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The Spice Girls show their success has a long shelf life

The Baltimore Sun

When the Spice Girls stormed America's shores in 1996 with their pop confection "Wannabe" and chants of "Girl power!" no one could have predicted how big their careers would get or how sturdy their roles in popular culture would be more than a decade later.

Pop groups such as 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys may have sold more records, but they never made a movie like the Spice Girls and they certainly don't have any United Nations ambassadors for good will among them. Their combination of pop hits, cartoonish personalities and clever marketing made the Spice Girls more than a successful pop group -- they were a global phenomenon in the late '90s, selling more than 55 million albums, breaking all sorts of British chart records and taking their song "2 Become 1" to No. 1 in 53 countries.

Now, as the Spice Girls tour to support a new greatest hits CD and a new single, "Headlines," the group may be as big as it was before it went away, with each of the singers earning $20 million for the group's recent 17-night run at London's O2 arena alone. However, it's clear a lot has changed since 1998, the last time they all performed together.

Posh: Still is

When they started, Victoria Adams was dubbed "Posh" because of her love of little black dresses and her desire for the finer things. Today, after marrying soccer star David Beckham, Victoria Beckham really is posh, with a multimillion-dollar estate in Los Angeles and an NBC prime-time special about the Beckhams' move there.

Though she did release an eponymous solo album of dance pop in 2001, most of her energy is focused on fashion these days, including her own line of jeans, dVb Denim; a line of cosmetics, V-Sculpt; and the Intimately Beckham fragrance line with her husband. She also has written two books and has tried acting with a recent role on Ugly Betty.

Scary: Dancing mama

Melanie Brown was positioned as the loud, streetwise one, the "Scary" one early on. She was the rapper of the bunch. She coined the phrase "Zig-a-zig-ah." Today, she's the mother of two girls and is probably just as well known for her athletic and elegant moves on last season's Dancing with the Stars.

Mel B. seemed headed for serious solo success when the Spice Girls disbanded. Her debut solo album, Hot, was packed with British R&B; hits, including "I Want You Back" with Missy Elliott, but her second album, L.A. State of Mind, didn't do as well. She pursued acting -- including a run on Broadway as Mimi in Rent and in The Vagina Monologues in London -- and television hosting duties. And though she's married now to movie producer Stephen Belafonte, many still have plenty of questions about the end of her relationship with Eddie Murphy, father of her youngest daughter, Angel. Of course, seeing as how she has barely spoken to him since the breakup, Mel must have some pointed questions of her own.

Ginger: Prince's pal

Geri Halliwell, dubbed "Ginger" for her flaming red hair, was the crafty one, the one who understood how to use the media the best. She was the one who called Margaret Thatcher the first Spice Girl. She was the one who pinched Prince Charles' butt, saying, "You're very sexy. We could spice up your life." So it's no surprise, really, that she was the first to head out on her own in 1998, citing "the differences between us."

Halliwell's debut album, Schizophonic, landed her three No. 1 hits in the U.K. -- "Mi Chico Latino," "Lift Me Up" and "Bag It Up" -- and her solo career was off and running.

But she found that her interests lie far beyond music, though she has released two more albums and racked up another U.K. No. 1 hit with her cover of "It's Raining Men." She became a U.N. goodwill ambassador, specializing in promoting health care for women, and is also an ambassador for the Prince's Trust.

In addition to her autobiographies, Halliwell -- who has a daughter, Bluebell Madonna -- has finished a series of children's books due out this year.

Sporty: Solo, so good

Melanie Chisholm, aka "Sporty" for her workout outfits and sneakers, has turned out to be the most musically focused of the Spice Girls and the only one to regain a fraction of the Spice Girls' success in the United States as a solo artist.

Mel C. landed a huge dance hit in America in 2000 with "I Turn to You," which also hit No. 1 in the U.K., from her solo debut, Northern Star. She has released four solo albums as well as launching her own label, Red Girl Records. Her latest album is This Time.

Baby: Has her own

Emma Bunton was only 20 in 1996 when the Spice Girls rocketed to fame, landing her the nickname "Baby," though the baby-doll dresses she used to wear probably didn't hurt. These days, Baby has a baby of her own, giving birth to Beau Lee in August.

Bunton has released three solo albums -- moving from the singer-songwriter pop of A Girl Like Me to the more lush ballads of last year's Life in Mono -- and her single "What Took You So Long" hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts in 2004.

Like Mel B., Bunton threw herself into dancing, reaching the semifinals of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing show. Her U.S. profile has been raised recently with her appearance in a widely run commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce.

Glenn Gamboa writes for Newsday.

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