Showing posts with label Girl Power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Girl Power. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten Facts You May Not Know About The Baby-Sitters Club!

By Maribeth Curley of, where you can find great kids costumes.

If you were a young girl during the 80s or 90s, you most likely read The Baby-Sitters Club. (I know I did.) You had a favorite sitter, a favorite client, and you probably even had a favorite Super Special. This book series was a big part of many little girls’ literary lives, so let’s take a look at some things you may not know about the BSC.

1. The popular series was created to capitalize on the popularity of another book about babysitting. The book was Ginny’s Babysitting Job, which was published in the early 80s. An editor at Scholastic saw the success of another novel about the hobby and decided that the publishing company needed their own version.

2. Author Ann M. Martin was originally a freelance author when she was hired to write a book about baby-sitting. Martin was responsible for creating the plot-lines, details, and characters of The Baby-Sitters Club, as well as writing the first books. The series was about a club, rather than a single baby-sitter, to help promote team work and unity among young girls.

3. The series was originally slated for just four novels. However, thanks to the success of those four, Scholastic ordered two more, and after that, another twelve.

4. Author Ann M. Martin only wrote about 60 out of 213 total Baby-Sitters Club books. Most of the novels were ghostwritten by other authors, including 43 by Peter Lerangis, who also wrote for a spin-off of another popular teen series of the 80s, Sweet Valley Twins.

5. During the 14-year run of the series, there were 176 million copies of The Baby-Sitters Club books printed.

6. While there were popular spin-off's of the series (Baby-Sitters Little Sister namely), there were also less popular spin-offs. The California Diaries was a series of books based on Dawn Schafer's return to California in her teenage years. It took a slightly darker tone in its writing and touched on subjects such as anorexia, sexual identity, and racism. However, only 15 novels were published before the series’ end.

7. In 2006, a division of Scholastic named Graphix published a graphic novelization of the first Baby-Sitters Club novel. The animated versions were updated adaptations of four of the early BSC books: Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day, and Claudia and Mean Janine.

8. In 2009, the New York Times wrote an article about the upcoming re-release of the first two novels of the series. Scholastic hoped to spark a comeback of the books with the current generation of readers. Also, that same year, Ann M. Martin wrote a prequel to the series called The Summer Before.

9. Throughout the run of the series, there were five types of novels in addition to the core series of novels: Super Specials, which were longer stories and were narrated by a different girl each chapter; Readers Request, books that focused on non-main members of the BSC; Mysteries and Super Mysteries; Portrait collections, novels that were biographies of the girls’ pasts; and Baby-Sitters Club: Friends Forever, a 13-book mini-series, which ended with the girl’s graduation from middle school.

10. There was an (amazing) 13-episode long TV series named The Baby-Sitters Club, which aired in 1990. The shows were broadcast on The Disney Channel, as well as HBO and Nickelodeon. The other live-action version of the BSC was the feature film, released in 1995. The role of Mary Anne was actress Rachael Leigh Cook’s movie debut, and the film also starred Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack, 10 Things I Hate About You) as Dawn.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

90s Teen Pop Princesses: Then and Now

Current celebrity critics may be up in arms over the racy and overnight de-Disnified Miley Cyrus, but her path as a child-to-rebellious-teen pop star is pretty well-worn territory. Child stars have been reinventing themselves as alleged adults for years. In the 1990s, a wave of self-proclaimed virginal and innocent adolescent teenage pop stars paved the way for the downslide into inevitable controversy. These girls proved there’s only so long managers and publicists can capitalize on and profit from your jailbait allure--at some point, their public personas needed to grow up.

As some of these starlets have shown, the transition from bubbly teen to legitimate grown-up artist is not an easy one. While some may manage to endure the change relatively unscathed, most lose some marketability with each passing year and are forced to continually reinvent themselves. So next time you hear Miley tell you she can’t be tamed, you should probably just take her word for it. Looking at her predecessors, it seems like a likely outcome.

