There was a depth, beauty and strength to 90s girl groups that led them right into my little pubescent heart. I’m in my 20s now and I hold on to them even tighter than I did back then – mostly because I actually know what they’re talking about now. Destiny’s Child, TLC, The Spice Girls and others arrived at a time when I believe the world was more than ready for them, specifically young women and girls. They waltzed right on in with their matching outfits, catchy empowering lyrics, and fire personalities. Each group influenced fashion and created trends that are still extremely popular today. Their images of solidarity and support were beautiful for me to see – even if otherwise was going on behind the scenes. They carried confidence and fearlessness with them, they knew of their voices, and were not afraid to use them to their fullest potential. Most importantly, they each held an influential energy that lasted way beyond what they may have expected.
My first time visually encountering a girl group (that I can remember) was with TLC on the show “All That”. Of course, at the time I knew not a thing about creepin’ with anybody, but they had a presence that I knew I wanted to have when I grew up…..I was starry-eyed. The baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts spoke to me on a tomboy level; my natural tendency to wear more relaxed clothing intensified, but they had a style that I wasn’t used to. Of course, the 90s in general was an interesting time for fashion, but to see other black girls wearing what they wanted made me so freakin’ happy. They transcended the norm of what was considered “right” for what women should be wearing in order to be seen as feminine. What I saw was a group of girls who were not afraid to be themselves and I loved how they always seemed to be having so much fun on stage and with one another. Then there was DC3, The Spice Girls, 3LW, En Vogue, and Blaque (Charlie’s Angels too…they count right?). Each member had their own style and personality, but they complimented one another in a beautiful way. They were fierce and confident and I loved every second of it.
“You thought that I’d be broke without you, but I’m richer/ You thought that I’d be sad without you; I laugh harder/ You thought I wouldn’t grow without you; now I’m wiser/ Thought that I’d be helpless without you, but I’m smarter.” – Destiny’s Child, Survivor
Chart toppers like “Independent Women”, “Survivor”, “Wannabe”, and “No Scrubs” were some of the songs that set the foundation for me to blossom into a self-respecting young woman. The lyrics subconsciously infused me with girl power before I even knew what girl power was. I’ve always been a petty quiet person, but I found myself wanting to stand up for myself more. Lessons from my mother were re-enforced through the words of rhythmic lyrics and iconic dance moves. These were some of the first anthems of self-love I had ever encountered and they included body-positivity anthems along with words of emotional awareness. They showed me that it was okay to want more for myself and not to settle for someone who had no intentions of doing good by me; this was important especially once I got to the age where I could actually understand the words – AND start dating. They helped me realize the importance of being independent and creating things of my own instead of depending on a someone else to do everything for me. They were clear about what they wanted and many even used their platforms to push for equality. These groups signified some of the earliest representations of feminism that I never knew I needed.
Girl power. They were early examples to me of how to support and uplift the women that surrounded me. No matter what was happening behind the scenes what I saw were groups of girls who had each other’s backs when necessary. When they defended one another what resulted was a specific type of strength that is formed when women unite in love and spend more time supporting one another rather than tearing one another down. Also, as an only child and someone who’s naturally introverted I saw these groups as examples of what it may have been like to have a sister or very close friends. They lived my dream of getting dressed to go places together, confiding in one another, sleepovers, and laughing over silly things. Of course, some of these groups ended in arguments and fights, but what mattered in the moment is what I saw and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something that I wanted. It leads me to wonder about what would happen if women banded together and supported one another rather than letting emotions of jealously and hatred get the best of them at times.
Each group had its own influences, but I don’t know one woman who wasn’t affected by them in some way while growing up. I still see people referring to themselves as “an honorary member of DC3” or adding some rendition of the Spice Girls to their username or bio. Each time a reunion is announced we rejoice in joy and I believe whole-heartedly that there’s a reason for that. We’ve grown up with these girls and seeing them together is like seeing our old girl friends again. When I think of 90s girl groups I think of the girl power that includes us standing up for ourselves and supporting one another without coercion. It was an indication to me of what women could become when we banded together. There’s a power in women that I do not think many of us realize. It’s a hidden heart connection that I think should be recognized, nourished, and taken care of. This could also be me just being a sap as I always am, but yenno. It’s whatever. Girls supporting girls – I support that.
– much love,