solo spice

The artist formerly known as Ginger is still Spice-y hot with a soon-to-be-hit solo album and a multimillion-dollar book deal. Here Geri Halliwell comes clean about her bulimia, nude modeling and life behind bars, by Nina Malkin

taken from the June 99 Mademoiselle USA edition

IT'S GRAMMY NIGHT, AND EVERYONE WHO'S ANYONE IN the music biz is in the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angles . Almost everyone, that is. Geri Halliwell, the artist who made the most music news last year--first for splitting from Brit pop phenom Spice Girls, next for pulling off an image 180 that made Courtney Love's seem like a change of lipstick, and then for inking a multimillion-dollar record and a book deal--is at a quiet Beverly Hills bistro.

A scant few miles from the stars, paparazzi and statuettes, she looks less then statuesque--only "five and one and a bit," her monster platforms long since auctioned off for charity. Her look--black pants and sweater set, pigtails--is cute, but not exactly camera-ready. "I don;t really go for celebrity parties. I'd much rather go home and watch telly," says Halliwell. Perhaps she'll change her tune next year, should her solo Cd garner a Grammy nod. It could happen. From the first single, "Look At Me," a fun dance tune bursting with smart attitude, through "Lift Me Up," a girly guitar song, Schizophonic has something for everyone. "I thing women have schizophrenic lives--we're lovers , we're workers , we're mothers, we're fighters ," explains Halliwell. "One song is high-strung and dance oriented and dance-oriented, and another is reflective and and moody. There's a Beck-like tune with sitars. There's a big ballad , " she continues. "My manifesto was to look at it as the last album I'll ever make, like I was going to drop dead at the end, so I took it to the max."

But can she sing? "I wouldn't say I'm Celine Dion, but I've got expression." Will anyone older than 12 relate to it? "I didn't want to alienate my former fans; however, I'm a twenty-six-year-old woman"--or so she says--"and I write like one." Any catty lyrics about her former sisters-in-condiments? Halliwell, who wrote all the songs, says only, "I had a lot to think about, a lot to get out. Obviously you're going to put down what you feel, but I tried not to be too self-indulgent."

MADEMOISELLE: Post-Spice, how did you feel about making your own album?

GH: I didn't want to make an album strait away. My confidence was on the floor, I was running on adrenaline, Something inside me didn't want to admit I wanted to make an album. But I believe you must face your fears.

MLLE: You quite the Spice Girls after a conflict with a breast-cancer. What were you feeling? "That's it! I'm outta here!"?

GH: I must have been very brave or totally mad. Most people would have stayed for the money, but I just couldn't.

MLLE: But there must have been friction...

GH: I won't say anything adverse about the others because there was a camaraderie, we empowered each other, and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. But supposing you fell in love, had this fantastic romance--and then it went pear-shaped? I don't know, maybe I expected too much from the relationship.

MLLE: How important is image?

GH: Image is everything in this life but it's also bullshit and we must remember that. When I was in the Spice Girls, I became a caricature of myself. At my "peak" I couldn't even recognize myself. It was like they weren't looking at me, they were looking at the makeup and the costume and the hair. It was good in that I didn't feel as vulnerable, but I was ready to wipe off all the layers.

GERALDINE ESTELLE HALLIWELL: IT SOUNDS LIKE THE NAME of a spinster headmistress at an upper-crust finishing school, not someone best known, till recently, for scandalous hemlines, more makeup than the first floor of Bloomigdale's and a penchant for pinching princes.But Halliwell, the youngest of five siblings, admits she was never much in the demure department. "I hitched up my skirt and wore too much eyeliner," she says of her teenage years.

Nor was she the least bit upper-crust. Halliwell grew up in a working class London suburb. Her father, of Swedish descent, was a car salesman, and her mother, who's Spanish, cleaned houses. Durning college, Halliwell earned money to make a demo tape by working a slew of day jobs-- housemaid, barmaid, aerobics instructor, glamour model (the British euphemush for posing nude, and the source of all those Porno Spice rumors); she even sold fake designer watches. Halliwell remembers her mom forever yammering: "Get a proper job! Be a teacher, marry a banker!"

MLLE: How does someone go from growing up the way you did to achieving stardom?

GH: You have to have a lethal cocktail of things--you've got to want it so bad, and you've got to need it. When my father died of a heart attack, I was 21; it made me very death-conscious. I felt a massive void inside me and that put the accelerator down-- the pain fueled me.

MLLE: Was that around the same time that you had an eating disorder?

GH: Yes. When I was modeling, and when my father died, I was anorexic and bulimic. I've never really analyzed the eating disorder thing; I think it happens because of a combination of things--it's a coping mechanism, it's low self-esteem, it's something you do when you're stressed or unhappy. When you're content, you don't do that.

MLLE: And it's not something you'd want to recommend to fame seekers. Other advice?

GH: Don't covet, don't grasp; try you're best, put all your positive energy into it. Then let it go. Think: if it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't--and then it will come.

HALLIWELL DOESN'T ORDER MORE THAN A LARGE SALAD-- but that's because of her agenda. "I want to talk; I don't want to be distracted by food," she says. The girl can talk a blue streak--especially about her noble works. Most people know by know that Halliwell , who had a benign lump removed from her breast when she was 18, is a champion of breast-cancer awareness. "You can abuse fame, take advantage of people or even just run around in a stretch limo with body guards to create this chaos, or you can use it brilliantly," says Halliwell. "I can talk about breast cancer, and if one girl goes, 'Ooh, I better check my boob!' then I've done something good with it." Halliwell is also a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, promoting population control and reproductive health care in underdeveloped countries; plus she took part in a Comic Relief documentary to call attention to the staggering debt of Third World nations. We're all for that, but, hey, we want the dirt.

MLLE: It's been a year since you left. Two of the girls have just had babies. Is it time to rekindle the friendship?

GH: I'm not ready. I will love those girls forever, but I'm still licking my wounds. I need my own space to rebuild who i am before I can connect to them again.

MLLE: So who are your friends now?

GH: I have two close girlfriends. One does my hair--I've known her for years, she's really earthy and normal. The other is a journalist; she's very intelligent. George Michael is my only celebrity mate. He came from the same town as me, he also has a partially Mediterranean background, he lost his mother and I lost my father--it's not a superficial friendship. I used to be a huge Wham! fan. When I first met him I tried to flirt with him! I thought I had a chance, but then it was soon apparent that was not going to happen!

MLLE: They latest gossip is that you've come between George and his b.f. Kenny Goss.

GH: Total rubbish! They're together and very happy. George and Kenny have been brilliant to me-- I don't know what I would have done without them. After the Spice Girls, I was so lonely, and for tax reasons I couldn't go home--they gave me shelter and companionship. The combination of their two personalities would make a perfect boyfriend.

MLLE: And you haven't got one of those?

GH: I haven't had sex for ages! I'd like a snuggle and a kiss--I think a kiss is as important as sex in a way-- but now I want to save myself for the right person.

MLLE: How do you feel about women using their sexuality as a way to get what they want?

GH: I'm sure we've all subconsciously done it--I'd be a liar and a hypocrite if I said I haven't. But there are boundaries. As long as you don't rely completely on your sexuality, I think it's okay. Women have sexuality and intelligence and beauty--women have some much power.

Geri Halliwell sure does--and more power to her. •