Bunton in August 2014
Emma Lee Bunton
21 January 1976
|Other names||Baby Spice|
|Height||1.57 m (5 ft 2 in)|
|Partner(s)||Jade Jones (2004–present)|
|Associated acts||Spice Girls|
Emma Lee Bunton (born 21 January 1976) is an English singer, songwriter, actress, and media personality. She rose to prominence in the 1990s as a member of the girl group Spice Girls, in which she was nicknamed Baby Spice. With over 85 million records sold worldwide, the group became the best-selling female group of all time.
During the Spice Girls hiatus, Bunton released her debut solo album, A Girl Like Me, in April 2001 by Virgin Records. The album debuted at number four on the UK Albums Chart and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry for sales in excess of 100,000 copies. The album spawned the UK and New Zealand number-one single "What Took You So Long?", as well as the top five singles "What I Am" and "Take My Breath Away" and the top 20 single "We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight". Her second studio album, Free Me, was released in February 2004, which included the singles "Free Me", "Maybe", "I'll Be There", and "Crickets Sing for Anamaria". After the release of her third studio album, Life in Mono (2006), Bunton reunited with the Spice Girls in 2007 for a one-off international tour and greatest hits album. Since 2018, she has reunited as the Spice Girls with Geri Halliwell, Melanie C and Mel B. In April 2019, Bunton released her fourth studio album My Happy Place.
Bunton's television appearances include having a recurring role on the BBC comedy series Absolutely Fabulous (2003-2012), being a contestant on the fourth series of the BBC ballroom dancing show Strictly Come Dancing, and being a judge on the ITV celebrity skating show Dancing on Ice (2010–2011) and entertainment series Your Face Sounds Familiar (2013). From 2013 to 2018, she was a radio presenter on the Heart Breakfast Show in London with Jamie Theakston and also presented her own show on Sunday evenings.
Early life and career beginnings
Emma Lee Bunton was born in Finchley, North London. Her parents, Pauline, a karate instructor, and Trevor Bunton, a milkman, split up when she was 11, after which she stayed with her mother. She has a younger brother, Paul James. As stated in a TV interview with Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford on This Morning during August 2016, Bunton's maternal family originate in County Wexford, Ireland. Bunton went to St Theresa's Roman Catholic Primary School in Finchley.
Bunton appeared briefly in the BBC soap opera EastEnders in 1992 as a mugger. In 1993, Bunton appeared in the ITV police drama, The Bill, and also made a brief appearance as a prostitute in the BBC drama series To Play the King. Bunton also appeared in a public information film for the British government concerning fire safety.
1994–2000: Spice Girls
In 1994, Melanie C (Chisholm), Mel B (Brown), Geri Halliwell, and Victoria Beckham responded to an advertisement in The Stage magazine. Around 400 women who answered the ad went to Dance Works studios. Halliwell, Chisholm, Beckham (née Adams), and Brown were originally chosen as the members of the group, along with Michelle Stephenson, who due to her lack of commitment was replaced with Abigail Kis, who a short while later, was replaced with Bunton. The group felt insecure about the lack of a contract and were frustrated by the direction in which Heart Management was steering them.
In October 1994, armed with a catalogue of demos and dance routines, the group began touring management agencies. They persuaded Bob Herbert to set up a showcase performance for the group in front of industry writers, producers and A&R men in December 1994 at the Nomis Studios in Shepherd's Bush where they received an "overwhelmingly positive" reaction. Due to the large interest in the group, the Herberts quickly set about creating a binding contract for the group. Encouraged by the reaction they had received at the Nomis showcase, all five members delayed signing contracts on the legal advice from, amongst others, Adams' father Anthony Adams. In March 1995, because of the group's frustration at their management's unwillingness to listen to their visions and ideas, they parted with Heart Management.
The group began a relationship with Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment and finally signed with him in March 1995. During the summer of that year the group toured record labels in London and Los Angeles with Fuller and finally signed a deal with Virgin Records in September 1995. From this point on, up to the summer of 1996, the group continued to write and record tracks for their debut album while extensively touring the west coast of the United States, where they had signed a publishing deal with Windswept Pacific. On 8 July 1996, the Spice Girls released their debut single "Wannabe" in the United Kingdom. In the weeks leading up to the release, the video for "Wannabe", got a trial airing on The Box music channel. The song proved to be a global hit, reaching number 1 in 35 countries. and becoming the all-time biggest-selling single by an all-female group. It was followed by nine further number-one singles from their albums Spice, Spiceworld and Forever. Each member of the group received a nickname from the media. Bunton was named "Baby Spice".
