Why Girls Aloud will always mean so much to queer fans: ‘It feels like a homecoming’

Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Nicola Roberts and Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud

With Girls Aloud announcing their huge reunion arena tour, PinkNews entertainment reporter Marcus Wratten takes the opportunity to write about why the British girl group has always had a staunch LGBTQ+ following.

The first and only time I got to see Girls Aloud perform live, I was still so young that I needed to sit on my dad’s shoulders to see anything.

I was also young enough not to have realised I was gay. But I was utterly besotted with the five women – Nicola Roberts, Sarah Harding, Cheryl Tweedy, Nadine Coyle and Kimberley Walsh – who stood in front of me, twirling in golden, sequinned mini-dresses. My dad thought I was obsessed because I was attracted to them. He was badly mistaken!

As rumours of a Girls Aloud reunion tour – 10 years after their disbandment – spread like wildfire earlier this week, following Roberts cryptically posting the number four on Instagram, queers of the internet went collectively wild. Other Noughties bands have reunited in recent years, but Girls Aloud? The Girls Aloud?

For queer people, it feels like a homecoming.

Girls Aloud announce 2024 arena tour: presale, ticket prices and more
Girls Aloud have announced a 2024 arena tour. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

There are obvious reasons why the LGBTQ+ community, and particularly gay men, are drawn to the group. It’s the same reason they’re drawn to Britney or Beyoncé: they make fierce, electrifying pop music.

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I maintain that “Call the Shots” is one of the best pop records of the past 20 years, while “Untouchable”, I think, is an unofficial Pride anthem.

But it’s more than just their music, hair-flipping performances and smokey, latex-clad music videos. Girls Aloud offered an immediate sense of community for people who have often had to fight to find their tribe. That’s powerful.

While the community has been able to bond over the group’s music, all five members, as individuals, have also infiltrated very specific spaces in pop culture that are heavily occupied by queer people. Half the group have been judges on Drag Race UK. Sarah took Big Brother by storm. Most of them performed at queer festival Mighty Hoopla this year.

Then, there are the memes. If there is anything gay men love more than pop culture, it’s pop-culture memes, and Girls Aloud have meme material coursing through their veins, more than any other pop group of their time. They are “LoveofHuns” personified.

There’s Cheryl “Just Tap The F**king Table” Tweedy, famed for her unfiltered reactions on their reality show, Ghost Hunting with Girls Aloud, while Nadine “Flouyer” Coyle, notorious Gemini, became a god-like figure within the community after being caught lying about her age on Popstars in 2001.

The late, brilliant Sarah Harding’s flat note while performing “The Loving Kind” on GMTV at half eight in the morning could have been a moment of embarrassment – instead, the queer community turned it into a moment of adoration.

It feels as if we have the girls’ backs, and they have ours. In a recent interview with PinkNews, Nadine went as far as to ask how she can be an even better ally, taking aim at those who discriminate against the community. 

“The fact that they have such strong opinions on what other people are doing blows my mind. The audacity of some people,” she said.

“Feel free to reach out and guide me and advise me on where I could be a better ally, or what I can do more to help.”

Three photos of Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle performing. The images are against a pink background.
Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle has spoken about her adoration and respect for the LGBTQ+ community. (Getty/PinkNews)

As five underdog women beamed into overnight stardom following their big Popstars: The Rivals win, they were under constant scrutiny regarding their looks, their vocals, the way they dressed, their mental health – particularly in the Noughties, when some of the tabloids were arguably at their scummiest.

Growing up, my personal favourite member of the band was Nicola. I thought she was beautiful, and it baffled me that she received relentless trolling over the way she looked.

It’s another facet of the band’s dynamic that has resonated with queer people. They’ve had to fight to come out on top, being confronted with endless criticism. They’ve each had to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Never has that been more apparent than since the loss of Sarah, who died in 2021 after a year-long battle with breast cancer. 

The band have all said how bitter-sweet it has been coming back together without her. Just last year, Kimberley ruled out a reunion entirely, saying it would be too painful.

Girls Aloud members Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Cheryl Tweedy.
Girls Aloud are making a comeback – a celebration of band mate Sarah Harding who died in 2021. (Getty/Dave Benett)

Seeing them lean on one another to heal, despite enduring one of the toughest experiences a group could have ever faced, has been heart-warming. For both the group and their queer fans, watching the reunion unfold will feel like turning tragedy into joy – as they themselves have said: it will be a celebration of Sarah and how she, along with they themselves, changed British pop music for ever.

It’s wild to think that Girls Aloud have now spent as much time disbanded as they did together. But if the past week of speculation has showed anything, it’s that the group’s queer fans will always be ready to welcome them back, in whatever capacity, with open arms.

Girls Aloud’s UK and Ireland arena tour will take place in May and June 2024. Girls Aloud pre-sale begins on Wednesday 29 November. General sale will take place on Friday, 1 December.

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