‘We were very much of the time’: Daphne and Celeste on their surprising comeback and why UGLY wouldn’t fly today

Not many artists can boast about going down in music history with just three singles. But despite only being in the industry for a year, between September 1999 and August 2000, Daphne and Celeste managed just that.

The teenage duo burst onto the scene at the end of the 20th century with Ooh Stick You!, a schoolyard tune with the lyrics ‘in your ear with a can of beer, up your butt with a coconut’. This was followed by UGLY – ‘U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly’ – and a cover of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, and an infamous Reading Festival set where the teenagers, aged 19 and 17 respectively, were bottled during their performance with receptacles of urine.

Daphne and Celeste’s flame was extinguished as quickly as it was sparked, but their memory lived on – right up until 2015, when they made their comeback… then disappeared for another three years before dropping an album.

And looking back on their former lives as professional wind-up merchants, Celeste Cruz and Karen DiConcetto (aka Daphne) are aware it only could have happened in that time.

Speaking to, Karen, now 38, said: ‘It wouldn’t have worked. Most of the stuff we did was us joking with journalists and they couldn’t search it quick enough to check what we were doing wasn’t a joke so it would just go into publication.

Daphne and Celeste hit the charts in 1999 (Picture: Tim Roney/Getty Images)

‘It just wouldn’t work.’

‘There’s no growing pains in music anymore. When I was growing up, one of my favourite things about musicians was when they messed up or didn’t get something right and you would love them anyway. That’s not the vibe as much anymore. Like, if you miss the mark, you’ve missed the mark.’

Celeste, 35, added: ‘The other thing I’m really grateful for is that Twitter didn’t exist. We don’t have a digital archive in quite the same way.’

‘I don’t even think a song called UGLY would fly today. We were very much of the time,’ Karen said.

They’re right. It’s hard to imagine two teens singing ‘you got a big fat belly like a bowl full of jelly’ on any music show today. But in 1999, as Steps, S Club 7, A-Teens and the like dominated charts, Daphne and Celeste were like the annoying kid sisters on the pop scene.


‘That period was a huge pop era. It was this crazy explosion of pop and manufactured bands and I think authenticity now matters in a different type of way,’ Karen explained. ‘In the 90s, everyone was like, put together, you’d audition to be in a band. But I’m glad that we were able to say whatever we wanted to say, and just be ourselves. Because even though we were in a manufactured pop band, there was nothing polished about us.

‘They left us unpolished and just threw us out there and I think that made us happier. Like, some of those other pop bands, they were forced to say things. We didn’t have to censor ourselves – maybe we should have, but we never did. It gave us a lot of freedom.’

‘That was all us, for better or for worse!’ Celeste laughed. ‘Honestly, I think I would have quit.

‘I think that was the benefit of being in a duo. Being in a bigger group would have been harder. Like S Club 7 – seven personalities? That would be a lot. Daphne and I had fun. It wasn’t always fun, of course not – you’re doing a lot of crazy things, from doing morning shows to playing pre-teen shows at night.

The girls left pop soon after their infamous Reading performance (Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

‘But we were having fun because we didn’t really take it very seriously. It was so ridiculous and so silly.’

Then, the bubble burst. Although burst is probably the wrong word – pretty much floated off into the sunset before quietly popping somewhere out of sight.

‘There was a little bit of shock, but we had always set ourselves up for an end point,’ Karen said. ‘Like, there were a lot of pop groups at the time, we figured, we can’t all survive. We were just realistic. We were just happy to get number 13 on the chart and they would all be stressing about not making the top 10.’

The girls returned to their teen lives in the US, where they were completely unknown, bar UGLY landing on the soundtrack of Bring It On. Daphne and Celeste never did any promotion in the States, so when their career ended in the UK, they were able to slip back into their old lives seamlessly, having realised early on that the party wouldn’t last forever.

The girls’ second album received positive reviews (Picture: PR)

‘I think the thing that was hardest for me going back was that suddenly, I was back living with my mom again,’ Celeste said. ‘That was tough, being back in that teenage family life when you’ve been off living independently on tour in Europe. But it was the best thing for us. It was a wild ride across the board.

‘Because Daphne and I were child performers, we just separated it in our heads, and also, we weren’t known in our own country, so we could really lean into being this pop thing somewhere else because then we got to go home and we didn’t have to carry that weight. It was kind of a great way to be a popstar.’

Karen and Celeste remained friends over the years, with Karen getting into theatre and Celeste going back to school before starting acting, appearing in an episode of 30 Rock, but their pop career was forgotten. That is, until 2011, when acclaimed producer Max Tundra got in touch with the girls over social media to propose a comeback. Four years later, Daphne and Celeste dropped the slick electro tune You And I Alone, and then disappeared for another three years before releasing their second album, Daphne & Celeste Save The World – which was inundated with positive reviews from publications who probably would have celebrated the whole bottling debacle. Far from the childish refrains we had come to associate with the duo, the album is packed with upbeat, quirky pop bangers that would cause even the most manufactured band-averse critic to crack a smile.


Celeste laughed: ‘We were so surprised by a positive reaction! We’re Daphne and Celeste, the girls who came up UGLY, we weren’t expecting a positive reaction. We were like, “it’s actually good?” We have Max to thank for that. Max views pop music in a different way than the way a lot of other people view pop music.’

Karen added: ‘He’s so layered. We would hear the demo of something and then we’d get to the studio to add different layers and textures.’

A year on from the album’s release, Daphne and Celeste have released the Japanese version of standout track Sunny Day (the girls had a pretty big Japanese fanbase), an infectious pop earworm. But after that, you may have to wait another 18 years for a new track, as Daphne and Celeste have no clue what the future holds.

‘When we released the single, we didn’t know we were going to do an album. So we thought it was funny to have a comeback with just one single,’ Celeste said.

Karen added: ‘It’s such a big part of our lives and personally, I think it will always be a big part of both of our lives. With Daphne and Celeste, I think it would be hilarious to have a comeback ten years from now, just to kind of check in.

‘Or the other thing we could do is just come out with albums every six months – for a very short period, all we do is come out with new albums. I think having a set pattern is key. Music all the time, or not at all.’

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