim, who was one of the writers on the film, was a friend ofLenny Henry, one of the founders of Red Nose Day and Comic Relief. We had all agreed that the royalties of our fourth single would go to Comic Relief. For Red Nose Day itself, there would be a spoof video.
We knew that there were already lookalike bands doing the rounds but the Sugar Lumps would be the only ones to get our seal of approval. And guess who they had doing Posh Dawn French. I was incredibly flattered because she is the most fantastic comic. As she had to give the impression of being me through mannerisms rather than how she looked, it was really interesting watching her get into character. The whole thing was a real laugh. But, Dawn, do I really pout that much?
Jennifer Saunders was Ginger, Kathy Burke did Sporty, Llewella Gideon was Scary, although in actual fact Melanie spent ages trying to get Lenny Henry to play her. Lulu was Baby. The first time I met Lulu was in a shoeshop in Oxford Street. I was out shopping with my mum, Louise and Christian and I must have been very young because Christian was still in a buggy. Anyway, we went over and asked for her autograph. So she did one 'To Victoria' and then one 'To Louise'.
'So, do people call you Lulu?' Lulu asked my little curly-haired sister.
And my mum, who hates shortening names, came back quick as a flash, 'Not bloody likely.' By the time she realized what she had said it was too late.Although I sometimes see Lulu she's a very good friend of Elton's - I've never dared tell her that the rude woman in Saxone and the two little girls was my mum, Louise and me. My mum, of course, is still embarrassed.
Then it was off into the skies for more plugging. It was like being on a roundabout. You never knew where you were going to get off.
For all our success in America, and Simon telling us how important this show was, or that show was, the big one for us on a personal level was the Brits. We'd had other awards and would get other awards but the Brits is the equivalent of the Oscars. It's voted for by the music industry. And they're the hardest bunch to impress.
A year before, just being at the Brits as guests of Virgin, getting bladdered in such oh-my-God-look-who-that-is company had been so exciting. But the truth was, we'd been nobodies or should I say Wannabes. Twelve months later, not only had we been nominated for five awards, we were opening the show with a big production number of'Who Do You Think You Are'.
The big day was Monday 24 February. The previous week Simon had asked me if I wanted to go to a football match on the Saturday before. Ashley Newton, our A&R man at Virgin had tickets, he said. Both Ashley and Paul Conroy were massive Chelsea fans. And that week they were playing Manchester United, and as they knew Simon was a massive Man United fan, they'd asked him if he wanted to go along as well.
So I said OK. It wasn't as if I was doing anything else: Stuart would be working. Saturday is the biggest day of the week for flower shops.
Simon had been trying to get me to a football match ever since I could remember. He was always saying I needed a famous boyfriend. And I'd say, 'What are you talking about? I'm with Stuart, remem+ber?' And he'd say, 'Don't worry about Stuart. I see you with someone famous. What you need is a footballer.'
I wasn't impressed. All the footballers I'd ever met were complete wankers who hung around the Epping Country Club shagging any nice Essex girl who walked through the door. They were a very immoral bunch. 'So what should I wear?' I asked Melanie the day before. For 'Who Do You Think You Are' at the Brits I was wearing a white bikini top and a white skirt more like a pelmet, my dad said -covered with chainmail. I told her I was thinking of going in that. And I think she really believed that I might.I can't remember anything about the game, the main reason being that I didn't have my glasses on, so it was all a blur. After the match we were taken to the players' lounge, where the VIPs get to meet their heroes. So I'm standing there holding a glass of champagne and there's this man who's really annoying me. He'd had far too much to drink and was swaying all over the place. I tried to ignore him but he kept lurching towards me, saying things like 'Do you come here often?'
'Look,' I said, when he nearly knocked my glass flying, 'I don't talk to people who are drunk.'
Not for nothing am I called Posh.
I was just about to escape to the toilet when Simon came up and put a hand on this piss-head's shoulder. I thought he was about to do his minder act and tell him to piss off. But instead he began smiling and laughing with him. I stood there, staring into space.
'Friend of yours, is he?' I said, as the piss-head finally lurched off.
'Not exactly,' Simon said, 'a namesake. I'm surprised you didn't recognize him. Simon Ie Bon.'
If he'd thought this would impress me, he was wrong. The pic+tures I had in my room around teen-time were Bros. (I know. I know. Don't even say it.) I was never interested in Duran Duran, so my knees didn't exactly turn to jelly.
By now the players had come up from the dressing rooms.
'There he is,' Simon said suddenly, taking my arm. 'By the door.'
'Who?' I asked as he propelled me forward.
'David Beckham. You know, the one you said you fancied.'
I was completely mystified. How could I fancy somebody I had never even heard of? What was he talking about? As for this David Beckham person, I supposed he must be a footballer, but whether he had played or not, whether he was Chelsea or Manchester United I had no idea. When it came to footballers Simon was completely starstruck and he was obviously determined to meet this Beckham and was using me as an excuse. I couldn't even see who he was on about. Everything was a blur at the other side of the room. He could have been talking about a hatstand.By then we were there.
'Hi, David. Simon Fuller,' Simon said, stretching out his arm in a manly handshake. 'I manage the Spice Girls. Let me introduce you to Victoria. Victoria Adams, David Beckham.' At that moment I remember thinking how like a gerbil Simon looked.
I smiled, said hello to the boy with the lank-looking brown hair. Then Simon started on his great-game-nice-cross-shame-about-the-score routine. I just stood there feeling stupid and trying to clock this footballer I was supposed to have fancied as he talked free-kicks and corners. In fact, I decided, he was quite nice-looking. Occasion+ally he glanced at me with a shy smile, as Simon carried on with what he would have done if he'd been out there on the pitch. Then he left and we stood there, neither of us saying a word.
'Good game,' I finally managed.
'Glad you enjoyed it, Victoria.'
I liked the way he said my name. Yeah.
I smiled. He smiled.
I looked around for Melanie C to help me out but couldn't see her. What were you supposed to say to a footballer? I was just so embarrassed. But the embarrassment was more than just feeling stupid. It was that shy feeling that comes from instant attraction.
I left soon after.
The next day was a heavy rehearsal day at Earls Court. While the crew were doing the technical for 'Who Do You Think You Are', Melanie C came up to me. This was unusual. Even though we were only miming, Melanie always gets her voice into shape doing vocal exercises that drive me completely mad and make me so tense it's never worth going near her.
'So, what do you think of him in the flesh then. Tor?'
In the flesh? What was she on about?
'David Beckham. I saw you talking to him yesterday. Remember? He's the one you picked out for 90 Minutes.'
And then suddenly it all came back to me. Not David. I still didn't remember him, but the whole business.