HEN SHE LEFT THE Spice Girls last year, Geri Halliwell joined the select group of people - Beatles, disgraced Miss Americas - who will forever be identifies as a former this or an ex that. In fact, the video for her new single, "Look At Me," from her solo debut album, Schizophonic, depicts the mock burial of her previous persona, the hot-pants-wearing evangelist of girl power, Ginger Spice. Halliwell, whose hair is now a very becoming strawberry blond, is also a roving goodwill ambassador for the U.N. and a pal of George Michael's. In a recent phone call from France, where she was doing promotion for her new record, she demonstrated that whatever her past incarnations have been and future incarnations might be, she still has enough energy to power up the girl.
Did you always want to be a star?
Yes. I came from quite a poor background, and I'm a child that had the television fed into my living room. They were selling me a dream, and I bought it. I chased that rainbow: I wanted to be a pop star; I want to be a movie star, because that will be my dream ticket.
Really? You seem more cheerful than driven.
I think you have to have a bit of both. It's a catalytic cocktail of enough love and enough pain, enough confidence and enough doubt, that makes you hungry.
How did you hook up with that tawdry Turkish game show they're always showing a clip of on VH1?
Do they show that? Oh, my God. I got offered the job because I had done some topless modeling. The producer said "Would you like to become a game-show hostess in Turkey? You'll have to go to Istanbul every weekend and wear an evening gown and love that fridge." I thought, "How wonderful," because it gave me a bit of rent money, and I got to see Istanbul. And I signed my first autograph, outside one of those tacky television studios.
How about the topless modeling?
That was just something that I fell into. It was not something I planned and deeply desired. It wasn't stimulating, having to get my breasts out and standing there in the cold to keep your nipples erect. But I had the assets in the right place, and I thought, "Oh well, why not?" I'll give it a go for a bit." Then I moved on.
What women in music do you think are sexy?
The ones with the sexiest minds. Tori Amos is quite sexy: She's provocative in a very sensual way, and she's pushing buttons. I quite like that. I think Natalie Imbruglia is sexy. Alanis Morisette is sexy. She's grown, and I like that. Sexy is someone who's sort of full-bodied and not afraid to be who they are, not afraid to be a woman. Madonna's sexy, but more through the strength she projects. I think that she's like a little girl as well. There's a mixture there that's very intoxicating. I think women are sometimes sexier than men, I have to say.
On a personal or an abstract level?
Abstract. It's a shame really - women just have more flexibility in what we wear and what we do with our images.
Do you have any of those big honking Ginger Spice shoes left?
I sold most of them for a children's charity. They were massive weren't they? Huge. But now I've got my feet firmly planted on the ground.
Tell me a recent dream.
Last night I had a dream... it wasn't sexual, but I remember waking up feeling loved. That was quite nice. I think my drummer was in it. I've got a band now, and I've got quite a nice-looking drummer. He's got a nice jaw line. He's Austrian. But you know what? I've gotten to the point where I just want a nice man who will be kind, and he can have a rounded belly and love handles - if he's got good looks, it's just a bonus.
OK, I think I'm done.
All right. But since this is where I get to have a voice, can I use two lines of your article just to say a big thank-you, even if it's to one person who reads this magazine how has shown me genuine support? Because this year, and just little moments have meant a lot to me. And for anyone who's ever felt a little bit alone or a little bit scared, I hope this album becomes your friend and that you get something out of it. And the next time you feel a little but alone and not good enough, tell everybody to stick it up your jumper. --Mim Udovitch