who's that girl?

Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell

is dressed down and made-under,

and she regrets pinching the prince's

bum. Tony Romando offers his instead.

Photography by Corinne Day

a living doll

In Her accountant's office in East London, Geri Halliwell and I are facing each other across a long conferance table. We're sprawled and spread out like eagles. Teacups filled with milk and cigarette butts are shoved aside to give us plenty of room to maneuver properly. "All right-- now I'm ready. Should I go this way or that?" Geri asks with her croaky voice. Well I think you should do it like this, I reply. "Okay then, your turn," she says, leaning flat onto the table to the point of showing the tattoo that streches from the small of her back, uh, a little farther. If someone were to walk in right now, they'd be shocked, I say. "Stop talking: This is just starting to heat up, and you're distracting me," the admitted schizophrenic says. You know you could have jumped me earlier if you wanted to, I tell her. "Oh, come, be quick will you?" she urges. At this moment , Geri's yoga instructor, Keith, arrives early for their 5:30 lesson. Geri glances up, trying to salvage one last shred of dignity. "I've lost, haven't I?" she asks. Ah, the game of checkers isn't as simple as it appears, is it?

Not as simple as, say, breathing, or being a Spice Girl. Looking back, that's one of the main reasons she ditched the cartoonish super-group she once called her family. "Being with the Spice Girls looks like a short time on paper, but mentally those five years feel like 20 years," she says. For Geri Halliwell, life as "Ginger" wasn't exactly challenging (what exactly, was she expecting?), and there were more pressing issues that she wanted to take a stab at-- like breast cancer awarness, "which the schedule wouldn't permit," a solo record and building a foundation of integrity. "It doesn't take a brain scientist to figure out things weren't exactly perfect," she says. Maybe it does, but she refuses to elaborate.

Geri Halliwell's strawberry-blond hair is pulled back, and she's not wearing any makeup. Is this proper lady the same overly made-up clevage monster who, at a buisness function where she couldn't find a bathroom, used some wadded-up towels as a toilet instead? "I'll always be kicking myself for doing things like that and for pinching Prince Charles' bum--I wouldn't do that today," she says. "The louder you are, the more insecure you are, and that was me. I'm a lot more vulnerable now." The trasy ones always seem to clean up their acts before I get to them.

At 5 feet 1 inches, she's a tiny and unbelievable skinny little woman, modestly covered by a black sweater and black pants. And no, she's not wearing platform sneakers. Her head isn't disproportionately larger than the rest of her body, as it appears to be in pictures; but her chest, even without a bustier, is alarmingly large, compared with her overall size. But no cleavage--I feel cheated. "I have to question my values and integrity now," she says. "I'm trying to grow desperatly. When I left the Spice Girls, I really had to look at myself on all levels--especially physically and superficially--and wipe off my makeup and undress myself," Geri says. "I'm really not sure who I was then."

Now Geri is rifling through her purse for her driver's license to prove to me how ridiculous it is that so many people think she's 35. A year ago, she was called so many things-- Podge Spice, Chin-ger Spice and Old Spice (oops, we called her that in our prmiere issue). "I don't have my license after all--I gave it to my driver," she explains (although she doesn't explain why her driver would need her license). "When I joined the Spice Girls, I said I was 21 when I was actually 22. And now I look back and say, 'I know I looked old.' I'm just a reflection of the way society makes us think it's crap to get old. The other thing with the Spice Girls, as time went on, was that I felt unahppy inside and not confident about my looks, so i put on more and more makeup to hide it." You're without cake-face right now, so do you feel less that perfect? "Yes. But the difference is . . . you hide behind the mask until you've had enough. I think image is fine, but image is also bullshit, and we have to acknowledge that. And I have," she says. She doesn't look 26, but she also doesn't look older than 30-- and even if she isn't 26, who cares? Most people have issues about their ages. "Who gives a crap?" she laughs. "Maybe I'm 66 and I've just got good wrinkle cream."

So why did Geri leave the Spice Girls? "I suppose it was quite a mad thing to do-- why would anyone?" she asks. "I had to go onstage and do the Spice Girls thing, even though I was changing." But she is willing to give me a little Spice World gossip: The reason Geri didn't attend Posh's wedding was because she wasn't invited. She is not a Scientoligist. On the pregnancy rumor: "I'd love to have a child one day, but right now all I've got is Harry," she says of her purse-size dog. On the rumor that she got a raw deal: "I kind of had to lick my wounds and rebuild myself, rebuild my confidence as a human being, not rely on my idenity as a Spice Girl," she says. And the fued between Scary Spice? Geri won't elaborate in words. But when I give her a T-shirt to autograph (for our managing editor's daughter, not me!), I have to stop her from drawing a mustache on Scary.

Somehow, it becomes her turn to ask the questions. "Do you know what the meaning of life is?" Geri asks. Beer and women? "That's fine," she says, winking, "but you know when you're asking yourself the important questions in life? That's me right now." Geri Halliwell has put a cork in the "girl power" for the time being. She says "It's more about people power." This no doubt, is linked to her appointment as ambassador for goodwill for the United Nations; her responsibilities include supporting a contraceptives-awareness campaign and a population-control program. "I'll tell you who I admire," she says. "Hillary Clinton. I think she's brilliant. I think she should run for president." As of late, Geri's been spending most of her time in the recording studio, rather than running her trap about condoms and sex. She's just finished recording her as-yet-untitled solo album (due in late spring), which she describes as a "roller-coaster ride with hormonal mood swings--more adult."

As we near the end of our game, I have all of Geri's checker pieces except two. She moves a black checker and then takes her finger off of it (she wanted to be red because red is a power color, but in the end chose black because "black is slimming"). She spots a safer play and quickly tried to move her piece back. You took your finger finger off that, missy. "I did not! . . . Okay I did," she says. I think you're pretty much finished, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings, and I hate losing," she responds. "I love the underdog. You know, checkers is a metaphor for life isn't it? Don't move backward because it's 'Take or be taken.' I've taken the piss out of myself now, and I think that's very important," she says. 

jane 1

Other quotes in the article:

"I go to sleep with my makeup on and things like that. One thing I do is scrub my skin with a nail brush to kind of massage it, help get rid of fat. I don't really know if it works."

"I had a bikini wax and, God, that hurt. A lot of beauty things are really painful. Men might be put off by this, but I don't shave my legs. I haven't got really hairy legs, and I think spiky stubble is worse."