It was the squeaky clean girls from Croydon who staked their claim as one of Britain’s first female pop bands to stardom.
With a debut album Always & Forever, the first by a female group to achieve more than a million sales in Britain, and ten million records sold worldwide, Eternal paved the way for the successes of the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud.
The band consisted of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, their friend Kelle Bryan and her drama school classmate, then known as Louise Nurding, who later married English football star Jamie Redknapp.
They were adored by young girls across the country after they launched in 1992, but it all disappeared when Louise left in 1995 to pursue a solo career.
Fast forward three decades and these four wholesome starlets are a world away from their glory days.
Louise Redknapp is accused of tearing the band apart by trying to get Easther and Vernie Bennett to cancel
The band consisted of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, their friend Kelle Bryan and her drama school classmate, Louise Redknapp.
The band planned to reunite for a tour next year, but this was torpedoed by a vicious feud.
The former best friends are at war with Louise Redknapp, who is accused of canceling her bandmates, the Bennett sisters, after they decided not to play at Gay Pride gigs.
The two sisters attend church regularly and grew up in a Christian family. In the past, Vernie has said that Eternal was a “beacon for Christians,” and that they would never “sing something that was ungodly.”
However, as part of their 2024 comeback tour, the band scheduled 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 loved by the gay community. .
Easther and Vernie, whose mother is a pastor in London, reportedly refused to play the gig, or other LGBTQ+ festivals, because they feel the “gay community has been hijacked by the trans community.”
As a result, the band has split in two – along the same fault lines that existed when they performed in the early 1990s after manager Denis Ingoldsby first put the band together. The Bennetts on one side, Kelle and Louise on the other.
Because the Bennett sisters were close and Kelle and Louise built a strong relationship while attending the Italia Conti drama school together, sources said at the time that they were always divided during disagreements.
Louise quit the band’s upcoming reunion amid the trans-powered feud
And after Louise, now 48, left the band, Kelle was the next to leave. Despite rumors of rows, the Bennetts insisted they were ‘gutted’ when Louise left.
Today there is no such pretext.
In recent days it has emerged that Louise and Kelle had decided to withdraw from the upcoming reunion due to ‘transphobic’ comments made by the Bennett sisters.
The row has left the music industry stunned, with one senior executive telling the Mail: ‘There have been some huge fallouts among bands in this industry, but they have never been more modern. Usually groups split up over much more trivial matters.’
Indeed, there is nothing trivial about it. On Monday the argument took a vicious turn. Louise’s regular 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 showbiz PR presenter who counts the likes of Ant and Dec and former Girls Aloud singer Cheryl among his clients, and is a staunch LGBTQ+ activist, released a statement criticizing the Bennett sisters for their refusal to Pride to appear. concerts and hinted that he would follow Louise’s example by refusing to participate in the tour.
The Bennetts said they were “gutted” when they heard 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 the reunion went ahead, neither Vernie nor Easther would be performing 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 that.
“Louise is a strong supporter and ally of the LGBTQ+ community and both she and Kelle told the duo that they would not work with anyone who held these views, and so the foursome reunion would not happen.
“The team behind the proposed Eternal reunion is gay, including management, PR and tour promoter, and neither myself nor anyone on 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 – seething with anger.
The next to intervene was Ingoldsby, Louise’s former manager and the man who transported her between her family home in Copthorne, West Sussex, and band rehearsals in Croydon. The couple was 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 the 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 completely shocked by their bullying behavior by completely misrepresenting the situation to suit their own agenda.
‘The girls sent an email to Louise’s camp saying how much they loved playing Pride and loved the atmosphere of the event.
The group was so large that they were given a private audience with Pope John Paul II
Sources close to the band say there is ‘absolutely no going back’, and that the women who rose to fame together as teenagers are unlikely to ever speak again
‘For her camp to make it public that they are homophobic is completely scandalous. This isn’t about gay rights. The girls have played countless LGBTQI venues throughout their careers and are 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 was concerned about the Pride movement being hijacked – and she’s not alone – but this has now been turned against her as Louise’s team tries to get her canceled.’
To make matters even more toxic, Louise made the row public on Instagram. She shared a photo of the Progress Pride flag, a modification of the traditional Gay Pride flag with a chevron of black, brown, blue, pink and white colors (representing AIDS patients, Black Lives Matter and the transgender movement) and a circle to indicate intersex people. She also wrote: ‘Always & Forever’ – a provocative reference to Eternal’s hit.
Kelle, 48, quickly broke her silence. She wrote on As moms, it was difficult to find the right opportunity and timing for all our schedules.
“The relationship with our fans and the joy of celebrating our success were and still are my motivation. My position and allegiance has always been that I am an advocate for inclusion and equality for all.”
So far, Vernie and Easther have not commented publicly. But sources close to the band say there is ‘absolutely no going back’ and it is unlikely the women who rose to fame together as teenagers will ever speak again.