Other successful releases followed, including "Say You'll Be There", "2 Become 1", "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Mama" from Spice, and "Spice Up Your Life", "Too Much", "Stop" and "Viva Forever" from Spiceworld. In 1999, she presented Emma on VH1. She recorded "(Hey You) Free Up Your Mind" for the film Pokémon: The First Movie and contributed background vocals to Melanie B's song "Sophisticated Lady", which appeared as a B-side to her single "Word Up". In 2000, after the release of the group's comeback single, a double A-side of "Holler"/"Let Love Lead The Way" and the third studio album, Forever, which charted at number two in the UK, the Spice Girls stopped recording, concentrating on their solo careers in regards to their foreseeable future.
2001–2005: A Girl Like Me and Free Me
Bunton's debut solo album, A Girl Like Me, released in the United Kingdom on 16 April 2001 by Virgin Records. The album debuted and peaked at number four on the UK Albums Chart, with 21,500 copies sold in its first week. Its lead single, "What Took You So Long?", debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart. Although initial success was promising, A Girl Like Me fell down the chart quickly. However, the top five single "Take My Breath Away", and top twenty "We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight" helped the album stay on the UK Albums Chart for several weeks. On 7 September 2001, A Girl Like Me was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales in excess of 100,000 copies, ultimately becoming the 147th best-selling album in the United Kingdom for 2001. The album sold 125,000 copies in the United Kingdom. The poor sales led to Bunton losing her contract with Virgin in 2002. Bunton performed at Party at the Palace, an event that was held at Buckingham Palace Garden on 3 June 2002 in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Her solo performances at the event were a cover of The Supremes' 1964 hit "Baby Love" and her own "What Took You So Long?".
After parting ways with Virgin, Bunton signed a new deal with 19 Recordings, run by former Spice Girls' manager Simon Fuller, to release her second album, Free Me, on 9 February 2004. The album was largely produced by Mike Peden and Yak Bondy. Other contributions on the album courtesy of Cathy Dennis, Henry Binns and Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi. Inspired by the Motown and the 1960s era, the album was widely acclaimed by critics by its "charm and grace". It debuted at number seven on the UK Albums Chart, spending over twelve weeks inside chart, and being certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The album had three top five singles in the United Kingdom – the title track, "Maybe" and "I'll Be There" – and a top twenty single, "Crickets Sing for Anamaria", which became Bunton's lowest-selling single at the time. In the United States, both "Free Me" and "Maybe" were dance club regulars, reaching numbers four and six on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart respectively. In 2005, Bunton appeared in the Bollywood films Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets.
2006–2008: Life in Mono and Spice Girls reunion
In October 2006, Bunton was a contestant in the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing, partnered by Darren Bennett. She finished third place in the semi-final. On 13 November 2006, Bunton released the charity single for the BBC Children in Need appeal, recording Petula Clark's 1960s song "Downtown". It reached number three on the UK Singles Chart, and was followed by her third studio album, Life in Mono. Much like her previous album, Life in Mono experimented with elements of 1960s pop music. For this particular album, the musical arrangement was more directed towards the 1960s French pop music, with some elements of British 1960s pop and Motown. The album was Bunton's first not to reach the top ten in the United Kingdom, only reaching number 65 on the albums chart. The second single from it was "All I Need to Know", released on 12 February 2007, intended for Valentine's Day. Bunton shot the video around Old Street in East London, in the week before Christmas 2006. Entering the UK Singles Chart at number 60, "All I Need to Know" became the lowest-charting single of Bunton's solo career.
In 2007, the Spice Girls re-grouped and announced plans to tour as a quintet for the last time for a The Return of the Spice Girls, from which they were said to have earned £10 million each (approximately $20 million). The team's members said that they were still enjoying doing their "own thing". The group decided to release their first compilation album, a collection of their Greatest Hits. This album was released in early November 2007, and the tour began on 2 December 2007. During the reformation Film maker Bob Smeaton directed an official film of the tour, which he titled Spice Girls: Giving You Everything. As well as their sell-out tour, the Spice Girls were contracted to appear in Tesco advertisements, for which they were paid £1 million each.