Britney Spears

We First Knew Her as: Mickey Mouse Club Member on the 90s revival of the children’s variety show, child contestant on Star Search, very brief stint as member of girl group Innosense

Achieved Major Stardom as:
Vaguely inappropriate but supposedly innocent school girl uniform-clad singer of “Hit Me Baby One More Time”

Foray into Film:
Starred in box office bomb and general cheeseball embarrassment Crossroadss

And Then:
Reinvented self as newly edgy Slave 4 us; dances with python

And Then:
Marries perpetually wifebeater-clad backup dancer Kevin Federline, procreates; divorces

The Downslide:
Endured a slew of personal struggles, shaved head, stint in rehab, embarrassing VMA performance in spangly bra--still managed to release popular CD

Number of Fragrances Released in the Meantime:
Seven, including one subtly called “In Control”

Under tight conservatorship by her father, released MTV documentary re:sanity and embarked on high-grossing Circus world tour

Christina Aguilera

We first Knew Her as: Spears’ fellow Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” Star Search contestant, singer of “Reflection” from Disney's Mulan

Achieved Major Stardom as: A Genie In a Bottle, baby

And Then: Released a Spanish-language album. You know, because her dad is from Ecuador. Strangely did not release Irish music CD to celebrate mother’s heritage.

And Then: Got “Dirrrty” and “Stripped,” dyed hair black, wore questionably revealing outfits, shed teen bubble gum pop image

Followed by: Vaguely Marilyn Monroe-esque re-reinvention, more mature musical style, fewer morally reprehensible music videos

Now: Canceled pending 2010 tour in midst of underwhelming ticket sales

Jessica Simpson

We first knew her as: Small-town Texan Christian singer with unreleased album (her minor Gospel label went under)

Achieved Major Stardom: Sweet Kisses album with top-charting singles “I Want to Love You Forever” and “I Think I’m In Love With You”

Plus: Dated second-tier Boy Band 98 Degrees front man Nick Lachey

And Then: Married Lachey; the two costarred as newlyweds in the cleverly named reality series Newlyweds. Gained reputation as dumb blonde for inability to distinguish between chicken and tuna

Maintained Fame With: Much-publicized and scantily-clad role in the film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard

Downslide: Divorce, dwindling record sales, straight-to-DVD movie roles, rocky romances with John Mayer and Tony Romo. Overly publicized weight gain exacerbated by sadistic stylist with an inexplicable penchant for skintight Daisy Dukes

Now: Return to reality TV with VH1’s The Price of Beauty, serves as general muse for hairstylist Ken Paves

Mandy Moore

Achieved Major Stardom as: Opening act for boy band Backstreet Boys; released top single “Candy” featuring a music video in which the then-15 year old Moore drives a green Volkswagon Beetle

And Then: Released lightweight album I Wanna Be With You; title single featured in teen ballet movie Center Stage

And Then: Appeared in numerous films including The Princess Diaries, A Walk to Remember, Chasing Liberty, and Saved; far exceeded cinematic success of teen pop princess peers

Also: Dated Wilmer Valderamma, Andy Roddick, Zack Braff, DJ AM; settled down and married singer Ryan Adams in 2009

Should be Noted: Moore deserves some form of 90s Pop Princess prize for maintaining her down-to-earth reputation through her journey from teen star to adult celebrity, though I call for a slight point deduction for her preoccupation with and persistent attendance at Ultimate Fighting Championship events

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American Girl

I'm still moderately crushed that they didn't unleash the glory of the respective downtown-based American Girl Places until I was far past the acceptable American Girl consuming age. I would have been all over that. I mean, tea parties? With your doll? Is there some sort of a sign up list somewhere? Because I would like to enlist myself immediately.

Just the other day, I was at the home of a family with young girls and found each one proudly toting a bona-fide American Girl doll. The jealousy reflex in me sprang forth, strong as ever. As much as I begged, my parents would never cave and purchase me a wildly expensive Samantha doll per my, demands. My friend had one complete with it's own turn-of-the-century style miniature version of the rich person wire bed on which she slept. Granted, these young girls I encountered this week had the far inferior "Just Like Me" My Twinn-knockoff dolls complete with eerily identical features and customizations, but the jealousy reflex enacted nonetheless.

While American Girl may have started with the noblest of literacy and girl pride-minded intentions, the brand morphed into a major franchise of merchandise and self-proclaimed collectibles. I was an avid reader of the books, so imagine my delight as a child when the mailman saw fit to bring me my very own American Girl merchan dise catalog. If I had known what crack was at the time, this catalog would have become its mildly less addictive equivalent for my 10-year old self. I spent hours meticulously marking pages, indicating not only which dolls and accessories I preferred but also which me-sized American Girl-style clothing options I would hopefully someday wear with false-modest pride. Who doesn't want colonial frock or a shirt whose collar suffocates me with its early 1900s high buttonedness? These things are relatively irresistible. Well, to girls in the target 8-12 demographic, that is.

