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Girls Aloud, Interview ♦ April 29, 2024

As they get ready for their reunion tour, the iconic British girl group spill on beauty looks they regret, creative control and which TikTok aesthetic is just their 00s style

Girls Aloud prepare to ride again, with Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle and Cheryl (Tweedy) coming together for a *major* reunion tour. It’s been 22 years since we – as in, those of us old enough to remember 2002 – first saw them form on Pop Stars The Rivals. To say that their return is stirring up a tonne of nostalgia would be an understatement. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the beloved late Sarah Harding.

Beyond the matching Timberlands, co-ordinated draped lycra dresses, and primary-coloured tights and heels, the five girls set the tone of British beauty in the 00s. Their archive looks are a time capsule for all the hits – and sometimes misses – of the millennial and zillenial coming-of-age. I got lucky enough to meet the band for what felt like the ultimate girls’ loo chinwag.

Greeting four strangers whose faces I’d known most of my life sat in front of me, I was a little nervous. Imagine Girls Aloud not liking you? If their very sweet hellos didn’t put me at ease, Nadine checking if her socks and stiletto combo was in shot did; “I kept my socks on and Victoria [our stylist] would kill me.”

The bands’ stylists and glam team have mostly stayed the same over the years. The band describe them now as mother-like figures in the chaotic, rapidly changing world they were catapulted into as teens; “It was imperative that we had a team around us,” says Nicola. “Lisa [Laudat], our hairdresser, has actually been with us for 20 years now.” MUA Karen Darnell who did Nicola’s makeup that day, worked on their iconic debut video “Sound of the Underground”. These flags couldn’t be more green.

“We had TV makeup people at first, and then we saw other people with their own hair and makeup teams and we were like – ‘They are so fancy!’” recalls Nadine. “And then we were in Girls Aloud and had our own team, and then we were the fancy people.” She cuts her sing-song tone for a serious sec: “Still, mistakes were made.”

“They were definitely made,” agrees Nicola. “I mean, I look back on every single thing I ever put on my face. And it was a big mistake!”

“It’s trial and error. I think everyone goes through it,” says Cheryl: “Whether you’re in this industry or not. Sometimes you wear things and you think; ‘Oh, this looks good. I’m liking it.’ And then you see pictures back and you’re like; ‘Oh my god, what was I thinking?’” Thankfully, most of our own missteps live on only in dust-gathering Facebook photo albums, rather than actual album art or videos living forever on YouTube.

We weren’t performing on breakfast television at 8.00AM either, clips that are now a solid part of contemporary meme culture. “The five o’clock call times were an issue… put it that way,” says Kimberley. “It got to the point where we were so tired that we were like; ‘We can’t do this three or four hours in makeup anymore, we’ll do our own’.” But that didn’t quite go to plan for the girls. “Then I’d watched ‘Smile’ or whatever it was back, and we were like; ‘Never again, no no no, we’ll get up at three!’ We were so shiny and orange.” “And we would all look so different, there was no cohesive look,” adds Nadine.

“We would see people coming home from nightclubs when we were just heading out to work. We were at the age where we should have been the ones going home from nightclubs and we missed all of that,” recalls Nadine. Kimberley fact-checks: “Well, sometimes we came straight from the nightclub to the makeup chair and just fell asleep in there. That happened a fair few times I can’t lie!”

Nicola notes one festival performance in particular that keeps popping up on her social media” “It was really early on, maybe like three months in? And me and Cheryl got in from the club, got into bed, and then the buzzer went and it was hair and makeup. We had to go straight through, performing in front of 100,000 people… from the club.” They may have been pop stars but they were also *just girls* struggling through an early shift with their club stamp still on their wrists. They’re just like us.

And like us too, they’ve rode the trend cycle: “We definitely had a very big hair phase,” says Kimberley. “It got to the point where I had to stand back and just take a look in the mirror be like, ‘Lisa, ok we know that you’ve achieved a lot here with the size of these hairdos, but maybe we should just tone it down slightly.”

But it all comes back around. While diving into TikTok trend chat (Cheryl and Nadine: TikTok obsessed, Nicola watches once they reach IG and Kimberley: “I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about”) Cheryl made a spot-on comparison; “There was a recent one, the mafia? That mob wife aesthetic? I thought it was hilarious because it’s just us in the early 2000s.” And now you need to go re-watch The Promise video because yep, it’s really five crooning mob wives.

While she’s not clued up on trends like mob wives or strawberry girl aesthetic, Nicola’s algorithm is serving her content that says a lot about how far she’s come in 20 years. “My feed is all different redheads. How they do their makeup, what they use. There’s one redhead in particular right now that I’m obsessed with and trying to steal all of her looks,” she says.

For young Nicola, her red hair and porcelain complexion was something she was running away from: “I used to tan obsessively.” Kimberley adds: “It took over your life didn’t it.”

“It really did,” agrees Nicola. “We used to live together [Kimberley and Nicola] and she’d be asleep. And I’d still be up tanning and waiting for my tan to develop for my 4AM pick up. It was so obsessive because I was so insecure about who I naturally was.”

A marked turning point in Nicola’s self-acceptance came in 2008 when she launched Dainty Doll, a makeup brand for pale skin. It was documented in the series The Passions of Girls Aloud. “That was born out of my personal journey, out of me overcoming that [insecurity],” she says. While it was ahead of its time, Nicola doesn’t see herself reviving the brand, crediting the brands that have come since and cater to all skin tones for closing that gap.

Nicola’s quest for pale girlie makeup was not the only groundbreaking mark the band made on the era’s beauty. We can’t forget Cheryl’s stark red hair, which – when asked – she confirmed without skipping a beat, was pre-Rihanna’s Loud era look. That maroon hue swept the globe.

“That was off-the-cuff. I actually got in trouble for that at the time. Because it was an impulse thing, I saw it and I just did it,” Cheryl says.

“You? Impulse? Hairdo?” Kimberley jokes. “She would go into hair and makeup with the hair she’s got now[long brown layers] and come out with a blonde bob, we’d be like’ ‘what happened in there?”

Decades on, the band has reached a level of self-assurance that allows them to cast off most glam mistakes. They descend into peals of laughter recalling a wig that their hairdresser had recently put on Nicola for the tour screen shoot. “I look like I’ve been rotting in a ditch for a week,” she laughs. Safe to say we won’t be seeing it on tour.

“We take the majority of the creative control of our tour beauty looks,” explains Kimberley; “We’ve done so many tours over the years. So you’re constantly trying to push it a little bit, reinvent yourself. But then you also know what works for you in that situation with the dancing, the sweat. I’m hoping for a straight hairdo, so I’m planning to keep the Shark Smooth Style in the quick change, for touch-ups. Straighteners aren’t going to work ‘cause I’m gonna be sweaty, but because that’s got the hair dryer, I’m hoping it’s gonna save my life, I think that’s the only way straight’s gonna work.” Am I now going to be squinting across the O2 to check Kimberley’s sleek hair? Absolutely.

Having outgrown matching hairdos, they each work with hairstylist Lisa to create complementary tour looks. Knowing Lisa was behind the gigantic manes of yesteryear, I’m still hoping she may just push the girls down an aesthetic memory lane.

The Girls Aloud 2024 Tour runs from May 17- June 30


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