On May 31, 1998, Geri Halliwell shocked the world by announcing she was leaving the Spice Girls.
The news came in the middle of their world tour, following increased speculation about Halliwell’s status in the group after she missed two concerts in Norway and the BBC’s National Lottery Show.
Up until that point, the Spice Girls — made up of Halliwell (Ginger), Emma Bunton (Baby), Melanie Brown (Scary), Victoria Beckham (Posh) and Melanie Chisholm (Sporty) — had seemed inseparable.
The fierce fivesome preached a message of solidarity and “girl power” ever since they burst onto the airwaves with 1996’s “Wannabe,” the song that launched them to superstardom. They first came together four years earlier after answering an advertisement to form an all-girl pop band, something missing in the music industry at the time.
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By 1995 they were signed to Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment. Their debut album Spice sold more than 31 million copies worldwide, with singles including “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There,” and “2 Become 1.” Their follow-up album Spiceworld — with tunes like “Spice Up Your Life,” “Stop,” “Too Much” — sold 20 million copies, making them the best-selling female group in history.
A film, also named Spice World, and a slew of merchandise and endorsement deals (including an iconic Pepsi commercial) soon followed. But behind the scenes, there was conflict.
“Sadly I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls. This is because of differences between us,” Halliwell said in a statement read by her rep, Julian Turton, at the May 31 presser in London in 1998. “I’m sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best.”
Though she ended the announcement with a “P.S., I’ll be back,” Halliwell wasn’t planning on returning to the Spice Girls. She claimed in the press that she was suffering from exhaustion and wanted to take a break, but was back that following year with a solo LP, Schizophonic.
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Meanwhile, the remaining four Spice Girls — who had said in a statement at the time that they were “upset and saddened” by Halliwell’s decision but were supportive of her — went on their way. They moved through their 40-stop North American tour without Halliwell and recorded new material, including “Goodbye,” a holiday single dedicated to their departed bandmate, and their third album, Forever.
They would disband soon after, as all the remaining ladies launched solo careers (to various levels of success).
It would be years until the group reunited — first for a worldwide tour in 2007 that came attached to a Greatest Hits album, which featured two new songs: “Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)” and “Voodoo.” Performances at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and the U.K.’s Children in Need telethon followed.
They got together again to perform at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the same year their jukebox musical Viva Forever! premiered in London’s West End.
Each have remained busy on their own. Beckham, 44, left music behind for a huge career in fashion. Brown, 43, joined the judges table at America’s Got Talent, while Bunton, 42, most recently appeared in the U.S. as a judge on ABC’s Boy Band. Chisholm, 44, has maintained a consistent recording career, her most recent album being 2016’s Version of Me. All have become mothers.
So does Halliwell regret leaving? Not really.
Last year, on the 19th anniversary of her departure, the 45-year-old wrote a fan on Twitter and apologized — though makes sure they knew that she never looked back with anger.
“I’m sorry about that… everything works out in the end, that’s what my mum says! X,” she wrote.
Earlier this year, the Spice Girls staged yet another reunion: hanging with their former manager Fuller, whom they fired in 1998, to reportedly discuss upcoming projects.
The reformed quintet all posted photos together on their various social media accounts, too.
“We have enjoyed a wonderful afternoon catching-up and reminiscing about the amazing times we have spent together,” the group said in a statement.
“We are always overwhelmed at how much interest there is across the whole world for the Spice Girls. The time now feels right to explore some incredible new opportunities together. We all agree that there are many exciting possibilities that will once again embrace the original essence of the Spice Girls, while reinforcing our message of female empowerment for future generations.”