Twenty Years After Wannabe: A Conversation with Spice Girls Tribute Artist, Suzy Wilde

In which we discuss the Spice Girls, girl power, being a 90’s kid, rooming your friends, and what life is like in my dream world.

I have two favorite movies in the history of cinema. One of them is Home Alone. The other is Spice World.

I only have one favorite band. That band is the Spice Girls.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the Spice Girls. The earliest home video we have with me being able to speak opens up with a vivid scene: my older sister, Jessica, and I are bopping about, singing the Spice Girls, and I’m jumping on the furniture of our Cape Cod house. My dad yells at me a few times, saying, “Morgan, get down!” He then even puts me on the ground himself. But each time I return atop the ottoman and chant, “If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends!” Of course, I was two at the time, and I had neither lovers nor friends (besides Jessica and my parents). But the spirit of the Spice Girls was already within me at that age. And it continued to present itself in many ways throughout my life.

I have a Spice Girls poster on my dorm room wall. I’ve watched Spice World so many times that my VHS tape is worn down and skips over some scenes entirely (which stinks, although I have the movie memorized at this point). I wrote my final paper in my Media Studies class of my first year of college on the irony and ingenuity of that very same film. I promised my mom that I would have a mother-daughter dance at my wedding and we would dance to “Mama.” And I’m sure I don’t go a single day without talking about the world’s greatest girl group.

And I’m not the only one. The Spice Girls reached millions of people, and impacted just as many. They still do today.

I can’t go a week without seeing a Buzzfeed article about the group or a Facebook event about “90’s Throwback Night” featuring their shining faces, and I can’t name a single person who doesn’t know “Wannabe.” For most kids who grew up in a post 1996 world, the Spice Girls were and are inescapable. Which, to be honest, I think is quite good to know. I can’t think of a better band to spread the word of girl power and female friendship with wonderful songs and even better senses of humor.

I think the girls of the Spice Girls Tribute band, Wannabe, would agree.

Now while I could describe their credentials (five girls from Toronto who got together in 2012, fueled by their shared love of performance, music, and the Spice Girls), or talk about how they sell out shows and make fans crumble at Pride parades, or are essentially living my dreams, I think this promo video below could better articulate a thing or two:

I chatted with (and gushed to) Suzy Wilde, who portrays Posh Spice and who has performed in a number of bands, including Stonefox, Flashlight Radio, Great Bloomers, and The Dirty Dishes. She also performs music solo and writes musicals.

I chatted with Suzy about my love of the Spice Girls, the legacy of the band, her life as a musician, and everlasting Girl Power.

1348808647_Screen_Shot_2012-09-22_at_7.29.51_PM
via ReverbNation

Enjoy the following playlist filled with 20-year old gems as you read an interview about how the Spice Girls have changed the world (and the music careers of five modern girls in a tribute band) since 1996.


Morgan Vickers: Wannabe as a single and the Spice, the Spice Girls’ debut album, are twenty years old this year. And you’re a member of Wannabe, the tribute band. So I wanted to talk to you a bit about both of those things. 

Suzy Wilde: How did you find us, by the way?

MV: I (chuckles) – I’m actually a really big Spice Girls fan, and, when coming up with interview subjects, I was trying to think of things that interested me that came out of 1996. And I was like, “Well, I love the Spice Girls and I know so many other people do, so I’m sure there is a cover band or a tribute band somewhere!” And then I searched it, and you guys were the first thing that came up. 

SW: Oh cool! Yeah, I know we’re the only group in Canada, and I think there might be some more corporate Spice Girls tribute bands out there, that like, hire people who do other tributes and cruise ships, and stuff, but we’re the only self-made one.

MV: Going off of that, could you tell me a little bit about how the group was formed and when that happened?

SW: We formed the group about four years ago. We’re all kind of involved in other kinds of projects related to arts and dance and theater. A couple of us grew up together.

So, [the girls who portray] Ginger [Barbara Johnston] and Baby [Catharine Merriam] are sisters. Their dad and my mom used to work together because they’re both musicians. So we’ve known each other since childhood and we all went to high school together.

So, anyway, the girl who plays Ginger went to acting school with the girl who plays Sporty [Anika Johnson] and I went to music school with the girl who plays Scary [Janee Olivia].

We were all living in a house together one summer working on this random musical about Canadian history. And so we were living in a house and we had a lot of free time. And we had another friend from my school – I studied music so I knew a lot of bands – and there was one group who were doing a Daft Punk tribute, and we started brainstorming and coming up with something that we could do that would be another well-received tribute.