This effort-laden catalog scouring turned out to be for naught, but it did teach me a valuable lesson about coveting and consumerism. That is, that I really, really like it. Thank you, American Girl. You've served me well in my path to shopping addiction.

The spark of the American Girl concept was born in the mid-80s when creator Pleasant Rowland visited colonial Williamsburg, enjoying the impact of the fully immersive experience. Later, when shopping for gifts for her tween-aged nieces, Rowland realized that the range of dolls available to preteens was highly limited. The focus of these dolls, she observed, seemed to be on either mothering (baby dolls) or aspiring to teenagehood (Barbie-type fashion dolls). No dolls were specifically geared toward the interests of then generally underserved preteen demographic.

Initially launching the line as a mail-order enterprise, Rowland created the fledgling American Girl franchise in 1986. American Girl originally featured three historical girls: Kirsten Larson, Samantha Parkington, and Molly McIntre. Each doll came with three books about her life in her respective historical setting and optional clothing and accessories based on the character. American Girl was born.

American Girl quickly grew into a veritable operation, releasing birthday books, seasonal books, and my personal favorite in 1988: life-size matching clothing for the doll owner. The line veered into some alternate territories, but for the most part its focus was on the historically relevant doll line with its corresponding books. The original characters released in 1986 were:

Kirsten Larson (1850s)Kirsten is a Swedish American living in Minnesota in the mid 19th-century. Kirsten is a kind, sensitive girl open to new experiences in her new country. She was an avid sewer and had an adventurous spirit. Plus, she wore her hair in an awesome braid/Princess Leia Cinna-bun hybrid. I liked the idea that she was Minnesotan like me, but I could never seem to get my hair to stay in those braid loops like hers.

Samantha Parkington (1900s)

Samantha Parkington is a turn-of-the-century orphan living with her rich Grandmary. Yep, Grandymary. I guess that's Edwardian rich-speak for Grandmother. Samantha is curious and progressive, excited in new prospects and ideas. She taught me that you can be both rich and kind. Plus that it's totally awesome to have a slew of servants at your disposal. I don't think that was the point, of course, but I definitely picked up on it.

Molly McIntire (1940s)
Until the line expanded into more ethnically diverse characters, Molly is the original line's token "girl with the glasses." Molly is lively and scheming, with a father abroad fighting in World War II. She has a taste for glamour and excitement and has vivid imagination.

The line quickly expanded to include more characters based in different historical periods. In 1991:

Felicity Merriman (1770s)

It's surprising Felicity wasn't in the original release group, considering creator Pleasant Rowland's claim that a visit to colonial Williamsburg inspired the series. Felicity is coming of age during the Revolutionary War. She is highly independent and spunky and rejects many of the feminine ideals assigned to her my her time period.

In 1993:
Addy Walker (1860s)
The series' first African American character, Addy's books explore more complex societal issues, depicting her life as an escaped slave. Addy doesn't believe slavery is fair and is a proponent of racial equality, finding the North to be similarly prejudiced to the South from which she escaped.

In 1997:
Josefina Montoya (1820s)
Josefina is a girl growing up in New Mexico before the Mexican-American war, when the period was still under Mexican control. Her books integrate some Spanish terms and examine Josefina's life following the death of her mother. She is shy, thoughtful, and caring. Plus, we get to pronounce her name "HO-se-fina", which is totally awesome.

In the 2000s, the company later added post-white settlement Native American Kaya'aton'my,first-generation American Russian Jewish Rebecca Rubin, spunky tomboy Kit Kittredge, and civil-rights minded Julie Albright. The diversity of character and ethnic background grew significantly over the years since the original 1986 release, but the general guiding principles remain the same.

The books had their flaws, but they fulfilled Rowland's original vision of interesting young girls in history and lives unlike their own. Rowland introduced girls to disparate historical periods through the lens of girls who were their own age, with similar hopes and ideals. It was an innovative idea, and kids bought into it with great fervency. Bought into it so much, of course, that they begged their parents for books, dolls, magazine subscriptions, costumes, accessories, and everything else that turned this educational premise into a lucrative financial enterprise. It may have worked too well on me; I'm still putting that Samantha doll on my birthday list. It's worth a try. If you're interested in fulfilling my decades-long dream, don't forget to throw in the wire-frame bed too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Polly Pocket and Mighty Max

What better toy to give curious young oral fixators than a little compact full of tiny, swallowable, and potentially delicious component pieces? These things were a choking hazard waiting to happen. In some cases, it didn't wait; it just hacked and coughed and received the child-size version of the Heimlich Maneuver. Yech.

