Catching Up With Geri Halliwell: "I Got A Little Bit Angry"

We all know the Spice Girls slimmed down to a quartet following the abrupt departure of Ginger Spice from the group in May 1998. But strangely enough, Geri Halliwell (as she's once again allowed to be known) has spent these last months out of the limelight and away from the public eye.

"For those that don't recognize me, I know, I used to look like a drag queen," declared Geri during her surprise appearance at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards last September. Our Ginger was indeed almost unrecognizable in a staid black suit and a sleek, subdued hairdo. Why the makeover?

"I think I became a caricature of my own self," Halliwell recently explained to MTV News' John Norris, "and I think the pinnacle of that was at the previous MTV awards when I was in that American flag thing. But actually Ginger

was a

part of me, and I think it's good to have a sense of humor about it. You have to have a sense of humor to wear the outfits that I wore."

Geri's sense of humor wore thin almost a year ago when she made her disappearing act and vanished from the Spice Girls just before a concert in Oslo, Norway. The "official" excuse was illness. But rumors persisted.

"I was in England," John told the singer, "when that whole Oslo incident--"

"Oh, for God's sake," she interrupted. "I wasn't sick."

"That was one of the things they said, right,"
Norris continued. "I mean, was it a pretty snap decision

or...?"

"Yes, it was,"

the singer replied. "It was just one of those things when I felt like I was tested, like someone put a card down in front of me and said, 'Prove it. Prove that you mean what you said in the last, you know, three years. That you said that you talk about girl power -- do you mean it?' And yes I do. 'Well, if you do, then jump.' And so I had to jump. I had no choice."

Although there were many reasons leading to Geri's decision to leave the group, she says what finally pushed her over the edge was a scheduling conflict that kept her from doing an interview about breast cancer.

"I got a little bit angry because I just felt... actually I meant to be the advocate of girl power, I meant to, you know, preach on about this, and if I can't do that, then we were meant to be more than a band. I just felt like a hypocrite and a liar," Geri

confessed.

But how did it feel when the time came to actually leave her bandmates?

"The only way I could make people understand, [it's] like a marriage. But actually more like a love affair. I had this intense love affair, and love affairs burn out," she explained. "And suddenly, a few years later...I wasn't in love anymore."

"To use the marriage analogy one step further,"
John began, "was there one of the four spouses in particular that--"

"I mean I know what everyone's thinking,"
Geri quickly responded. "You know, [at] the end of the day, the relationship between me and Scary Spice was one that I would say, she and I would have been friends whether we were in the band or not. You know, we had a very, very strong relationship. And like you know,

most -- the best relationships

-- actually you take it out on the ones you love the most."

With her four supposed best friends now gone, the artist formerly known as Ginger took refuge from the media and from her own distorted self-image at her pal George Michael's house. Not a bad place to turn to, since it was only a few years ago that George himself had to shed some "celebrity skin" to move ahead with his career.

"When I left the Spice Girls, I didn't know what I was going to do," Halliwell said. "I wanted to be the antithesis of that. I needed to get my feet back on the ground, so to speak, take those platform shoes off, and get grounded. I was absolutely frightened. But I had to do it. I didn't know I was gonna, you know, pursue this solo career business. God!"

Geri went into the studio last fall and the result is "Schizophonic," her

first solo

album. It's currently scheduled to arrive on June 15 and will include the first single and video, "Look at Me."

Oddly, at the time of her whirlwind, five-continents-in-seven-days publicity tour, only mere seconds of Geri's music were available for preview. So time will tell. For now, she still counts on her supporting fans and caring friends.

"Whatever she wants to do," Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm told MTV shortly following Geri's departure, "we know Geri, she'll do really well."

"She's going to be around," adds George Michael, "because she has so much personality and so much drive. She has every intention [of] staying famous."

And, if nothing else, there's

that old, familiar Ginger spark, which once again may carry her far.

"It's a girl's world!" Geri cried. "Woman power! Come on!" [RealVideo]