Ginger. Sporty. Baby. Scary. Posh. Five names we all know collectively as The Spice Girls. But amid their meteoric rise to fame, a sixth name was secreted from their adoring fan base.
It began innocently enough in 1993, when six women working on an assembly line at The British Pepper & Spice Company began humming, then harmonizing, followed by a kind of Britishy-speak-yelling together during their shift. But a few late nights in the factory led to some strong feelings about GIRL POWER and some very catchy pop hooks.
The tunes were so addictive, the Girls launched a successful coup against the company.
The company’s executives didn’t see it coming until it was too late. They were completely enamored by the Girls, and soon found themselves mindlessly humming their little ditties. After asking their so-called “Pepper & Spice Girls” what they want, what they really really want, the women found themselves in the power position. Not long thereafter, the girls became the rulers of the company.
The following month, the girl-powered company-owners saw an advert in The Stage looking for singers and decided it was time for an audition. Only one record label was interested, but one was all they needed. The group was instantly signed, on one condition.
Stephanie Balderton, also known as Pumpkin Spice, had the loveliest voice in all the isles. But she wasn’t—how do we say it politely—very attractive. Her skin had a deep orange tint, apparently a family trait as her father and grandfather both glowed that same deep orange color. Balderton was also quite large. Big-boned, her parents would say.
As a kid, she was teased terribly in school, children cruelly drawing jack-o-lanterns on her locker and in her school yearbooks. Then, one day, she decided that she would just “own it.” Why let something like color stand in her way? She joined the school’s choir and discovered she was a natural at belting out soulful tunes. She entered and won every singing competition in the United Kingdom that year, bringing great pride to her school. They had parades in her honor. And finally, her classmates began giving her the respect she deserved.
Because it was a company town, Stephanie and some of her loveliest friends got jobs at the local factory, packaging spices for The British Pepper & Spice Company. The work was dull, but it paid well and let her practice her craft with some of her best friends while still on the clock.
When The Pepper & Spice Girls were offered a contract in 1994, they had to break the news to Stephanie that she would not be included when the band began recording their first single. Rumor has it that there was a fight where words and fists were exchanged, but to this day no one will speak on the record about exactly what happened., In the end, the five fame-hungry beauties parted from Pumpkin, shortened their name, and—to this day—neither side has spoken to the other.
But Stephanie says that she has something the so-called Spice Girls will never truly have. Staying power.
Because every autumn, a large corporate chain based in Seattle pays tribute to Stephanie Balderton by selling flavored coffee drinks in her name.
It’s not the way she originally intended, but now the whole world knows her name.