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The Girl Power phenomenon began 25 years ago in July 1996, when Spice Girls set the world alight with their first single Wannabe, ushering in a new era of pop superstardom and unapologetic individuality.
Posh (Victoria Beckham), Scary (Mel B), Baby, (Emma Bunton), Ginger (Geri Horner) and Sporty (Melanie C) inspired girls the world over with their catchy bubblegum pop melodies, platform trainers and personalities.
Annika Spalding was one of them. She was 10 years old when she first "zigazig ah'd" after seeing them perform on Top of The Pops.
While lots of young fans were concerned about learning the choreography by the chart-topping band, Annika was going through a very tough time at home.
She and her family had just moved from Birmingham to north Yorkshire to start a new life, but Annika was thrown by the sudden change, and her surroundings felt foreign and new.
Annika and her family eventually settled in the North, where she started a new school - which she hated.
But it was there the Spice Girls fan would spend the rest of her childhood and adolescent years.
Once she and her family settled into a maisonette in the area, she got the Spice Girls' first album on cassette and learnt all the lyrics. As she weathered her way through an unsettling new normal - shy, and still not quite at home - she found herself looking up to the girl group members as role models.
“I knew girls could be powerful and loud and fun and creative and express themselves how they want," she said.
"I didn't have anyone in my immediate life showing me what it meant to be a fearless woman, but I had the Spice Girls.
“The girl power movement made me feel like I could do anything. They showed girls that there is more than one way to be a girl.”
As a mixed-race girl living in the North, she looked-up to Bradford born Mel B in particular.
“She was what we called back then a ‘proper northern lass.’
“She is mixed race and so am I. I don't think I understood at the time why that was important, but on reflection, I think such a thing was quite rare to see.
“I'd never even had a doll that was black. Most of my whole family was white. Nobody had hair like mine. But Mel B did and I loved that there was someone like me.”
The Spice Girls continued to follow Annika through the most trying times of her life, like in 2005, when her mum died, aged 35, following a battle with cancer.
It was then that their popular hit, Mama, begun to particularly resonate.
The Spice Girls have an array of much acclaimed hits, including nine UK number one singles. But over the years, the lyrics of tender ballad Mama rung true.
Each member of the band sings about their love and adoration for their mums - and after her mum's death this was something Annika appreciated different way.
“Now I love Mama because the lyrics are everything I wish I could say to my mum, I never got a chance to appreciate her while she was here," she explains.
In 2019 the Spice Girls went on a reunion tour and visited arenas and stadiums across the UK and Ireland. It was the first time Annika saw her lifelong favourite band live and in an instant she felt like a child in the '90s again.
"It was so incredible. Naturally I knew all the words to all the songs, and just felt like I was right at home. There were women around my age and older dressed up like the Spice Girls, some women were doing cartwheels and all sorts, felt like it was the 90s again.
"I think all our inner children came out to play that day!"
Annika, now 34, is based in Walsall and works as a creative consultant. She is the mother to two daughters aged nine and 12 and though she has shown them Spice Girls music videos and played their songs, they are more inclined to bop along to Little Mix than their mum's favourite band.
Continuing the legacy of being loud, proud and being an individual is hugely important to Annika.
"Girl Power is interlinked with every aspect of my life. As a mother of girls, I want them to feel powerful and confident enough to be who they are," she explained. "I don't want them to fit into a box and be what society tells us girls should be.
"Spice Girls gave me much-needed role models when I was a child, the impact of which rippled throughout my life and so now I can be a good role model for my own daughters."
Featured Image Credit: Annika Spalding/Shutterstock
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