As a child, I was absolutely in love with the Spice Girls and everything they stood for. I’d never thought deeply into how Girl Power had influenced the person I’ve become until more recently.
Celebrating 25 years since the very first single, a journalist from online magazine Tyla put out a call for a Spice Girls fan. Normally I’d talk myself out of this kind of thing, but this time I thought “why not?” So I sent an email and now there is an article written about me called How The Spice Girls Helped Me Overcome My Darkest Moments.
I love the article but I also want to use this space to give more context to my story.
I grew up in a home with domestic violence. My mum was completely dominated by my abusive stepdad, and it took her a long time to leave. When I was around 10, my mum took me and my siblings up out of school unexpectedly. Outside, a relative was waiting in a car and the boot was full of black bags with some of our belongings in it. We left Birmingham because we were fleeing domestic abuse, again, but this time it was for good.
We drove to Yorkshire and stayed with family for a very short time, before going into a refuge.
I didn’t know we were going into a refuge until we arrived there. Nobody explains things to you when you’re a kid, but I knew we’d left because of the abuse. I was glad about that, but part of me was sad because I left my toys and books behind. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my school friends.
There was a children’s worker who came into refuge once a week to do activities and I loved that. That became the job I aspired to have as an adult. One of the workers took me to a youth club for black and mixed-race kids, and this continued for a while after we left. We stayed there for a few months before moving on. In refuge, I could be a kid and play and not be screamed at or hit.
After refuge, we moved into a new home and a brand new life. I’d already fallen in love with the Spice Girls in Birmingham and this became common ground to build new friendships on when I started a new school in Yorkshire. I remember having their album on cassette and reading the cover for the lyrics until I knew every word! When their movie came out, I queued up outside the old Odeon cinema in Bradford with my grandad, my curly hair out and proud like Scary Spice.
Girl power had a huge impact on my work
The refuge was such a positive experience for me as a child that I wanted to do that work when I grew up. I aspired to inspire and help other women.
When I was 21, I began working for Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid, which described itself as a feminist organisation. I didn’t know what the word meant at the time but when I googled it, I realised I finally found a name that represented my values and beliefs – and I was not alone. In doing that, I discovered a world of women who fought to use their voices, and I was hooked.
In my mid-20s, I became a Children & Family Support Worker in a refuge, a job I dreamed to have as a child. I had a lot of questions about my time in the refuge as a child, but I have the knowledge now.
The ongoing influence of Girl Power
The work I do is the epitome of girl power for me, standing up for myself and using my voice to show women what we can achieve. I published my first book, a novel, in 2013, but it took some time for me to write about my personal experiences. Over time, I became confident enough to use my own voice and tell my own story, and that’s what you’ve seen from me over the years.
I loved Mel B; she was mixed-race and northern and it felt like a huge thing to have in common as a child. I’ve since followed her journey and am just in awe of her speaking up about her experiences of domestic abuse. I bought her book but haven’t found the courage to read it yet. I saw she did some awareness-raising work with Women’s Aid recently and featured in a powerful video. I’m glad she is using her voice and her platform to continue helping women – something we have in common!
Girl Power in motherhood
My mum died from cancer when she was just 35. I was 18. On reflection, I know she did the best with what she knew and had at the time. My values are different from hers. Now I have the privilege of learning from her mistakes and being a different type of mum now.
I have two daughters and I am embedding my values into them. It’s important that know they can do and be anything and to never question their worth.
I’m teaching my girls that they don’t have to be like everyone else to be happy. They can define for themselves what it means to be successful and who they want to be. There is more than one way to be a girl, and the Spice Girls taught me that.
Why try and fit in, when you can be loud, proud, and stand out?
Thanks for reading
Are you from my generation or older? Can you relate to any of what I’ve said? Let me know in the comments below.