2010–2014: Spice Girls musical and Olympics
Judy Craymer teamed up with the Spice Girls and Simon Fuller and began to develop a Spice Girls musical entitled Viva Forever. Although the girls were not to star in the show themselves, they were to influence the show's cast and production choices in a story which uses their music but bears no relation to their personal story; similar to that of ABBA's music in Mamma Mia!. On 26 June 2012, all five Spice Girls were in attendance at a press conference in London to promote the launch of Viva Forever: The Musical. The press conference was held at St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the location where the Spice Girls filmed the music video for their breakthrough hit "Wannabe", sixteen years earlier, to the day. The musical opened at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre on 11 December 2012. After poor reviews from critics and "a loss of £5 million", the show has its final performance on 29 June 2013. On 12 August 2012, after much speculation, Bunton and the Spice Girls performed a medley of "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, reuniting as a quintet for the last time for the event.
Their performance was the most tweeted moment of Olympics closing ceremony with over 116,000 tweets on Twitter per minute. Bunton also worked with fellow Spice Girl Melanie C on her 2012 album, Stages for the album track "I Know Him So Well". The song was released as a single on 11 November 2012. In March 2013, Bunton was named the Foxy Bingo Celebrity Mum of the Year. In March 2014, Bunton, along with Melanie C, took part in recording England's 2014 World Cup song. She collaborated with fellow pop stars Eliza Doolittle, Katy B, Conor Maynard, Kimberley Walsh and Pixie Lott on "Greatest Day", a track originally performed by British band Take That. The track was produced by Gary Barlow and recorded at Sarm Studios in London. The track also featured past footballers such as Gary Lineker, Michael Owen, Geoff Hurst, David Seaman, Peter Shilton, Glenn Hoddle and Dion Dublin on backing vocals.
2018–present: My Happy Place and second Spice Girls reunion
In June 2018, Bunton said during an interview on This Morning that she was back in the studio working on new material, more than a decade after her last album, Life in Mono. Bunton told host Phillip Schofield, "I am back in the studio, and I'm saying this here for the first time....I am in the studio having fun with some music of my own, just to see". In November 2018, Bunton announced she had signed a record deal with BMG Rights Management and was preparing a new album.
In September 2018, she voices the character Mama Bear in the UK version of the successful animated movie Smallfoot, starring Channing Tatum, James Corden, LeBron James and Danny DeVito. The movie is a success and grossed $83.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $130.9 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $214.1 million. In November 2018, Bunton reunited with the Spice Girls to announce a UK and Ireland Stadium tour, Spice World - 2019 Tour, which began at Croke Park, Dublin on 24 May 2019 and ended in London, England on 15 June 2019.
On 27 February 2019, she released the first single of the new album called "Baby Please Don't Stop", which received generally positive reviews. She later released a promo single, "Too Many Teardrops", on 9 March 2019. She then released her duet with her partner Jade Jones, "You're All I Need to Get By", a cover the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell song. On 12 April 2019, Bunton released her fourth album, My Happy Place. The tracklist consists of two original songs and eight covers of songs beloved by Bunton. The album, which featured appearances from Jones, Robbie Williams, Will Young and Josh Kumra, sold 6,500 copies in its first week in the UK, and entered the UK Album Chart at number 11. 'My Happy Place' became her first Top 20 album in 15 years.
In November 2019, Bunton released a Christmas single, "Coming Home For Christmas" that also included a cover of Santa Baby. On 6 December 2019, Bunton performed her first solo show in over a decade at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert was a special one-off Christmas show that featured Bunton performing well known Christmas covers as well as duets onstage with Will Young, Matt Goss and her fiancé Jade Jones. The inclusive theater company, Chickenshed, of which Bunton has been a patron for many years, also joined her onstage for a rendition of the Spice Girls song Mama.
In February, and again between May and June 2009, Bunton starred as guest presenter on Heart London's Heart Breakfast alongside Jamie Theakston and Harriet Scott. Bunton began hosting her own pre-recorded Saturday drive time radio show on Heart in the Saturday afternoon slot 4–7 pm starting on Saturday 13 June 2009. Bunton provided maternity leave cover for Heart Breakfast co-presenter Harriet Scott from 3 October until 23 December 2011 on Heart London. Following Harriet Scott's departure from Heart Breakfast in November 2012, it was announced Bunton would succeed her as co-host along with Jamie Theakston from 7 January 2013. She co-presented with Theakston until December 2018, making her final Heart Breakfast appearance on 14 December. In March 2017, Bunton won the awards for "Radio Presenter of the Year" and "Digital Radio Programme" at the annual Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) Awards for her work on Heart London. In January 2018, Bunton was offered a new Sunday night show that runs between 7 and 10. The first show aired on 14 January.
