If you don't know who Pete Best is, 1) get off our lawn, 2) he was the drummer for the Beatles who was fired just before the band hit it big and has become shorthand for a person who missed a proverbial boat, often due to their own short-sighted actions. Thirty years later, the other biggest U.K. music sensation, the Spice Girls, had their own Pete Best. In fact, they had a few.
The most documented one was Michelle Stephenson, who was chosen along with the women who would become Scary, Sporty, Posh, and Ginger Spice amid hundreds who auditioned to be part of the girl group. If you had eyes in the late '90s, you know who's missing from that list. So you can deduce that Stephenson being replaced by Emma Bunton A.K.A. Baby Spice is the short version of the story. The longer version is that Stephenson was a student whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she joined the Spice Girls, both of which are arguably more important than zig-a-zig-ah-ing. The even longer version is that, according to the other spices, she was a shiftless layabout who "couldn't be arsed" to work as hard as the others to learn the songs, dances, and other mystical ways of the spice. That's a direct quote from Posh Spice. She made Posh Spice swear.
She wouldn't do what they want, what they really, really want.
She also mocked Stephenson's voice, calling it "cruise-ship operatic," while Sporty commented that "I don't think Michelle had ever struggled for anything in her life," and Ginger noted that "She lacked the same intensity or enthusiasm to learn and at times it bordered on laziness." This clashes considerably with Stephenson's own evaluation of how the girls perceived her, specifically "the one at university, the intelligent one as it were. They all thought I was 'Smart Spice.'" After hearing Posh's thoughts, but apparently unaware of the others', Stephenson claimed that "Right from the start, [Posh] was very much the high and mighty one, sticking her nose in the air." To this day, both sides disagree over whether she left of her own accord to pursue her education and care for her mother or if she was fired because she "just wasn't fitting in" and "would never have gelled" with the other girls, as manager Bob Herbert delicately put it.
But before Baby showed up to claim her spicy destiny, Stephenson was first replaced with a singer named Abigail Kas, who quit shortly thereafter to spend more time with her boyfriend. Here's hoping he was actual royalty. Even before the whole Stephenson saga, Posh Spice was initially rejected in favor of a woman whose voice was later deemed "too good." Not so high and mighty now, are we, Mrs. Soccer?
Top image: Ezekiel/Wikimedia Commons