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“(Edele) was definitely the spokesperson, the leader, the lead singer. The other band members kind of felt what’s the point of being in this situation, being in this band if we’re not contributing to it.” Sinead, B*Witched.
“I had so much hatred for her (Heavenli) for what she did. Its frustrating when its not your fault, when you haven’t messed up your life, when someone else has messed up your life.”
Ten years after they ruled pop, for one night only, six chart-topping groups will be reunited in an unmissable TV event.
The Big Reunion will follow their every step, as their worlds are turned upside down after years away from the spotlight. During the series, viewers will see the groups reunited for the first time since they split. For some it’s the chance to relive their dream, for others it may open old wounds as they prepare to face demons they thought they had buried forever.
At their peak, these acts dominated UK pop over a 10-year period from the mid nineties, selling millions of singles, albums and achieving multiple number 1’s. Now they will come together for the first time in a decade, to put on the show of their lives.
The cameras will capture the highs and lows, tears and tantrums as each of the bands hope they can once again discover the magic that helped them adorn magazine covers, sell out multiple arena tours and top the charts back in their heyday.
The Big Reunion, made by ITV Studios, will delve into the lives of these former pop heroes, exploring what happened after they slipped out of the charts. Some have remained in the celebrity spotlight, whilst others left their showbiz lives behind to pursue new careers as diverse as a stilt walker, a midwife, a teacher, a farmer and a photographer.
Each band will have just two weeks of intense rehearsals before they step back onto the stage to perform once again in front of thousands of fans.
Featuring candid interviews, in the next instalment it’s the turn Irish pop sensations B*Witched and R&B stars The Honeyz to reveal the highs and lows of life as a popstar.
Irish stars B*Witched exploded into the charts in 1998 with their unique brand of pop and their ‘double denim uniform’. Their debut single C’est La Vie hit the top spot and band member, twins Edele and Keavy and friends, Sinead and Lindsey were catapulted into pop stardom.
Sinead said, “I remember we got the video for C’est La Vie and my face dropped and Edele’s face dropped. This is like bubble gum with extra bubbles on the top and that was a shock.”
Edele added, “I was like, ‘Oh my God what is that? Look at the state of us.’’
Keavy continued, “We were young, energetic, fun and that was what the video was about.”
Whilst the girls saw themselves as a four piece, it was Edele who was thrust into centre stage, singing lead vocals on their hit singles.
Lindsey confessed, “When we first started as a group the lead was shared equally, then we met our producer and a decision was made that there would be a lead singer and that was going to be Edele. Keavy, Sinead and I were to sing the backing vocals. That was hard.”
Sinead added, “(Edele) was definitely the spokesperson, the leader, the lead singer, she was definitely the one. They (the other band members) kind of felt what’s the point of being in this situation, being in this band if we’re not contributing to it. It must be really difficult watching your sister, your twin, knowing that the two of you sing very similar and seeing her being out there. Keavy found it really hard to deal with that. ”
Edele admitted, “I know that upset the others, it didn’t upset me obviously because I was enjoying it. From as far back as I can remember all I wanted to be was a singer and now I was becoming one, so that was all that mattered to me. I wouldn’t have stepped back from my position because I enjoyed being in it.”
Whilst Keavy concluded, “I was definitely sad about it, I very much felt like I was in my twin’s shadow which is why I was the dancer, why I was the joker because I just wanted to be seen. I wanted to make sure that people actually knew there was two of us with the same face. ”
The girls secured four consecutive number one hits from their debut album putting them into the record books.
Lindsey, “We were the first girl group to have their first four singles go straight in at number one. We broke records.”
Keavy, “As amazing as that it is, its incredible pressure as well because we now know all we’ve done since we started was have this platform of number ones so in the back of your mind is if we dip at all that’s it we’re on our way out.”
The band were topping the charts both in the UK and around the world, including America, but unbeknown to the other girls, one member of the group was struggling to cope with the pressures of fame.
Keavy admits, “I didn’t know how to reach out, I didn’t know how to tell someone that things weren’t ok. We had a week’s holiday and I went to Portugal with my family and my best friends and that’s when I really started to notice something was really wrong. It was like, ‘Oh your getting brown, you look lovely today’, and in my head my reply was, ‘So what’. I just went, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ I phoned Edele from my hotel room, I couldn’t even talk to her.’ I was sobbing, I just lost it. Edele said to me, ‘you need help.’ It was like a relief that she said it to me”
An emotional Edele remembers, “I came to her (Keavy’s) room and she was in such a state. What upset me at this point was I hadn’t seen this before, she had to tell me. She was struggling so much, she had to call me into her room and tell me how much she is struggling. That really upset me because we’re so close and we’re twins and I haven’t got time to notice my sister is really struggling, that’s what I felt like.”
Edele continues, “I rang everybody and I said, ‘Keavy is going away for three weeks, end of story, she’s gone and I don’t care what any of you say, what matters is that Keavy is shattered right now.’ Nobody seemed to care about that and it just made me realise that we weren’t people. To these people we were a product and their product was being tampered with as far as they were concerned.”
