The Seeing Double premiere made headlines (Picture: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
The red carpets of the noughties were dominated by ultra low-rise jeans, plunging necklines and diamantes galore, with popstars raising the bar for what they could get away with. But nobody was expecting a member of the UK’s cleanest cut band to hit the front pages with her sartorial choices.
In April 2003, Tina Barrett of S Club (they dropped the 7 a year earlier after the departure of Paul Cattermole) was chatting with designer Scott Henshall when she mentioned that the premiere for the band’s first movie, Seeing Double, was coming up.
‘I was saying I really wanted to wear one of those red carpet dresses as we had our premiere coming up for our movie, which was a big, big deal for all of us,’ Tina told Metro.co.uk. ‘And he was like, “well, I think you should really go for it”.’
Henshall had become known for his red carpet creations, having dressed Jodie Kidd in a very revealing web of lace for the Spider-Man premiere a year earlier, and decided to offer Tina a red gown previously worn by Erin O’Connor on the runway. The Grecian-style asymmetric dress featured cut-outs from the bust across the torso and at the hips, and depended on a whole lot of pinning, careful movements and confidence to carry it off.
Tina, now 44, said: ‘He showed me the dress and I was like, “where’s the rest of it?” I thought he was joking. There’s nothing underneath it? So that’s it?
‘Then I decided to try it on, and he was pinning it, and I was like, it’s not that bad. Then I just did it, I was like, you know what, what the hell. It’s an amazing dress, I’d been on tour so I felt like I could get away with it, I’d been working hard.’
The dress was designed by Scott Henshall (Picture: Richard Young/REX)
Tina felt she had worked hard on tour so could ‘get away with it’ (Picture: Jon Furniss/Getty Images)
Tina, then 26, wore the dress to the Leicester Square premiere and it was a tabloid sensation. ‘It just went mad. My phone was blowing up, saying “look in the papers, you’re everywhere”. It was pretty cool, actually.’
Perhaps what made Tina’s dress even more of a standout – aside from the constant threat of what would later be known as a wardrobe malfunction, thanks to the Super Bowl halftime show a year later – was that the rest of the band, Hannah Spearitt, Jo O’Meara, Rachel Stevens, Bradley McIntosh and Jon Lee, had chosen to dress all in black, with a touch of pink from Jo and Hannah.
‘I don’t think they knew [what I was going to wear], no. We had no stylists at this point, we just dressed ourselves. Obviously I had the dress, they said, we’re going to wear this, I said, I’m wearing red, and everyone was like, ok, whatever. Then everyone wore black and I wore this dress. Oh well! It was a fun night,’ Tina laughed.
The premiere was somewhat of a last hurrah for S Club, as two weeks later, the band announced they would be splitting up after a farewell single and album, which came that June. It marked the end of a five-year rollercoaster for the band, who had been formed by Simon Fuller in 1998 and hit number one with their first single Bring It All Back the following year. Three number ones, five number twos, a number one album, numerous TV shows, a movie, two Brit Awards and even a spin-off band – S Club Juniors, containing two future Saturdays – followed.
S Club 7 were a sensation (Picture: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Tina was an original member of Mis-Teeq (Picture: Tim Roney/Getty Images)
Tina could have taken a very different route, having actually been a member of Mis-Teeq with Alesha Dixon and Sabrina Washington, who she met at their dance studio, when she auditioned for S Club 7. ‘They were gorgeous girls and we were having the best time,’ she said. ‘In a way, I wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed in Mis-Teeq. The girls went on and they were absolutely huge. My path took a different turn, but I support Mis-Teeq, of course, they’re unbelievable. And S Club, I love to bits too. But before Mis-Teeq, I’d never have dreamed of going into a band.’
However, she ended up joining S Club 7, and alongside bands like Steps and Five, they became a pop phenomenon that had fingers in every pie. With the music came a TV franchise where they played versions of themselves, numerous endorsements and constant performances. In the era of Smash Hits and Top Of The Pops, S Club 7 were everywhere, and it was a lot to handle.
‘You see popstars on TV growing up and you think, wow, they have this amazing life where they’re sort of wafting around and singing and doing something fabulous and looking amazing all the time. And let me tell you, it’s not like that at all. It was a lot of hard work,’ Tina said. ‘You could not even take a breath. I remember friends of mine talking about TV shows and Big Brother had just launched and they were like, “have you seen Big Brother?”, and I was just like, I don’t even get time to cough let alone watch a TV show, we had no clue. It was that mental.
‘I remember when my mum turned round to be and said, “I’m just so tired of seeing you on TV, you’re on every channel”. I was just like, ok, thanks Mum. But fair enough, we are on every channel. It was crazy.’
Tina is working on solo material (Picture: PR)
Many popstars from the same era backed away from the limelight when the cheesy pop era came to a crashing halt, with the charts beginning to favour slicker, more mature R&B; Beyonce’s Crazy In Love came out the same year S Club split. But Tina never abandoned the S Club label. She remained touring with Jo and Bradley as S Club 3, becoming a uni night staple, and was over the moon when S Club 7 – with Paul – reunited in 2014 for a Children In Need performance, followed by a UK tour.
She said: ‘We’re far from perfect – there’s seven of us, we can be nightmares. However, we had such a giggle on that tour. It was so much fun, we wanted it to go on all year. It was probably the most fun we ever had because the pressure was off, we knew what we were doing and we had all grown up. It was just like a party, the whole thing.’
After previously releasing a number of solo efforts, Tina returned to music this year with her fashion house name-dropping single Mwah Mwah, which was released in January. Tina – now a mum to four-year-old son Roman – this week released the follow-up, Private Dance Instructor, which she describes as R&B with a touch of Spanish guitar, accompanied by a video with ‘a bit of a Flashdance vibe to it’.
‘It’s actually really nice to do something that’s just mine. Obviously it’s been an amazing experience working with S Club, we get to perform to the biggest audiences and everyone knows the songs, it’s a dream come true. However, doing your own stuff is very fulfilling, because it’s all you, and you get to get your vision and personality across. And I guess people get to know me a bit more. In S Club I was playing that role, so now they get to see the real me.’
But that doesn’t mean Tina’s entirely done with S Club 7. She’s still proud of the music they made, at the moment particularly loving Reach, the party classic that has had a resurgence thanks to Giovanna Fletcher choosing a copy of it as her luxury item on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! ‘It’s just a song you can’t stop smiling to, and when you see people’s reactions to it, I’m so proud to be part of that song.’ And the reunion tour craze that saw acts like A1 and 911 hold joint concerts for their greatest hits has graduated into full blown comebacks, with Steps notably receiving acclaim for 2017’s Scared Of The Dark and reaching number two in the charts with their latest album, What The Future Holds.
‘Some of the guys wanted to do new music and all of that [after the reunion tour], but we never got it together, it never happened,’ Tina said. ‘Some had contracts straight after, it was a timing thing. But who knows, in the future we might do something a bit like Steps. Love Steps to bits, they’ve done new music and they’re doing incredibly, actually.’
And in a time where pop is now a badge of honour, it could be the right time for an S Club Party. ‘When I was in S Club, there were so many radio stations who wouldn’t play us because we were pop. We were literally shunned by all of them, and it did hurt our feelings a little bit; the cool stations didn’t want us and even the commercial stations thought we were too cheesy. Now, all that seems to have gone. We’ve come out of the shadows, it’s alright to like pop.’
Private Dance Instructor is out now.