If Sporty Spice Is Your Favorite Spice Girl, You’re Zig-a-Zig-Wrong

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I don’t know what it is about Andy Cohen (his rigorous training as moderator of the trench warfare known as “Real Housewives” reunions, his wide-eyed and enthusiastic smile, the copious amounts of free alcohol he provides) but he always manages to coax some hot dish out of his guests. On last night’s Watch What Happens Live, Mel “Scary Spice” B revealed her favorite fellow group member and the answer, well… it was just wrong:

Melanie Jayne Chisholm, a.k.a. Melanie C, a.k.a. Mel C, a.k.a. Sporty Spice? That’s your answer? You’re closest with her? HER?

First of all, Melanie Brown, way to choose the only Spice Girl who shares your first name. That’s the same tactic that first graders use when asked whom they want to have over for a playdate: Jessica will pick Other Jessica (not Other Other Jessica because Other Jessica has cool keychains on her backpack and Other Other Jessica refused to share her Lunchables pizza even though the packages contain three) and they will swear their allegiance to each other and trade friendship necklaces and everyone will think it’s so cute that two girls with the same name are so inseparable. But do you know what happens when your loyalties are based on something so arbitrary as a person’s first name or the fact that she had a semi-functioning Tamagotchi hanging off her Jansport? You find Other Jessica holding hands with Cute Matt behind the swings even though you had just told her at your weekend sleepover that Cute Matt was your crush. YOU’RE THE ONE WHO GAVE HIM THE NAME “CUTE MATT” FERCRISSAKES! There are more important qualities to take into consideration, Mel B, like the other person’s sense of humor, whether you’re interested in the same things, and how quickly the harlot will make a move on your one true love while you are left sitting at the checker tables with Elliot, the kid who had to be asked not to put his legs behind his head in the middle of class.

There are two truths universally acknowledged: 1. If you grew up during a particular time of the Spice Girls’ dominance — from the release of “Wannabe” in 1996 to Ginger’s departure (we’ll never forgive you) in 1998, you “played” Spice Girls (the rules were simple: every friend was assigned a Spice Girl and then had to run around the field/room/basement/playground/backyard acting like said Spice Girl; one couldn’t “win”, per se, unless you got to play Baby in which case you did win) and 2. no one wanted to be Sporty Spice. Ever. Even as a little girl who petitioned for a girl’s football team, willingly covered the Ja Rule part of “I’m Real” during lunchtime sing-a-longs, and didn’t mind it when the spun bottle landed on one of my girl friends rather than a boy (for reasons I didn’t understand until college) (thanks, Judith Butler!), I fought tooth and nail to avoid being cast as Sporty. Sure, I masqueraded as Posh when deep inside I knew I was Scary, but I was just a little girl; we all grow up and face the double buns truth eventually. At least I knew Sporty was a glorified Tiger Schulmann’s Karate commercial and not a compelling character.

Let’s be honest: Sporty’s entire shtick was that she wore tearaway Adidas track pants and could kick really high. An eight-year-old girl didn’t need a whole Tiger Beat spread to figure out that Sporty’s persona wasn’t fully thought out. A ponytail and sneakers aren’t a personality, they are just the preferred uniform of female gym teachers. The rest of the Spice Girls were rooted in identifiable emotions, traits that fans could latch onto: Scary was brazen and impulsive; Baby was sweet and innocent; Ginger was fiery and cheeky; heck, even Posh’s lack of emotions was exciting and foreign. By couching ourselves in their roles, we could live a fantasy. We could be better, louder, bolder, funnier, sexier, cooler. Sporty was the girl down the block who was always the last one standing during tag — it was an impressive trick at first but eventually you want to stop playing tag and go home. We all respect and adore Michelle Obama but no one wants to hang out with the Let’s Move! campaign.

Inarguably Melanie C has had the most success at launching a musical career post-Spice Girls; in fact, I would be willing to concede that she had the best voice of the group. “I Turn To You” continues to be a jam. Mel C is far more interesting and dynamic than anything “Sporty Spice” could express or contain. We all were, even when the only way we knew how to articulate the most exuberant and audacious parts of ourselves was to channel them through the platforms and Union Jack dresses of someone else. That’s why, when faced with the unimaginative, uninspiring task of portraying Sporty, we always chose to play a different game. Besides, none of us could kick that high.

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