Pepsi & Shirlie: ‘When I think back to that shoot, I just remember a feeling of freedom’

11 months ago 175
Caption: Pepsi (on right) & Shirlie successful 1987 and 2021. Later photograph: Pål Hansen/The Guardian. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and makeup: Neusa Neves astatine Terri Manduca utilizing Nars, Blisse Beauty Lashes and Innersense haircare

Bastions of 80s popular jubilance, Pepsi & Shirlie travelled the satellite arsenic dancers and backing singers for Wham!. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley enlisted their schoolhouse person Shirlie Holliman, earlier Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque joined for Wham!’s abbreviated but wildly palmy vocation from 1982 to 1986. As a duo, Pepsi & Shirlie had hits with Heartache and Goodbye Stranger. Now surviving successful St Lucia with her husband, Pepsi has performed successful musicals specified arsenic Hair, portion Shirlie, who lives successful Hertfordshire and has 2 children, Harley Moon and Roman, has released a plaything medium and a publication with hubby Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet. Their book, Pepsi & Shirlie: It’s All successful Black and White, is retired now.


This was our archetypal sprout arsenic a duo. In the 80s it was important to make a “look”; we wanted thing a spot theatrical, a motion to my days arsenic a punk. Our stylist grabbed worldly from vintage shops; I’m wearing a riding overgarment and men’s shoes. I loved the play of it all.

Mine and Pepsi’s relationship began successful 1982. We were looking for a caller miss to articulation Wham! and 1 time George said: “OK! There’s this miss called Pepsi!” My archetypal thought was: “She’s called Pepsi? Well, she’s got to beryllium fun.”

When I arrived astatine Finsbury Park presumption to cod her, I was secretly pleased she wasn’t glamorous oregon girly. We got into my car and I asked what her dependable was like. She handed maine a cassette tape. “You dependable similar Shirley Bassey!” I said. She replied: “I’m specified a large Bassey fan!” Any hostility instantly melted away.

Mine and Pepsi’s upbringing was precise similar. I grew up successful a large family, six of america successful a tiny assembly house. I shared a furniture with my 2 sisters, I loved being tucked successful the middle. But schoolhouse was awful. Looking back, I had a learning disability, I couldn’t bash maths, and we were handed these acquisition cards and expected to thatch ourselves. When I was five, a teacher deed maine astir the look truthful hard it made maine propulsion up.

I near with nary qualifications and knew I’d ne'er enactment successful an office. So erstwhile Wham! started to instrumentality off, I was ne'er nervous. School was the astir frightening spot I’d ever been, thing other pales successful comparison. Plus I had the champion occupation successful the world, dancing with my friends. It was the cleanable situation for maine to shine.

Wham! was based connected 2 boys messing around, having fun. They weren’t going to beryllium teenagers for ever, and everyone knew George was going to person a immense solo career. But we enjoyed it portion it lasted. Making the Last Christmas video was hysterical. We spent the sprout eating and drinking successful a compartment successful Switzerland. At 1 point, idiosyncratic chucked a snowball astatine George’s caput and his hairsbreadth got soaked; the hairdresser was going: “Oh God! Hold on!” The manager indispensable person been thinking: I americium ne'er going to get power implicit this. It was chaos.

When Wham! came to an end, I said to Pepsi: “We’ll beryllium a treble act.” But I couldn’t set to each the travelling. I’d met Martin, and I would person to alert disconnected to wherever Spandau Ballet were playing truthful we could walk clip together. I was exhausted.

After I got large with Harley, I thought: “I can’t bash this immoderate more.” It would person been large if I’d stuck with it and earned much money, but it wouldn’t person been a substitute for a blessed childhood.

Mine wasn’t great: my dada was this huge, Zeus-like guy, and erstwhile helium was astatine location it was similar thunder. Him and my mum would reason and scream, and I’d perceive astatine the apical of the stairs. It gave maine atrocious anxiety. I wanted to make a nice, casual situation for my children.

When I told Pepsi I couldn’t bash it immoderate more, she knew it was coming, and I had to beryllium honorable with her. Honesty is the astir important happening successful a friendship; we person ever been ruthless with each other. If she is getting connected my nerves, I’ll happily archer her. It’s wherefore our narration works.

Although Pepsi lives acold away, our relationship is the aforesaid arsenic always. When I deliberation backmost to the time of this shoot, I conscionable retrieve a feeling of freedom: “Pepsi, we’re doing our ain thing! This is us. This is our time.”


When Shirlie and I started arsenic a duo, we had a truly beardown thought of however we wanted to contiguous ourselves. I wanted america to person a tomboy element, and there’s an vigor to our poses which reflects however we felt: wow! We are here!

I’d prepared to conscionable Shirlie for the archetypal clip arsenic if it was an audition. I felt calm. Ready. Once I got retired of the conduit presumption and into the car, it was conscionable chat, chat, chat. We went backmost to George’s house, and I was trying to stay precise professional, but I desperately wanted to beryllium portion of their gang. Also George had this achromatic carpet. I grew up successful a location wherever immoderate of the rooms didn’t adjacent person carpet, truthful it was mind-blowing. How did helium support it truthful clean?

Before Wham! I was a spot lost. I’d had tons of jobs, delivering meals connected wheels, moving astatine a question agency, a stint astatine the Natural History Museum acquisition shop. I loved it there, but I was perpetually dreaming, thinking: “Is this it?”

I was brought up successful a West Indian family; determination was ever bickering, laughter, music, aunties, uncles. My parent wanted to marque definite we were contented and happy. But I utilized to dread Friday nighttime erstwhile I’d perceive my dada coming location from the pub and my mum screaming. It’s taken maine a portion to get implicit that. Alcoholism is inherent successful our family, but I don’t person an addictive nature. I similar to consciousness good. That’s the transportation Shirlie and I have. We emotion cosiness. We emotion a bully party, but astatine the extremity of the time it’s astir feeling wholesome: waking up successful the greeting with the agleam sunshine successful your eyes and appreciating it.

I was a league vocalist erstwhile idiosyncratic sent my euphony to Simon Napier-Bell, who managed Wham! I’ve nary thought who it was, but I americium gladsome they did. Being successful Wham! was incredible. Our archetypal show unneurotic was astatine Capital Radio: we were mucking around, past the adjacent happening I cognize we are connected signifier dancing to Club Tropicana. The little was to creation similar we were encouraging a miss from the assemblage to articulation in; marque it look casual and person fun. Being connected the signifier is specified a force. I’ll ne'er hide those screaming fans. The decibels! Girls dropping to their knees.

Shirlie had to transportation maine we could marque it arsenic a duo. She said we should drawback the opportunity. And she was right. Our archetypal azygous was kept disconnected the apical spot by George’s duet with Aretha Franklin. But helium made america consciousness similar we were No 1; helium felt truly atrocious and took america retired to meal astatine the Ivy.

I moved to New Zealand aft we broke up, and portion I wrote to her often, Shirlie and I weren’t arsenic connected. She had a household and I had met the emotion of my life. I ne'er took it personally.

When George died, Shirlie couldn’t marque the telephone to maine arsenic she was excessively upset, truthful Harley did. It was a hard, hard clip for each of us. I came backmost to the UK for his tribute astatine the Brits a fewer months later. At archetypal it was truly affectional to spot Shirlie again, past you commencement having a small bicker and soon capable it creates a lightness that softens the load.

To this day, I inactive archer her to unopen up erstwhile she’s being bossy, but it’s each done with full affection. Besides, I emotion seeing her bash her thing, ever busy, meddling, huffing and puffing. She volition ever beryllium a sister to me.