'I'm a Spice Girls megafan - I've seen Mel C 100 times and copied her tattoos'
When Louise Wilks first heard the iconic Spice Girls hit 'Wannabe' at just 11 years old, her life changed forever.
She'd just finished primary school and spent the entire summer holiday perfecting the dance to the song, becoming more obsessed with the girl band every day.
Looking back, Louise said: "I honestly still get chills thinking about that summer, most of which I spent learning the Wannabe dance routine with my sister.
“She is a much better dancer than me but persevered as she taught me the steps, which showed real girl power!"
Over the next 25 years, Louise's love for the Spice Girls grew stronger, and she said the band has "continued to inspire me in many ways."
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Louise, now 36, who works as a market research manager, has spent the last 25 years queueing for days to see the Spice Girls in concert or to meet the band for autographs.
Over the years, she has also had lyrics to their top hits tattooed on her stomach, arms, ribcage and back. She also has a Spice World logo inked on her skin, along with the words 'girl power'.
She's had the words 'Look for the rainbow in every storm' inked on her ribcage - lyrics from the Spice Girls song 'Goodbye'.
She's also emulated her favourite band member, Sporty Spice - otherwise known as Mel C, by copying her angel tattoo.
Louise, who grew up in Manchester but now lives in Croydon, has been driven by the 'girl power' ethos throughout her life - and it even influenced her choice of university degree, gender studies.
Her PhD thesis in 2011 even made reference to the 'girl power' mantra.
She said: "What I loved about the Spice Girls from the moment I saw them was that they were a girl gang that you wanted to be part of - and they welcomed you with open arms.
"They were five very normal girls just having a laugh while conquering the world! They celebrated female friendship, which was so incredibly important to me as an 11-year-old.
"They didn't have the polished and perfected look that a lot of bands had at the time, so you could wear a tracksuit or a baby doll dress and still fit in."
Louse has seen the Spice Girls live 15 times during her more than two-decade-long obsession with the band - and she's seen Mel C perform more than 100 times.
She's been lucky enough to meet her idol too - more times than she can count.
Louise said: "I feel like the luckiest person in the world that my idol knows my name and she's as lovely as I'd always imagined.
"I first met her in 2003 when I won tickets to a secret gig in Leeds for her second album launch, via Manchester radio station Key 103.
“I was unbelievably shell shocked but she was absolutely amazing. Since then, I've met her numerous times at gigs, outside radio and TV stations or at sporting events."
Over the years, Louise has formed close friendships with other super fans.
"Melanie C has always been my favourite, and the number of hours I've spent queuing outside venues for her gigs with my Spice friends, or waiting for her outside TV and radio stations with these people, is probably longer than some marriages," she said.
"My Spice Boys and a couple of girls have become some of my closest mates and I've shared countless memorable moments with them over the last couple of decades."
After lockdown, Louise added to her collection of tattoos, getting the Spice World logo from the band's 2019 tour etched on her upper back with the London skyline and a Manchester bee flying above it.
“This represents three places most important to me - Manchester is where I'm from, London is where I've called home for the past nine years, and Spiceworld needs no explanation,” she explained.
One of Louise's favourite Spice Girls memories was seeing the band on TV at The Brits in 1997.
She said: "At the time of The Brits, it gave me shivers, and of course it became one of their most epic and iconic performances with Ginger in her Union Flag dress."
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When Spice World: The Movie was released in the same year, she went to the cinema at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day.
When the band reunited for their 2019 tour, Louise went to see the Spice Girls a whopping nine times, and was right at the front for seven of the shows.
In the same year as the reunion tour, Louise even danced on stage with Mel B at the Savoy Theatre in London to the band's hit Who Do You Think You Are?
Louise uses her Instagram account to share her love for the Spice Girls and is planning on celebrating their 25th anniversary at the St Pancras Renaissance with three other super fans.
“The Spice Girls created a movement and they've continued to impact our lives for 25 years,” she explained.
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since Wannabe, but hearing that song changed my life. What the band stood for has shaped me as a person, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Here’s to the next 25!”