KATIE HIND: How Louise Redknapp's squeaky clean 90s girl band Eternal is being torn apart by a toxic trans feud

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They were the squeaky-clean girls from Croydon who staked their claim as one of Britain’s first female pop bands to shoot to stardom.

With a debut album Always & Forever that became the first by a female group to achieve more than a million sales in the UK, and ten million records sold worldwide, Eternal paved the way for the successes of the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud.

The band was made up of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, their friend Kelle Bryan and her drama school classmate, then known as Louise Nurding, who went on to marry England football star Jamie Redknapp.

They were adored by young girls up and down the country after they were launched in 1992, but it all petered out after Louise left in 1995 to embark on a solo career.

Fast-forward three decades and those four wholesome starlets are a world away from their glory days.

Louise Redknapp has been accused of tearing the band apart by trying to get Easther and Vernie Bennett cancelled

Louise Redknapp has been accused of tearing the band apart by trying to get Easther and Vernie Bennett cancelled

The band was made up of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, their friend Kelle Bryan and her drama school classmate Louise Redknapp

The band was made up of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, their friend Kelle Bryan and her drama school classmate Louise Redknapp

The band was planning to reunite for a tour next year, but this has been torpedoed by a vicious row.

The one-time best friends are at war with Louise Redknapp who stands accused of trying to get her bandmates, the Bennett sisters, cancelled because they decided not to play at Gay Pride gigs.

The two sisters regularly attend church and were brought up in a Christian family. In the past, Vernie has said Eternal was a ‘beacon to Christians’, and that they would never ‘sing anything that was ungodly’.

However, as part of their 2024 comeback tour, the band was planning performances of their old hits — including Just A Step From Heaven, I Wanna Be The Only One and Save Our Love — at Mighty Hoopla, a pop festival beloved by the gay community.

Easther and Vernie, whose mother is a pastor in London, allegedly refused to play the gig, and indeed any other LGBTQ+ festivals, because they feel that the ‘gay community was being hijacked by the trans community’.

As a result, the band has split in two — along the same fissure lines that existed when they were performing in the early 1990s after manager Denis Ingoldsby first put the band together. On one side the Bennetts, on the other Kelle and Louise.

With the Bennett sisters’ close bond, and Kelle and Louise forging a strong relationship while together at the Italia Conti drama school, sources at the time said that they were always split down the middle during disagreements.

Louise quit the band's upcoming reunion amid the trans-fuelled feud

Louise quit the band’s upcoming reunion amid the trans-fuelled feud

And after Louise, now 48, quit the band, Kelle was next to go. Despite rumours of rows, the Bennetts insisted they were ‘gutted’ when Louise left.

There is no such pretence today.

In recent days, it has emerged that Louise and Kelle had decided to pull out of the forthcoming reunion due to ‘transphobic’ comments by the Bennett sisters.

The row has left the music industry stunned, with one senior executive telling the Mail: ‘There have been some massive fall outs amongst bands in this business but they have never been quite so modern. Usually groups break up over much more trivial things.’

Indeed, there is nothing trivial about this. On Monday, the row took a vicious turn. Louise’s long-term publicist and friend, Simon Jones, came out fighting in her corner, while Ingoldsby — once a close ally of Louise’s — backed Easther and Vernie.

Jones, a long-serving showbiz PR who counts the likes of Ant and Dec and former Girls Aloud singer Cheryl as his clients, and is an avid LGBTQ+ activist, released a statement in which he lambasted the Bennett sisters for their refusal to appear at Pride concerts and hinted he would follow Louise’s lead in refusing to work on the tour.

The Bennetts said they were 'gutted' to hear that Louise would not be joining the reunion tour

The Bennetts said they were ‘gutted’ to hear that Louise would not be joining the reunion tour

Jones wrote: ‘A message was sent to the team putting together the Eternal reunion stating that if it was to go ahead, neither Vernie nor Easther would perform at Pride shows or LGBTQ+ festivals.

‘This was because the duo felt that the gay community was being hijacked by the trans community and they do not support this.

‘Louise is a huge supporter and ally of the LGBTQ+ community and both herself and Kelle told the duo they would not work with anyone who held these views, and as such the reunion as a four would not be going ahead.

‘The team behind the proposed Eternal reunion are gay including management, PR and tour promoter, and neither myself nor any of the team would work with artists who held such views about the trans community.’

His statement is said to have left Easther and Vernie — who once enjoyed a private audience with Pope John Paul II — incandescent with rage’.

Next to step in was Ingoldsby, Louise’s former manager and the man who used to ferry her between her family home in Copthorne, West Sussex, and band rehearsals in Croydon. The pair were once so close that she saw him as a ‘father figure’. But there is no doubt whose side he is on today.

Ingoldsby launched a furious counter-attack on Louise’s team, accusing them of misrepresenting details of a private email — something her camp denies.

Mr Ingoldsby told the Mirror: ‘Louise and her team have thrown them under the bus and everyone is totally appalled at their bullying behaviour by totally misrepresenting the situation to suit their own agenda.

‘The girls sent an email to Louise’s camp saying they loved playing Pride, and they loved the ethos of the event.

The group were so big they were given a private audience with Pope John Paul II

The group were so big they were given a private audience with Pope John Paul II

Sources close to the band say there is 'absolutely no way back', and that the women who rose to stardom together as teenagers are unlikely to ever speak again

Sources close to the band say there is ‘absolutely no way back’, and that the women who rose to stardom together as teenagers are unlikely to ever speak again

‘For her camp to go on the record suggesting they are homophobic is utterly outrageous. This is nothing about gay rights. The girls have played numerous LGBTQI venues their entire careers and have been inspired by the love and acceptance they have received. This is about the debate about the trans lobby and the erosion of the rights of women and children.

‘Vernie said she had some concerns about the Pride movement being hijacked — and she is not alone — but this has now been weaponised against her, with Louise’s team trying to get her cancelled.’

To make matters all the more toxic, Louise went public about the row on Instagram. She shared a picture of the Progress Pride flag, an amendment of the traditional Gay Pride flag which includes a chevron with black, brown, blue, pink and white colours (representing AIDS sufferers, Black Lives Matter and the transgender movement) as well as a circle to signify intersex people. Alongside it, she wrote: ‘Always & Forever’ — a defiant reference to Eternal’s hit song.

Kelle, 48, soon broke her silence. She wrote on X (formerly Twitter): ‘Opportunities to reunite for an Eternal reunion tour with the girls have been discussed many times over the years. As mothers, the right opportunity and timing for all of our schedules have been tricky to arrange.

‘The relationship with our fans and the joy of celebrating our success was, and still is, my motivation. My stance and allegiances have always been that I am an advocate for inclusion and equality for all.’

So far, Vernie and Easther haven’t responded publicly. But sources close to the band say there is ‘absolutely no way back’, and that the women who rose to stardom together as teenagers are unlikely to ever speak again.







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