Throwback to 2000…

At the turn of the new millennium, the era of celebrity was at its peak, and the names and faces filling TV screens and Walkmans defined pop culture.

Among those at the very top of their game were The Spice Girls: a five-piece British band that embodied girl power. By 2000, five had become four, and each member of one of the world’s biggest groups had begun working on their own material, with solo stardom in their sights.

When Mel C, also known as Sporty Spice, made her solo Dubai debut in March 2000 (The Spice Girls had performed as a group back in 1997 at then-hotspot, Cyclone), she spoke exclusively to What’s On in one of her most in-depth interviews as a solo artist. She shut down rumours about a possible Spice Girls split (although the band would later break up in February 2001), opened up about stage nerves, and shared her struggles coping with life in the limelight.   

March 2000 Mel C

That issue, our 263rd, was particularly star-studded and also featured an interview with outspoken popstar, Boy George. Having reformed Culture Club in 1998, his interview was an entertaining reflection on life in the 1980s, his musical influences, and the evolution of his performance style.

Ian Fairservice with Mohammed Ali

But this wasn’t What’s On’s first foray into celebrity exclusives. Back in 1982, I scored an exclusive interview with boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, when we were one of the first titles to sadly learn of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Two years later in 1984, football superstar George Best also spoke exclusively to me during a visit to Dubai. And in the years that followed, several big names from the sports and music worlds have graced the cover of What’s On, solidifying our position as the region’s number-one entertainment magazine. UB40 frontman Ali Campbell talked all things music in What’s On’s February 1999 edition; we interviewed tennis ace Roger Federer in February 2008 on his love for the city; and in February 2009 we had an audience with that year’s Dubai Jazz Festival headliners, James Blunt and John Legend.

Words: Ian Fairservice, Managing Partner and Group Editor
Images: Getty Images and What’s On Archive