Smash Hits, 31 July - 13 August 1996
Girls just wanna have fun!
Eternal are so rushed off their feet at present,
promoting their latest single, Someday, that we
decided to treat each of them to their ideal day off.
But there was one condition - Smash Hits'
Damon Syson had to tag along.
"No problem," said the girls, so off we went...
"It's not going forward that's the problem, it's stopping!"
Vernie, her cousin brother Derek and their cousin Beverly are in fits of laughter, mainly due to the fact that it's Derek's first time on Rollerblades, and any second now he's in danger of pulling them all over in a nasty multi-Bennett pile-up. Somehow, in spite of plenty of wobbles, they all manage to stay upright. Vernie is the most proficient of the three, having bought her 'Blades four weeks ago and practised a few times with Easther in London's Hyde Park and Crystal Palace, where they employed that old-age stopping technique - skate into a tree and then cling on for dear life.
"We didn't think anyone was watching," says Vernie, "until Easther dropped and we heard these people going, 'Look, look, Easther's dropped!' I bought the blades because I had a bit of time off and I thought it would be easier to learn here in London. So when I'm next on tour and I get, say, a Sunday afternoon off, I can just go off on them and have a lot of fun."
Unlike Kéllé, who suffers badly from homesickness, Vernie loves travelling. One of her favourite places is Japan, where the fans can't pronounce the letter V. "They call me Bernie - it's really cute," she laughs.
So when the three of them are stuck together for weeks on end, do they ever argue?
"Sure, we bicker," she admits. "You can't help it if you spend 24-7 with someone. But it's all over really quickly. We've learned to respect each other's spaces and know when one of the others is getting a bit ratty."
So what irritates her most about the others?
"Nothing major. Kéllé takes ages to take off her make-up after a show. She's like, 'I've got to put my cream on' and we'll be shouting, 'Come on, Kel!'"
Kéllé reckons Vernie is the businesswoman of the group. She admits she's careful with her money, and rather than splashing out on designer clobber, she's just invested in recording studio equipment. She hopes to produce as well as perform and write songs - perhaps even on Eternal's next album, which should be out by the end of this year. In the meantime, she's excited about Eternal being chosen to perform on the soundtrack of Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.
"I grew up with Disney films," she says, "so the whole time I was doing it, I was wondering what it would look like when they put the cartoon characters with our voices."
"It's great - it makes you feel young. We went a couple of years ago and loved it so much that we decided to go back."
But what else does Vernie spend her money on?
"Put it this way - anything my mum wants, she gets. Easther and I bought her a car for Christmas and sometimes she'll phone up and say, 'Vern, I haven't got a television downstairs.' Within a couple of days, there'll be one on her doorstep."
Kéllé At The Gym
"I'm a bit out of shape," says Eternal's Kéllé, carefully wrapping a sweatshirt round her waist before she'll let our photographer snap her, mid-workout. Then, without so much as a blink, she makes everyone gasp by doing the splits. Er, Kéllé, if that's out of shape, then I'm Robbie Coltrane...
Most of us would rather be boiled in oil than spend a 'relaxing day off' in the gym - but Kéllé admits she's something of a fitness fanatic.
"I love feeling healthy, and the way my body looks is very important to me. I went to stage school, so I was taught to study my body. From the age of four, I've been staring at myself in the mirror with practically no clothes on, looking for faults. At school, teachers would tell me not to eat and to cut this and that out. It really messed me up. I saw food as an enemy. Now I know it's just nutrition to keep you healthy."
But there's another, more exciting incentive for Kéllé's fitness regime.
"Yes, it helps that my boyfriend's really into it, too," she adds, casually. "We work out together a lot of the time."
Excuse me? Rewind. Boyfriend? Yup, Kéllé's in lurve - though, in typical Eternal style, she's keeping schtum about his identity.
"We quite often walk on different sides of the street if there are photographers around," she confesses. "So far, we've been lucky."
She will reveal that he's a pop star (surprise surprise), that she's known him for years, and that they're very serious. So why is it that stars always end up going out with stars?
"Because you understand each other," she replies. "But I admit I'm a jealous cow."
"Well, I might find a phone number in his pocket, or he'll be talking to someone on the phone and even though he might be discussing a cup of tea, I'll imagine some innuendo in his voice. By the time he comes off the phone, there's steam coming out of my ears and I'll end up giving him 50 questions!"
So what happened to the old days of Eternal either not being allowed to have relationships or simply not having the time?