But, honestly, we didn’t really expect to do more than one show. We planned to just put it together and do it for our friends and family, but somehow this big newspaper caught wind of what we were doing. And the day of our show, this huge article came out, and there was a lineup around the block, and it was sold out, and it was a huge shock. But, as it turned out, 90’s nostalgia and the Spice Girls and that kind of craze was really starting to come out at that time. And it was huge, so we just ended up continuing.

We’ve been doing it for four years. That’s crazy. 

MV: Yeah, that is crazy! That’s also really funny that you guys all lived together when you decided to form the tribute band, because when the Spice Girls were just forming the band themselves, they all lived together.

SW: They all lived together, that’s true!

It was actually – it was in a small town. We all come from Toronto, which is a bigger city. But we went to this small town called Kingston, which was supposed to be the capital when confederation first happened, but it ended up being Ottowa instead. So Kingston is sort of like a smaller town, and we’re all city girls, so we were bored living in this small town.

It was fun. It was a fun summer because we were doing this play. But we did have a lot of spare time.

MV: And for you, personally: do you remember your first experience with the Spice Girls – hearing their music or watching Spice World or hearing about them?

SW: Yeah. The Spice Girls was the very first CD that I ever owned. My mom gave it to me, along with a Bananarama CD, which was definitely an older group.

I remember putting it on. My mom heard “Wannabe” on the radio and she bought me the CD and put it on in the living room and I loved it. I thought it was amazing. And I still do. (Laughs)

Speaking to the other girls: I think we were all huge fans. I mean, I think every girl in the 90’s was a big fan of Spice Girls. They were just so bubbly and happy and powerful.

MV: What impact did the group have on you when you were younger, and what impact do they have now, especially since you’re embodying the roles of them?

SW: I think one thing that really got me as a kid was the camaraderie between the girls and how basically it emphasized female friendship. I think that’s something that can kind of get lost in the media and in depictions of female icons, and how they’re often put in competition with one another – there’s competitiveness and jealousy, if that makes sense.

MV: Yeah, absolutely.

SW: And just seeing them addressing that friendship is the most important thing, and [that] girls have to stick together and stick up for one another – I think that was one of the biggest reasons that girls loved them. ‘Cause that’s true.

And it also really helps that the five of us are pretty much best friends. We don’t just do this together. We do countless other projects. Like, we do musicals together and we play in other bands and do a lot of work together. But we also hang out all the time. So we’re actually best friends in real life.

MV: That’s awesome.

SW: Yeah!

MV: And when you guys are embodying the roles of the different Spice Girls up on stage, what does that feel like? Because for me, when I was thinking about it before the interview, I was like, “Wow, if I were to think of my dream profession as a kid, it would’ve been to step into the roles of the Spice Girls,” you know?

SW: Yeah, and I think we all felt that way for sure. When we first did it, our first show was crazy. People were cheering and singing along and I think that people wanted to believe that we were actually them. And I think that feels really weird (laughs), but it’s fun and it’s hilarious and we have a lot of fun on stage.

For me, personally, I have a hard time embodying Posh because she’s not supposed to ever smile –

MV: (laughs)

SW: – and, like, I really have a hard time keeping a straight face and not smiling the whole time because I’m having so much fun. So, that’s a personal challenge. (Laughs)

MV: I understand how that could be a challenge!

SW: Well, we all kind of embody our characters in certain ways. So, the girl who plays Ginger is like very crass, and always asks for a shot of whiskey during the sets and sits on people’s laps and stuff. And Baby is really cute and she’s the youngest. And Scary is really outgoing and sassy. And the girl who plays Sporty – I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to look at any of our videos – but she’s bang on as Sporty Spice. She does all of the moves. She knows how to do the worm. She kind of like gyrates in that weird, gross way that Mel C used to do. So it’s pretty hilarious.

MV: That’s great. And that’s great that everything fits so perfectly.

SW: (Laughs)

MV: So, my last question would be: what do you think draws so many people to the Spice Girls, even twenty years after their debut album was released to the world?

SW: I think that one of the best things about them is that they feel like real people, and they all have individual personalities, and big personalities, and they’re unapologetic, and you really feel like you know them and that they’re your friends.

Growing up, we all felt that way, and I think now that they people who were kids back then – now that we’re all in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties – we are starting to feel very nostalgic because now it’s time to finally grow up, and we want to revisit the past and look back on those years when everything was so bubblegum and blow up chairs and ring pops and stuff. That time is so happy for a lot of us. And the Spice Girls really represent that time. 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by morganpvickers

still figuring it all out.

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