Even with the building safety concerns over offering children protozoan-proportioned playthings, Polly Pocket and Mighty Max quickly became some of the most popular toys around. It seemed kids just couldn't get enough of the pocket-sized playsets. A brief choking stint was more than worth it in exchange for a chance to carry around an entire action figure universe in your pocket. I mean, really.

The concept behind Mighty Max and Polly Pocket was roughly the same mold adjusted for preset gender stereotypes. Both play sets featured small plastic cases that opened into a miniature dollhouse or action figure setting. Inside the fun chamber lay a slew of tiny hard plastic figurines and movable set pieces. There were all types of different scenarios and settings, but these toys were generally appealing on the basis of their small-size gimmick.

Unfortunately, their extreme portability made Mighty Max and Polly Pocket pieces extremely prone to loss. At approximately an inch or so in height, these toys were probably too small to be entrusted in the care of small children. Once you lost the main characters, the entire playset was rendered utterly useless until your parents came through with replacements. All in all, probably not the most well thought-out children's toy venture.

Logic aside, these things were hot sellers; their tininess was a novelty on which we couldn't afford to miss out. We could take these things anywhere. It was a pretty creative idea, of course: a dollhouse that fits in your pocket. It's like the doll version of a smartphone. Something that used to be a sedentary activity with a lot of bulky hardware was reduced to a convenient pocket-sized item that works on-the-go. Not totally necessary, but once someone has one we've all got to scramble for ownership.

The premise may have been the same for the Polly Pocket and Mighty Max toys, but the nature of the miniature worlds were vastly different. I was a Polly Pocket girl myself, but after further examination of the Mighty Max product line, I'm feeling just a smidgen underwhelmed with my tiny toy selection. Let's take a quick peek at what Mattel had to offer us, shall we? I think you might get an idea of what I mean.

The girls got this:

With a jazzy theme song like that, how could you deny the allure of these pearlized plastic chambers?

Whereas the boys got this:

Yes, that's right. Your eyes do not deceive you; girls get a little pink seashell-style enclosed dollhouse with a giggly cartoon spokessprite, and boys get a Skull Dungeon. In the boys' version, our hero sends a Frankenstein-esque monster plummeting to his death from the second story of the evil doctor's lair. In the girls', to contrast, our little blond darling gleefully enjoys a ride on a playground slide. Unsurprisingly, the girl version of the toy originated from a dad setting up his daughter with a super sweet makeup compact-cum-dollhouse. The boys' incarnation, we can only speculate, originated from awesome.

It may not have been a politically correct gender divide, but it was pretty standard toy marketing for the 90s. The girls got the vapid but cute dollies and boys get the guts and gore. It was just the natural McDonald's Happy Meal-style female/male breakdown.

That's not to say there was no gender cross-over with these things, though I'd put pretty strong odds that more parents felt comfortable buying Mighty Max toy sets for their daughters than Polly Pocket for their sons. There were also many, many more points of interaction available with the Mighty Max franchise. The Polly Pocket mini playshells may have come first, but the Mighty Max toys branched out into a legitimate mini-media empire.

Mighty Max became an animated TV series in 1993, following the adventures of young "Cap-Bearer" Max. Max receives in the mail a magical hat that granted him the power to transport him all over the world to fight evil in all of its monstrous cartoon incarnations. It had plenty of charm, plus it didn't hurt that Rob Paulsen provided the voice of Max. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, we're talking about the voice of Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pinky and Yakko from Animaniacs (and later Pinky and the Brain), and Throttle from Biker Mice from Mars. I know, I know. Throttle. I'll give you a few moments to gather yourself following such exciting animation revelations.

Nintendo subsequently developed the Mighty Max character into a Super Nintendo game, leaving Polly Pocket in the toy empire dust as she languished in her makeup compact-style shell shaped mini-playhouses. Mighty Max had quickly grown into a small-scale multimedia franchise. To be fair, from a Super Nintendo perspective it's way more fun to battle evil zombies than to play quietly with friends in your upstairs nursery. Polly Pocket just didn't have the cross-marketing potential to be developed into a game like this one:

In comparison, the Polly Pocket empire was far more modest. To its credit, though, it ended up the franchise with the most staying power.

