English-born musician and actress Emma Bunton, known as Baby Spice, was launched to stardom with the massive success of the late, all-woman singing group from England, Spice Girls, which took America by storm in the mid 1990s. With three victorious albums, Spice, Spice World, and Forever, and a number of No. 1 hits, including “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There,” “2 Become 1” and “Goodbye,” as well as a big screen film, Spice World (1997), Spice Girls became one of the most popular female bands worldwide in the 1990s. Their impressive achievements include Brit Awards in 1997, 1998 and 2000, a 1997 MTV Video Music Award and a 1998 BMI Pop Award.
As a solo artist, Emma released her debut album, A Girl Like Me, in 2001, which spawned the chart-topping hit “What Took You So Long,” No. 5 hits “What I Am” and “Take My Breath Away” and top twenty hit “We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight.” Unfortunately, the album only received lukewarm reviews, which caused Emma to be released by her record company. In 2004, she scored a better success with her sophomore album titled Free Me. Though the album failed to make the Billboard top 200 albums, the remix version of its title track and single “Maybe” became a hit on the American Dance charts. Aside from her music career, Emma also pursued a career in acting. Her TV and film credits include the made-for-TV movie To Play the King (1993), the short Yes You Can (2001), the India-produced films Pyaar Mein Twist (2005) and Chocolate (2005).
Off screen, Emma was named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1997 (along with the four other Spice Girls). Emma, whose hobby is eating doughnuts, has an ambition to eat 100 doughnuts in 10 minutes. As for her private life, she was once linked to singer Lee Brennan.
Kung Fu Candy
Childhood and Family:
In Barnet, Hertfordshire, U.K, Emma Lee Bunton was born on January 21, 1976. Her father is Trevor, a milkman, and her mother is Pauline, a karate instructor. Her parents separated when Emma was 11, leaving the young girl under the care of her mom. Emma has a younger brother, Paul James, who is very close to her.
Emma, who carried such nicknames as “Kung Fu Candy” and “Angelica,” after the cartoon character from Rugrats, started her career at an early age. At age 3, she was a beauty contest winner and soon became a child model, modeling children’s clothing and appearing in several TV commercials. As a child, Emma liked dressing up like Madonna and frequently imitated her songs. She attended St Theresa’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Finchley and then went on to go to the Dame Sylvia Young Drama School in London. Inspired to become a dancer as a young girl, Emma took ballet and tap classes, but a back injury at age 14 cut short her dream of becoming a professional dancer. She then decided to become an actress before finally coming to prominence as a singer.
A product of divorced parents, Emma Bunton broke into showbiz when she was only 3 and was crowned champion of a beauty contest she participated in. As a child, she modeled for such products as Mothercare, Mentadent P toothpaste and Polly Pocket. Young Emma developed a great love for dance and wanted to be a successful dancer. Unfortunately, she was forced to throw away her dream after a back injury at age 14. After the accident, Emma, who liked to perform in front of her friends and enjoyed play-acting, turned her attention to acting. During her days at London’s famous Sylvia Young Drama School, she auditioned for TV, but none of the work really panned out. At age 17, she made her TV movie debut with Paul Seed’s To Play the King, where she appeared as a prostitute. The same year, she also appeared as a guest star in an episode of “The Bill.”
Although she wanted to reach stardom as an actress, Emma experienced a big breakthrough in music. In 1994, she joined the Spice Girls after leaving drama school. She was accepted as the last member of the Spice Girls after the original fifth Spice Girl, Michelle Stephenson, departed the group. Teaming up with her band mates, which included Scary Spice (Melanie Brown), Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm), Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell) and Posh Spice (Victoria Adams), Virgin Records, Annie Lennox’s manager Simon Fuller, and Elliot Kennedy, Emma, who earned the nickname Baby Spice, finally launched “Wannabe,” Spice Girls’ first single, in the summer of 1996. The song was a monster hit in England, skyrocketing to No.1, staying there for seven consecutive weeks. By the end of the year, the single became a No. 1 hit in more than 20 countries throughout Europe.
Spice Girls’ second single, “Say You’ll Be There,” followed its predecessor and became a No. 1 in Britain and sold 200,000 copies in its first week of release. At the end of 1996, the band finally launched their debut album titled Spice and it was accompanied by their first ballad, “2 Become 1.” Both went straight to No. 1 and remained in the top position for several weeks.
Following the phenomenal success in the Western world, Emma and her band focused on America in early 1997, releasing “Wannabe” in January and Spice a month later. “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There” and “2 Become 1” burned up the charts, lending at No. 1. In 1997, the Spice Girls took home a MTV Video Music for Best Dance Video for their work in “Wannabe.”
Spice World, Spice Girls’ sophomore album, was launched in 1997 in conjunction with their feature film of the same name. Unfortunately, Emma, as well as the rest of Spice Girls, received negative reviews for her performance in the film. As a result, she was garnered a 1999 Razzie for Worst Actress. On the other hand, their second LP scored success, spawning chart-topping singles which included “Goodbye.” In 1998, Halliwell left Spice Girls and began her solo career. After a three-year-hiatus, the girls made their way back to their recording studio and worked with such top producers as Rodney Jerkins, Terry Lewis, and Jimmy Jam for their third album Forever, which hit American shores in fall 2000.
After Spice Girls stopped recording in 2000, Emma continued her solo career. A year before, in November 1999, she made a collaboration with the UK dance band Tin Tin Out for her first single titled “What I Am.” Two years after the single was recorded, Emma released her first solo album, A Girl Like Me (2001). The album produced the number one hit “What Took You So Long,” top five hits “What I Am” and “Take My Breath Away” and top twenty hit “We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight.” A Girl Like Me sold 125,000 copies in the UK and 500,000 worldwide. However, the number was considered too small by her record company and they dropped Emma. Also in 2001, she returned to her acting to star in the short comedy Yes You Can, for director Matt Bloom.
After being dropped by her record company, Emma signed a contract with 19 Management which included TV work and releasing music. In 2003, she once again tried to reach celebrity status with the release of a top five hit, “Free Me.” It was followed by the top ten single titled “Maybe.” In spring 2004, Emma’s second album, Free Me, was launched in combination with the single “I’ll Be There.” Free Me consisted of sixties-style pop gems and went on to sell more than her debut album. In early 2005, the album Free Me was released in the United States, but it failed to make the Billboard top 200 albums. The lead single of the album, a dance remix of the title track, scored success on the U.S Dance charts, peaking at No. 5 both on the Dance Airplay chart and the Club Play chart. Another single, “Maybe,” also received the same victory as its predecessor, becoming a hit on the American Dance charts. As for acting, in 2005, Emma appeared in two Hindi-language movies: Pyaar Mein Twist (2005) and Chocolate (2005). She is now reportedly working in her recording studio on her next solo project.
- Razzie: Worst Actress, Spice World, 1999
- BMI Pop: Spice Girls, 1998
- MTV Video Music: Best Dance Video, Wannabe, 1997
- Brit Awards: Spice Girls, 1997, 1998, 2000