The four piece released their next single, Jesse Hold On which reached number four in the charts. A change of image saw the band lose their ‘denim’ and adopt a sexier look.
Keavy admits, “The whole change of image was the wrong choice. It was like, ‘Lets do a sexy thing,’ I don’t know how to do that, I don’t want to do that. It was never who we were.”
Sinead adds, “I think the fans got confused, it just didn’t work.”
Lindsey says, “I remember the call from our manager, he said ‘Ok so I’ve got some bad news, they’re not going to go ahead with the third album,’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean not going to go ahead with it, what does that mean?’
Keavy continues, “It was like the rug being pulled from underneath your feet at 90 miles an hour.”
Sinead admits, “And for it to be so sudden, not even a maybe or we’re thinking about it. When it’s so sudden, it’s such a shock. It was complete and utter disbelief.”
R&B trio The Honeyz released a succession of hit songs in the UK, which saw the girls on the cusp of super stardom in America but in fighting and shock exits put an end to their chart success.
With plans of forming a vocal harmony group, original band members Celena Cherry and Heavenli Roberts were joined by Naima Belkhiati. The new edition saw changes in the band’s direction.
Heavenli. “Celena and I had been working to this point, we had an ambition to go forth and be a great vocal group. It became apparent that Naima, as devastatingly beautiful as she was and very sexy, vocal wise wasn’t there on the map really. All of a sudden we were like, oh how does that work as a three part harmony with two singers.”
Celena continues, “As time went on and we were in the studio our manager came to me and said, ‘Look, I want you to sing this and I want you to sing that.’ So I naturally fell into that role because that was what I was told to do. But I think at that time it put everyone else’s nose out of joint.”
Heavenli adds, “I was kind of given the role to talk to the press, the media, Naima was the ingredient that looked very attractive. The singing, the talking and the looking good, if you look at the three of them, they are what a bands needs to go on, but whether they were in the right proportions.”
Celena admits, “I think people had the impression of The Honeyz that everywhere we went we had a line of men following us on a lead…we wish.”
The band were soon topping the charts and had signed to a major label in the US, but one member of the group was about to make a shock decision which would have devastating effects for her fellow band mates.
Calena says, “We’d signed to Def Jam in America, we were about to be huge.”
Heavenli admits, “I was away from home, under quite a lot of pressure. I didn’t want to be away and I was looking in the mirror thinking this isn’t for me, I’m not happy. We had a discussion, Celena and I, I think it was an argument about who was wearing what, something really trivial and that was the icing on the cake for me. Back on the plane to the UK and I turned round and said, ‘I’m not coming back.’
“I didn’t think of Celena, I didn’t think of Naima, I didn’t think of the management, of the record company or how much money they were ploughing into this. I have to admit I was just thinking of me in those split seconds.”
Celena reveals, “That was hard because we were at a point where we’d worked so hard to get to and we’d just got number one in Australia and we were about to do a tour, we needed her. There were no reasons, (she) wouldn’t answer phone calls, we were left hanging. We got dropped by Def Jam straight away.”
Heveanli continues, “It’s not very nice to know that you caused someone else to be distressed but it was one of life’s misfortunes.”
Celena admits, “I had so much hatred for her (Heavenli) for what she did. It’s frustrating when its not your fault, when you haven’t messed up your life, when someone else has messed up your life. You think to yourself, ‘What can I do?’ There’s nothing I can do to change it because I didn’t mess it up. I was angry.”
The duo was soon joined by singer Mariama and went on to have two top ten hits, but relationships in the band quickly became frosty.
Mariama says, “When I first met the girls it was really awkward, I was in the management office and they made me stand there and sing for these two girls. Celena was really sweet and Naima was arms folded in the corner.”
Celena adds, “All the bitchiness kept brewing and brewing and we had two top tens with Mariama, then she became unhappy.”
Mariama continues, “It got to point a where I was crying every morning on my way into work. At much as it seems like the dream job, if you are that upset going to work with people then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. I thought really long and hard and it broke my heart to think I can’t do that anymore but I think for my own sanity I needed to do that. I walked up to one of those internet cafes because they had a fax machine and I didn’t have one. I sent a fax to the management and the record label, then I telephoned Celena and I telephoned Naima just to say I’m not coming back.”
Celena reveals, “It was the news I didn’t want to hear, to me it was Heavenli all over again. Out of the blue somebody leaving the band just as we were starting to rebuild our group. I can’t take this anymore, I can’t psychically take it.”
The record label dealt the remaining duo one last lifeline, but it was one that neither were expecting.
Celena says, “A meeting was a set up, the most hostile horrible meeting you could ever think of.”
Heavenli reveals, “The doors opened and in came Celena and Naima, I could see the shock on their face. The room was filled with ice. It was apparent to me that they had no idea why I was there.”
Celena continues, “Our management company were saying, ‘Right you’re getting back together or your going to have no career.’ Well I’m not happy about that. I was so angry with Heavenli. I think it was a downward spiral from then on. If the chemistry in the group is not there then its just not going to work, full stop.”