So, to review. Girls donned shiny ballerina tutus to hang with Polly, Dana, Stephanie, Billy, Becky in one of these:

And boys fought nuke rangers and neutralized zomboids in one of these:

It may not be a particularly enlightened marketing strategy, but hey, it worked. We all got what we wanted, more or less. In my case, I'm tempted to say less. I could have battled the killer T-Rex in the dino lab. Instead, I lost valuable formative hours revealing wrapped stuffed animals in Polly's Party-Time Surprise. Yes, that's right; I might have ended up with aspirations to be an adventure-seeking archeologist, but instead I learned the value of always bringing a well-wrapped birthday present with a shimmery bow. Reach for the stars.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Children of the 90s' Pop Girl Group Playlist

If you're looking to beat those Oh-My-God-How-Is-It-Still-Not-The-Weekend-Yet blues, look no further than this 90s pop girl group playlist. Alternately, it can also serve as a soothing remedy for those pesky post St. Paddy's Day hangovers. If you keep the volume very, very low, I mean.

The 90s is so often characterized as major era of boy bands, but the decade saw more than its fair share of wildly popular girl groups as well. They operated largely on the same principles: nonorganic formation through open casting calls, careful harmony arrangements, synchronized dancing moves galore. Whatever beef you may have with their impact on the legitimate singer/songwriter/musician profession, you've got to admit that they churn out some toe-tapping singles. One of these songs comes on and there's a pop-and-lock reflex we succumb to; I'm pretty sure I picked it up subliminally from my days of shaking to Darrin's Dance Grooves on VHS.

So throw your cautious music taste to the wind and give in to these guilty pleasures. They'll undoubtedly have you singing along at the top of your voice. Just don't make the mistake of leaving your car windows down--these are more than sure bets to induce all sorts of music superiority-gloating glances from your judgmental roadmates.

Wannabe (Spice Girls)

Spice Girls - Wannabe
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Ah, the classic. If by classic you mean gratingly shrill, then it's a perfect fit. Truthfully, you can criticize this song all you want but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who grew up in the 90s who doesn't know all or most of the lyrics. It was just a pervasive part of popular youth culture, so you might as well embrace it. I heard if you do they'll treat you to a zig-a-zig-ah, so you've got that going for you.

Say My Name (Destiny's Child)

Remember when Beyonce wasn't just the leotard-donning star of the infamous Kanye-approved "Single Ladies" video or the cameo in Gaga's "Telephone?" With all her recent success, it's easy to forget that she's been in the game for so many years. Not just in the game, but winning it; this girl's been a part of more number-one hits than most musicians can aspire to in a lifetime. In the 90s, the Beyonce-fronted Destiny's Child released single after hot single. Admittedly their lineup changed over the years, but whoever was showing up at the studio that day always brought it.

Where my Girls At (702)

Whatever happened to 702? With the incredible popularity of their single "Where My Girls At" they seemed poised to be the next up-and-coming girl group. As unbelievable as it sounds, the group was discovered by Sinbad. I know, I know. I don't even mean the adventuring Middle Eastern sailor of legendary lore; that would almost make more sense. No the actor/comedian Sinbad caught these girls singing in the lobby of a Vegas hotel, went and chummed up with their parents to grant him rights to drag them to a music show in Atlanta, and the rest, as they say, was history. Really, really weird history.

My Lovin (You're Never Gonna Get It) (En Vogue)

Try to listen to this song without breaking into a lightly treaded backup of "No, you're never gonna get it/never never gonna get it." It's nearly impossible. Would you expect anything less from a group whose album is titled "Funky Divas"?

C'est La Vie (B*Witched)

Just look at those moves! They just don't cut girl groups from the same cheesy pop-and-lock choreography cloth that they used to. Enjoy this one in the true traditional spirit of St. Patrick's Day: drunk. No, no, actually you can just enjoy their bagpipe solo. Yes, really.