Television and films
Bunton has been seen in a television commercial for the supermarket chain Tesco. She also had a cameo role on the Australian soap opera Neighbours in the episode "What's a Spice Girl Like You...?". In July 2008, Bunton stood in as co-presenter alongside Richard Madeley on the television show Richard & Judy while Judy Finnigan was recovering from a knee operation. In October 2008, Bunton appeared on the UK series of The X Factor to assist judge Dannii Minogue in choosing the three best over-25s acts to take through to the live shows. In December 2008, Bunton debuted as a member of the panel on Loose Women on ITV.
In February 2010, Bunton appeared in a UK National Television campaign first aired during Coronation Street, showing her in the Heart Radio studios at the start and the end of the advert. In January 2010, Bunton joined the "Ice Panel" on ITV dancing show Dancing on Ice replacing former judge Ruthie Henshall. She stepped down from this role on 2 December 2011. Bunton hosted Channel 5's Don't Stop Believing from July to August 2010. In August 2010, Bunton guest presented GMTV with Lorraine on GMTV. On 8 October 2010, 19 November 2010 and 7 January 2011, she guest presented Lorraine on ITV Breakfast.
In January 2012, Bunton reprised her role as one of fictional PR manager Edina Monsoon's disgruntled clients in a revival of the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous. In August that same year, Bunton made a cameo appearance in Keith Lemon: The Film. In the summer of 2013, Bunton was a judge on the ITV Saturday night entertainment series Your Face Sounds Familiar alongside Julian Clary and a different guest judge each week. In October 2014, Bunton appeared on The X Factor to assist judge and fellow Spice Girl Mel B in choosing the three best boys acts to take through to the live shows. In 2015, Bunton made a cameo appearance in Spanish comedy film Cómo sobrevivir a una despedida, during a scene in which the five main characters are seen impersonating the Spice Girls in a talent show. In March 2016, Bunton has co-presented Too Much TV, a daily magazine show on BBC Two. In 2015, Bunton made a cameo appearance in the 2016 film Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. In addition, she gave her voice to Muhimu in the UK version of the episode "The Mbali Fields Migration" of the Disney Channel's television series The Lion Guard.
In 1999, 2001 and 2003 she was one of the donors of the charity campaign Nordoff-Robbins, focused in therapy for children with psychological, physical or developmental disabilities. In April 1999 she helped launch the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's anti-child abuse campaign with Tony Blair and Prince Andrew. She also starred in a government safety campaign to warn drinkers of the dangers of handling fireworks, recording commercials to air on television. In 2000 Bunton supported the charity campaign Children Nationwide, which raised money to finance the research into childhood diseases. In 2001 she donated £500,000 to performing arts and music charities funds. In 2006 she was ambassador of BBC's Children in Need and released the charity single "Downtown", donating the money for the campaign. In 2010 she supported the World Children's Champions. In 2011, Bunton was ambassador of Heart's Have a Heart campaign to help homeless people.
In 2013, she supported the UNICEF's campaign Every Parent's Dream, which raised money for vaccine against maternal and newborn tetanus (MNT). In 2014 she became an ambassador of UNICEF and travelled to Africa to assist in humanitarian work to eradicate the MNT. In April 2015, Bunton teamed up with Specsavers in Bishop's Stortford to launch a contest, where each entry would generate £1 to anti-bullying charity Kidscape to help vulnerable children.
In 1997, Bunton dated British singer Lee Brennan. In the same year, she was briefly linked to American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. In 1998, she began dating British singer Jade Jones, but they split for the first time in May 1999. From September 1999 to September 2000, Bunton was in a relationship with the England footballer Rio Ferdinand, who was introduced by her friends David Beckham and Victoria Beckham. In November 2000, she returned to Jones, but they split for the second time in March 2002, when Bunton decided to work again with Simon Fuller – he was against this decision. In 2003, she was briefly linked to American singer Justin Timberlake. In 2004, she returned with Jones and they stabilised.
On 26 January 2007, she announced her pregnancy. Her first child, Beau Lee Jones, was born on 10 August 2007. On 6 May 2011, her second child Tate Lee Jones was born. The couple became engaged on 21 January 2011 but Bunton has said that she does not want to get married in a civil or religious ceremony, stating: "We don't need a wedding to justify our relationship."
