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Two decades ago, Belinda Chapple was everywhere. Her face lit up TVs while she and her Bardot bandmates toured the world in their ultra-low-rise trousers. But the girl group, which erupted onto the scene in the early 2000s, was not to last. Just two and a half years after its creation, they mysteriously broke up, leaving Chapple devastated.
Now, 23 years since the release of Bardot’s biggest track Poison, Chapple is returning to the spotlight to re-examine the band’s sudden downfall in her memoir, The Girl in the Band.
Bardot performing at the Rumba festival in 2001.Credit: Fairfax Photographic
“I’m a bit nervous. I’ve been kind of happy not being in the limelight, but I understand that if I want people to read the book, then I have to get this noggin on the telly again,” Chapple, 48, says.
She’s now ready to share her story, which she dedicates to “all the performers who have had their hearts broken while chasing their dreams.”
Often compared to the Spice Girls, Bardot formed in 1999 when Chapple, Katie Underwood, Sophie Monk, Tiffani Wood and Sally Polihonras were selected for one of the world’s earliest reality TV shows: Popstars – a Seven show that quickly became a ratings darling and inspired other talent shows like Idol, X Factor and The Voice.
Popstars followed the young women as they worked tirelessly to become the first band to debut at No.1 on Australian charts with both their first single and album. This is what the public saw, but beyond the fame and success lay fractured relationships, unfair contracts and personal traumas, according to Chapple.
Belinda Chapple has been largely out of the spotlight since Bardot disbanded. But now she’s back to tell her side of the story.
“My heart was broken entirely. I was so passionate about song and dance. I just didn’t have the heart to handle what was going on behind the scenes in the music industry,” Chapple says.
Bardot was said to have “mutually” decided to part ways in 2002; however, Chapple’s book claims the decision was imposed on them after Monk decided to pursue a solo career with their manager at the time, David Caplice.
“Imagine being on a bus with a whole group of people behind the scenes and the band, and you’re just going full-steam ahead for three years. You’re mentally in that world, that’s your everything. And then someone swings the van door open and throws you out on the road, closes it, and keeps going,” Chapple says.
“Then you’re on the side of the road, and you’re like, ‘what do I do now? How do I put my life back together?’”
Chapple claims each Bardot member signed a contract before being told whether they had been selected for the group. She says her lawyer at the time advised her that she would “not earn a cent in three years” – other than a $35 per diem payment – because all earnings from any income stream would be used to pay off costs. Neither Seven nor Warner Music responded to requests for comment.
“I’m almost 50, so I don’t really have any fear around being blacklisted from the entertainment industry and the people who run it. It’s a very honest account. It’s what happened,” Chapple says. “I have friends who have received [similar] contracts and literally just laughed and thrown them away, saying, ‘no, we’re not going to work for free for six weeks for your No.1 rated show’.”
The Bardot contract also reportedly stated that Chapple must maintain her appearance. She says her lawyer explained to her that this essentially meant she could not gain weight.
The cover of Belinda Chapple’s new book, The Girl in the Band.Credit: Simon and Schuster
Bardot would often start their day at the gym, followed by intense physical rehearsals, Chapple says. The gruelling schedule, paired with constantly being in the public eye, led her to obsess over her figure and develop an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, she says.
“It’s important to talk about it, so everybody knows they’re not alone. Because sometimes when you face hardships in life, no matter what it is, we forget that we’re not on our own,” Chapple says.
She has maintained contact with every member of the group except Monk, whom she says she hasn’t spoken to since 2002. However, she says their fallout “feels like a lifetime ago”, and wishes Monk well. Comment was sought from Monk for this story.
Since that lifetime, Chapple has become an interior designer, formed a new pop group with Underwood called Ka’Bel, found the love of her life and executive produced the Paper Dolls series, which will air later this year on Paramount+.
Though Bardot’s time was fleeting and ended for Chapple on a sour note, she says she would do it all over again.
“I look back on the time as 50 per cent positive and 50 per cent hardship,” Chapple says. “50 per cent was just so amazing, especially when that was always my dream as a performer. It has shaped me to be a stronger woman in every single way.”
The Girl in the Band will be released in Australia on August 30.
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