I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover by Cleopatra)

I know, I know...I just as easily could have chosen their "Cleopatra--Coming Atcha" theme, but that seems like the easy way out. Plus, I still have this on all of my running and car trip playlists. This 1998 cover of their song "I Want You Back" may not have been as authentic as the Jackson 5 original, but it manages to capture the same breezy tone and catchiness. And hey, look on the bright side. I could have subjected you to Cleopatra's "Thank ABBA for the Music." Then we'd really be in trouble.*

Never Ever (All Saints)

As far as lengthy intros go, this is one of the most extensive. It's not even really an intro anymore--they may well have made it into a full spoken track, it's that long. It really builds anticipation for the main event, though, doesn't it? You just can't wait to find out what happens next. Spoiler alert: they sing.

If that just doesn't do it for you, maybe their debut "I Know Where It's At" will do it for you. I know it's left me scratching my head over what exactly happened to all those old mix tapes with this song on it. This used to be my jam in my maroon station wagon:

Waterfalls (TLC)

Many of us probably could enjoy this song a bit more in our blissful ignorance of young naivete; nowadays, we're forced to confront its message of drugs, violence, and irresponsible sexual behavior. In lieu of letting the cautionary tale get us down, maybe we should just watch the video and enjoy these girls grooving on the water. It's pretty cool, actually.

He Loves U Not (Dream)

This song came up on shuffle on my iPod the other day and I almost had a heart attack. How have I managed not to mention this song somewhere on this blog in the year it's been up and running? Granted, it technically came out in 2000, but it's just quintessential 90s girl group pop. Contrived, well-executed, and complete with a video full of colorfully dressed jailbait popping their heads back and forth in a sassy, in-your-face way.

No More (3LW)

This was also in 2000, so we were starting moving into a bit of a different sound. The general girl group principles still apply though, right down to the cutesy lisp in the first verse. 3LW cleverly stands for "3 Little Women," who didn't stay little too long. Like all good girl groups, their story ends in some petty squabbling that escalated into we-can-no-longer-appear-onstage-together level girlfights.

Push It (Salt N Pepa)

Just look at them pop in the VHS at the beginning of the video. Kids growing up today wouldn't even understand what's going on. A scary thought, right? My favorite part, though, is probably when they cut to a Girl Scout rockin' out in the crowd somewhere around 1:12. She looks all hopped up on Thin Mints and Samoas and she likes it. Thankfully she at least looks old enough to be audience to the racy lyrics. Whew.

Like all guilty pleasures, these songs should be enjoyed sparingly and as a part of a balanced musical diet featuring artists who play their own instruments. That said, there's no harm in occasionally venturing to the musical equivalent of the top corner of the food pyramid. The experience will likely be just as sweet and with comparable levels of artificial ingredients.

*Is it wrong to admit that I also have "Thank ABBA for the Music" on my iPod? Feel free to judge me, but I'll feel equally free to tell you it's awesome. Well, maybe not awesome, but at least serviceable. Okay, okay, fine. It might make your ears explode. Happy?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spice Girls

If I were to ask you to tell me what you want, what you really really want, I have a feeling most of you would instinctively issue the same reply. What more could we possibly really really want than the elusive and suspiciously made-up sounding zig-a-zig-ah? The best part is, we had no idea of the zig-a-zig-ah shaped void in our respective lives until the Spice Girls handily brought it to our attention. When you think about it, it was really a pretty thoughtful gesture.

Spice Girls - Wannabe
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The Spice Girls didn't need meaningfully discernible lyrics or a roster of musically significant songs: they built their empire largely on image and public persona. What they needed, it seemed, was a healthy dose of Girl Power, some sparkly Union Jack dresses, and a line of delicious ice-cream flavored licensed Chupa Chup lollipops. The group was a marketing phenomenon. Each member was so well branded and commidified. Young boys found them appealing, young girls wanted to be them, and everybody loved those lollipops. No, really. They were completely delicious. I could really go for one right about now.

Aside from their marketing prowess, the girls had a fair amount of talent. As with most burgeoning pop groups of the time, they were chosen not only for their looks but for their vocal ability. The Spice Girls were far from an organically formed musical group. Their path to fame was tightly managed and preconceived by a team of industry professionals. If you're questioning my sources on that one, look no further than the handy timeline on the Spice Girls' still-active homepage. That thing is a gold mine. Just look at all I learned:

1) Heart Management LTD (which is apparently a music management team and not a cardiac coaching facility as I'd originally theorized) held an open audition in London in 1993 for their newly-conceived girl group. The magazine ad they ran began with, "R U 18-23 with the ability to sing and dance? Are you streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated?" For some reason, I just love that they threw "streetwise" in there. It really conjures an effective visual of a line of girls at the audition each armed with a switchblade.