In 1999, Bunton moved to a £1.6million penthouse in the Mount Vernon Village, in Hampstead, London. In 2003, she had some problems with neighbours, who complained about her late-night parties. In 2006, she and Jones moved to a mansion in Barnet, London. Bunton was diagnosed with endometriosis. Bunton is also a godmother to Geri Halliwell's daughter, Bluebell Madonna Halliwell, born in 2006. Emma is a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club.
|1992||EastEnders||Mugger girl||Episode: "18 August 1992"|
|1993||The Bill||Janice||Episode: "Missionary Work"|
|1993||To Play the King||Prostitute||Episode: "28 November 1993"|
|1993||Thatcherworld||Josie Jenkins||Unsold BBC pilot|
|2003||Absolutely Fabulous||Herself||Episodes: "Cleanin'" and "Huntin', Shootin', Fishin'"|
|2005||Emma Goes to Bollywood||Herself||Television documentary|
|2005||I Love the '90s: Part Deux||Presenter|
|2005||Comic Relief Sketch Special||Herself||Television special|
|2006||Neighbours||Herself||Episode: "What's a Spice Girl Like You...?"|
|2006||Strictly Come Dancing||Contestant||Series 4 – third place|
|2007||Giving You Everything||Herself||Television documentary|
|2008||American Idol||Guest judge||Episode: "Live Shows: Top 8"|
|2008||Richard & Judy||Guest presenter||Episode: "24 July 2008"|
|The X Factor||Mentor assistant||Season 5, 11 and 13|
|2008||Loose Women||Guest presenter||Episodes: "1–5 December 2008"|
|2009||Ant & Dec's Christmas Show||Evil Stepmother||Television special|
|2009||Eurovision: Your Country Needs You||Judge||Episode: "24 January 2009"|
|2009||Let's Dance for Comic Relief||Judge||Episode: "21 February 2009"|
|2010||Don't Stop Believing||Presenter|
|2010||The Million Pound Drop Live||Celebrity contestant||Season 3, episode 3|
|2010||GMTV with Lorraine||Relief presenter|
|2010–11||Dancing on Ice||Judge / Mentor||Seasons 5–6|
|2012||Absolutely Fabulous: 20th anniversary||Herself||Episodes: "Job" and "Sport Relief Special"|
|2012||The Spice Girls Story: Viva Forever!||Herself||Television documentary|
|2013||Your Face Sounds Familiar||Judge / Mentor|
|2013||This Morning Summer||Presenter|
|2013||I Heart Glee||Presenter||Television special|
|2015||The Rocky Horror Show Live||Narrator||Television special|
|2016||Too Much TV||Presenter|
|2016||Drunk History||Maid Marian / Catherine Parr||Episodes: "One" and "Nine"|
|2016||Murder in Successville||Sidekick||Episode: "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes"|
|2016||Josh||Herself||Episode: "Share & Share Alike"|
|2016–present||The Lion Guard||Muhimu||Voice; Guest role (UK dub) Episode: "The Mbali Fields Migration"|
|2017||Not Going Out||Herself||Episode: "Hot Tub"|
|2017||Tim Vine Travels in Time||Anne Boleyn||Television special|
|2018||RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars||Judge||Season 3, episode: "Handmaids to Kitty Girls"|
|2018–present||The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition||Host||Season 4–Season 5|
|1997||Spice World||Baby Spice|
|2001||Yes You Can||Pop Angel||Short film|
|2005||Pyaar Mein Twist||Kylie Milligan|
|2008||The Queen: A Life in Film||Herself||Documentary|
|2012||Keith Lemon: The Film||Herself|
|2015||Cómo Sobrevivir a una Despedida||Herself|
|2016||Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie||Herself|
|2018||Smallfoot||Mama Bear (UK voice only)|
- Live in Concert (2001)
- Free Me Tour (2004)
- Emma Bunton’s Christmas Party - Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2019)
Awards and nominations
|1999||Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Movie Actress||Spice World||Nominated|||
|Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Favorite Actress: Comedy|
|2001||Smash Hits Poll Awards||Best Female Solo Artist||Herself|||
|2004||Meteor Awards||Best Female Singer|||
|Popjustice £20 Music Prize||Best Song||"Maybe"|||
|2008||Foxy Bingo Awards||Celebrity Mum of the Year||Herself|||
|2010||Glamour Awards||Radio Personality||The Saturday Show|||
|Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards||Newcomer|||
|2011||Glamour Awards||Radio Personality|||
|2013||Glamour Awards||Heart Breakfast|||
|Radio Academy Awards||Listeners Choice Award|||
|Foxy Bingo Awards||Celebrity Mum of the Year||Herself||Won|||
|2014||Radio Times||Best Strictly Come Dancing Contestant of All Time||Strictly Come Dancing|||
|TRIC Awards||Radio Personality||Heart Breakfast|||
|2016||Glamour Awards||Radio Personality|||
|2017||TRIC Awards||Radio Personality||Herself||Won|
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