"We have more control over our time nowadays," says Kéllé, "and for the first time in four years, we've had quite a lot of time off. I didn't realise how much pressure I'd been under until I stopped. I was really frazzled for a couple of weeks because I was so used to having every day planned out for me."
In recent weeks, however, Kéllé's worries have been less to do with career pressures, and more to do with things like... what colour sofa will match her curtains. You see, in addition to her London flat, she's bought a swanky 'country house' in Essex and has been busy doing it up.
"I've just had a swimming pool built," she says as if she's informing me she's just popped out for a pint of milk.
"Of course - she's my girlfriend and I love her to pieces. We've been together since I was 11, so it's really hard. But I live across the road from her, so I see her a lot."
And what does she think of Louise's solo success and sultry sex-kitten image?
"Lou is very innocent but also tremendously sexy, and I'm glad that she's come out. I'm so happy things have gone well - I almost cried with relief when her single went in at No 5, because I know she was shit-scared. I went through the whole split thing with her - it was an awful time for both of us. There were times when I thought about going with her."
Really? Was that an option?
"It was discussed, because we have such a fantastic friendship."
"She's one of the most kind-natured people I know," she says. "She calls me a 'recluse', because I'm buying a country house while most people my age are going out clubbing. That's not me - I prefer to see my family or read a book."
Or indeed, spend half an hour on the Stairmaster. Our chat over, Kéllé's off to work that body a bit more. With all that dedication, is she totally happy with the way she looks?
"I hate my thighs," she says. "They're so chunky!" Then she adds with a cheeky smile, "But my boyfriend likes them!"
I've just witnessed something rarer than the sighting of an eagle in Hyde Park. Yes, it's an Easther from Eternal smile! Not just a smile, either - pop's Miss Stern is joking around and looking relaxed. There are comedy moments a-plenty watching the photographer's attempts to get a dramatic picture of the expert bowling action. This is clearly a newly chilled-out Easther. Despite the fact she's come to this bowling alley for years, we make fun of her crap scores on the first few attempts. With her next ball, though, she misses a 'strike' by just two pins and triumphantly pokes out her tongue at us.
Easther is in a very positive mood, talking about how she loves travelling to far-flung places with Eternal and how much of a laugh the girls have when they're performing.
"You know, sometimes you mess up," she says, "or you see something funny in the crowd, or someone throws their underwear on stage..."
She's clearly happy about the presence of one of her oldest friends, Denise. The pair met at secondary school, where they were the class tomboys.
"There's nothing like being with your mates," Easther says when asked about what makes her happy. "You always have a laugh, and if you bicker, it's soon all over."
It may also be that she's more relaxed thanks to her first proper holiday in four years. Easther, her cousin Beverly, and Denise recently spent three weeks in Athens and Corfu, and on one occasion were taken out by two Greek men who had no idea they were in the presence of pop royalty.
"It was nice because they treated me like a person, not a star," she says.
Easther's no stranger to the star treatment. When we walk into the Streatham Superbowl, a group of girls shout, "It's Easther!" She just smiles and waves. Later, she's chatted up by a bloke who asks her what her name is. Hmm, I've got a feeling he already knew the answer. It must be difficult being stared at everywhere you go.
"It can be," she admits. "But I'm not going to let that restrict my life. Usually, I just look down and my friends say things like, 'Easther, fan at 12 o'clock!'"
Sometimes, there's no escape, however. Like at the dentist's. Apparently, there she was in the chair, having just had an injection, when the dentist said, "Er, while we're waiting, can I have a few autographs?" Not only that, she brought her daughter in for a photograph!
Easther's well aware of her reputation for being 'difficult', but she says in her defence, "It depends on what day you catch me. In our business, you're not allowed to have a bad day. I can be a laugh, though. My friends actually think I'm too much of a laugh, because I'll talk to anyone."
One of the other pressures of fame is, of course, relationships and, most of all, "knowing whether someone wants to go out with you just because of who you are." Although she says that if she wanted a relationship, she'd find the time, she won't be drawn on rumours about 'close links' with a certain boy band. Easther, are you in a relationship at the moment?
"I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of boys as friends, yes."
Anyone in particular?
How do you respond to the Boyzone rumours?
"Everyone has friends in life. Because we're artistes, we mix with a lot of artistes. It doesn't mean we're going out with any of them."
Why do famous people go out with famous people?
"I haven't a clue. You should ask someone who is going out with someone famous."
So when was the last time you kissed a boy?
"I'd have to say that's private."
Mmm, may be best to drop the subject. After all, she's pretty handy with those bowling balls...