2) For their audition numbers, Mel C sang I'm So Excited, Mel B sang The Greatest Love of All, and Victoria sang Mein Herr. Now that they mention it, I'd love to see Posh in her current severe unsmiling state break out into a showstopping rendition of the Cabaret classic. She'd have to let her hair down, if she still had any remaining length on it.

3) The site does a great manager-approved job of glossing over the booting of an earlier group member, slickly stating, "It soon became clear that Michelle doesn't fit in, so she leaves to care for her sick mum and then to go on to university. She is replaced by Emma Bunton." Don't you just love that? Because she didn't fit in, she had to run off and care for her ailing mother. Somehow, I don't think the exchange went quite like that.

4) In 1994 the girls eventually take charge of the project, citing Chris Herbert's terrible, god-awful ideas as reasoning. This guy thought they should wear matching outfits and sing cover songs. What is this, Labelle does karaoke? Well done, girls.

The gripping fact list goes on and on, I seriously recommend you check it out. Until you've completed you solo assignment, though, let's get back to basics. The girls each assumed an alter-ego performance persona, giving girls everywhere a questionable "type" to aspire to depending on their penchant for sneakers or 7-inch platform heels:


Thusly named because of her flaming red hair, Geri Haliwell was Ginger Spice. It's rumored that she was originally christened "Sexy Spice" but the music managers were afraid it wasn't kid-friendly. You know, like micro-mini dresses and exposed knickers. Thank goodness for the swap.


You've got to wonder how many Americans were familiar with the word "posh" before Victoria Beckham (then Adams) assumed the title in her Spice Girl role. It's a pretty distinctly British concept of upper class, usually having something to do with accents and manners, though I'm sure her designer clothes helped pave the way for her title.


Emma Bunton was the youngest of the group, so she assumed the role of "Baby Spice". She was the baby-faced girly-girl of the group and because of her, I wore my hair in sky-high pigtails for years. She was the one I most aspired to be, even though the press gave her some flack for not being model thin.


Apparently wearing a sportsbra or a track suit with an athletic-style ponytail is grounds for dubbing yourself "the sporty one". To be fair, Mel C was actually fairly athletic. She always threw in some fun gymnast moves at the shows.


Mel B was Scary Spice on account of her leopard print wardrobe, pierced tongue, and unruly hair. She was supposed to be the crazy one of the group, speaking her mind and getting in people's faces. Mel certainly proved herself as outspoken and headline-grabbing with the Maury-style paternity suit she launched on Eddie Murphy. Looks like she's still got it.

Spice Girls - Two Become One
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Catchy, isn't it? You know you want to sing along...

The Spice Girls emitted an aura of Girl Power, launching the concept into one of the most major catch phrase-inspired ideological mindsets of the decade. The concept stressed female solidarity and embracing empowerment. There arguable wasn't much substance behind the phrase, though it did give us a great sparkly slogan to pin to our backpacks.

Whatever the strength of their alleged message, the Spice Girls were irrefutably a cultural phenomenon. They quickly became the best-selling girl group of all time, moving over 40 million albums over the years. They held major influence over fashion choices for young girls, leaving many of us to classify ourselves by our wardrobes as a Sporty or a Posh. The Spice Girls also had oodles of lucrative marketing deals, including a Pepsi spokes-group gig and a host of officially licensed merchandise. If memory serves correctly, Target once had an all-Spice Girls aisle. Not too shabby.

Spice Girls - Spice Up Your Life
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Their success wasn't limited to music, though it's disputable whether they should have ventured into the feature film arena. Regardless of your feelings on Spice World, you must admit it was a spectacular financial success. For years Spice World boasted the highest-grossing debut on Super Bowl weekend. In the movie, the girls play themselves in a light comedy modeled off of the Beatles' successful films. It had all sorts of cutesy cameos and zany madcap scenarios. It's delightfully fluffy and cheesy and precisely what you'd expect from a Spice Girls movie.

Love them or hate them, there's no denying their enduring influence over a generation of young girls. Once upon a time, they were the reigning queens of Brit pop. Their recent reunion tour showcased their staying power, selling out shows all over the world. The verdict is in: we just can't get enough. So don't be embarrassed. Slip in the earbuds and blast Wannabe. You know you want to.Oh, and if you happen to know what a zig-a-zig-ah is, please enlighten me. I've been agonizing over that one for years.

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