Geri Halliwell

Geri Halliwell shocked the recording industry last year when she opted out of the Spice Girls, the wildly popular pop group that featured five women who also acted in their own movie, "Spice World."

Halliwell, the former Ginger Spice, is now promoting the release of her first solo LP, Schizophonic (1999).

Geraldine Estelle Halliwell was born 27 years ago today in Walford, UK, to a Spanish mother and a Swedish-English father. Before she became a Spice Girl, Halliwell worked as a dancer, a model and as a Turkish TV game show host.

When she was 18, Halliwell underwent surgery for breast cancer. She left home at 16 and worked as a food server, among other occupations.

Halliwell then spent almost a year as a professional dancer in London clubs. After getting a job at BCM, a high-profile club in Mallorca, Spain, Halliwell posed for her first professional glamour photos.

Following her stint on Turkish TV, Halliwell responded to a 1993 print ad for five "lively girls" for a singing group. The ad's author, a show-business manager, selected the group's lineup; yet two months after the ensemble was in place, the Spice Girls left him to chart their own career.

The Girls tried for two years to get a recording contract and eventually secured a deal with Virgin Records.

In 1995, the Spice Girls signed with Annie Lennox's manager, Simon Fuller, and started writing songs with Elliot Kennedy. The following year "Wannabe" (RealAudio excerpt), the Spice Girls' first offering, made history by being the only debut single by an all-female group to top the UK chart during its first week. The song stayed at #1 for six more weeks and quickly became a smash in 21 other countries.

The British media played a prominent role in the Spice Girls' popularity. Reporters began referring to the girls by their nicknames, Posh, Sexy (later Ginger), Sporty, Baby and Scary, which supposedly reflected their personalities. Media in other countries, including the United States, soon followed suit, and the Spice Girls became global superstars. The girls' catchy dance–bubblegum pop, sex appeal, unapologetic feminism and unbridled sense of fun were keys to their success.

The Spice Girls conquered the U.S. in 1997, the year both their LPs, Spice and Spiceworld (including such hits as "Viva Forever"), were issued there. The latter was also the title of the group's film, which was based on the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" and chronicled a week in the life of the press-hounded girls.

Last year the Spice Girls had another big hit with "Goodbye." After Halliwell announced her departure, the remaining four members elected to continue the group without her.

Schizophonic slightly expanded the bubblegum pop Halliwell specialized in with the Spice Girls. It included jazz and Latin influences on the first single, "Look at Me." Other cuts included "Lift Me Up" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Goodnight Kiss."

Halliwell, who has been making TV and in-store appearances to promote the LP, has not begun a solo tour yet.

Other birthdays: Isaac Hayes, 61; Pat MacDonald (Timbuk 3), 47; Randy DeBarge (DeBarge), 41.