Neither of the customers who bought their cars from a Hyundai dealership in York on Wednesday afternoon probably expected the deal to be sealed by someone once thrust into the limelight by exhorting people to ‘touch my bum’.

If you were one those two customers, your sales representative was Gabriela Irimia. Gabriela is half of the famous pop duo The Cheeky Girls. Her Cheeky song featuring those lyrics reached No 2 in the UK charts December 2002.

Today, though, two is the number of cars that 38-year-old Gabriela — known as Gabi — sold in the space of just a few hours that day. 

‘One new, one used,’ she affirms. ‘So, ker-ching!’

The Cheeky Girls, pictured with Gabriela, left, and Monica, right, now work at the Hyundai car dealership in York

The Cheeky girls, pictured left to right with Gabriela, and Monica, work at the Hyundai dealership in York

Indeed, there have been several ‘ker-ching’ moments since Gabi first stepped on to the garage forecourt just over eight months ago.

She is not the only Cheeky girl to find success in car-sales. Monica, her younger twin, is ten times more experienced than her and has been working at a Hyundai dealership near Boston, Lincolnshire for many years. She is a natural at this job and is frequently the best-performing sales representative on the team.

This new string to Cheeky’s bow went largely unnoticed until earlier this week when pictures surfaced showing Gabi hard working on the garage forecourt. Gabi is now wearing a sensible, chill defying padded black jacket.

Her new role prompted surprise in some quarters — the general thrust being that it was a bit of a comedown. However, it is a shame that such sentiments are expressed. The Mail has learned that the twins love their job so much that they hope to open their own dealership someday.

‘I think the British public have a perception that if you are, or have been, in the public eye or a pop star, you’re not allowed to try something else,’ says Monica.

‘I always said it’s no shame to work, it’s a shame not to work. We’ve chosen another career path and we are very, very proud of it.’

Gabi nods enthusiastically

The Cheeky Girls pictured at the National Music Awards at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, 2002

The Cheeky Girls photographed at the National Music Awards at Hammersmith Apollo in London, 2002

‘We both enjoy the work,’ she says.

‘I’ve got a passion for cars, so it’s not just the selling bit, but I like the buzz of selling and making people happy.’

Make no mistake though — this is not the end of The Cheeky Girls.

Car sales is a ‘parallel’ career, as Monica puts it.

The duo have never stopped performing and have a gig in just over a week’s time.

Both took a pragmatic approach, despite being aware of the ticking time that often accompany their ephemeral brand fame.

‘We know there are people selling photos of their boobies on the internet and for me that is no way, not even as a last resort,’ says Monica, who I detect is by a nudge the more practical of the two.

‘What we are doing came from a long discussion with me and Gabi, because we accept that The Cheeky Girls is not going to go on for ever.

‘OK, we still look good, and we still fit in the hot pants, but I don’t really feel like I will be getting on the stage at 60 — although you never know.’

It’s true — they do still look good. They have been very kind to them in this regard for the nearly two decades since Transylvanian twins emerged on the scene.

In fact, they arguably look better than they did when, newly arrived in England from their native Romania and sporting alarmingly bouffant barnets, they first emerged on the scene in 2002, wiggling their bottoms and singing the memorable Cheeky Song — penned by the girls’ mum-turned-manager Margit — on ITV’s talent show Pop Stars: The Rivals.

Monica and Gabriela Irimia arm-in-arm with PM Boris Johnson, in 2011, who was Mayor of London at the time

Monica and Gabriela Irimia sat arm-in–arm with PM Boris Johnson (London Mayor at the time), in 2011.

Margit is undoubtedly the power behind the throne, a cheerful but fiercely protective Mama Bear-turned-lyricist who has shepherded the girls’ career from day one.

She separated from the girls’ father, childhood sweetheart Doru, a doctor, 26 years ago, but they remain on good terms.

Remus, an older brother to the girls, drives an organ donor ambulance.

Margit — who declines to give her age — moved to the UK 25 years ago after meeting her English second husband, who likes to guard his anonymity.

Pop Stars: The Rivals judge Pete Waterman branded the twins ‘the worst act ever’, but despite (or perhaps because of) this ignominious start, record labels clamoured to sign them, and a pop career was launched.

The Cheeky Song single — sample lyric, ‘Don’t be shy, touch my bum, this is life’ — sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide.

The duo followed with two more top three singles and the hit album Party Time. Before the duo seemed to disappear without trace, they were two more stars in the unforgiving pop world.

Behind the scenes was a more sorrier tale, one that included eating disorders, bankruptcy, and a botched breast procedure. All of which have left a legacy of physical and emotional consequences.

Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia with ex-fiancé, Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrats MP, in 2007, at the Marine Connection Safety Nets Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London

Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia with ex-fiancé, Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrats MP, in 2007, at the Marine Connection Safety Nets Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London

‘People think being a pop star is such a glamorous life and we did travel the world and get to meet a lot of people, but every movement was dictated — what you ate, what you wore, who you met,’ says Gabi of their time in the international spotlight. 

And I’m not complaining, because we grabbed this career, and we really wanted to make the most out of it, but it was intense.’

They were so intense that, in their earliest years, both girls, who were far from home and extremely lonely, developed anorexia.

Their weight plummeted to 6½ st, and they’d weigh everything they ate.

They both overcame the condition with time, but they still have a number of health problems.

‘Our digestive system is completely ruined because of the anorexia,’ says Monica. ‘We have kidney stones, IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], stomach ulcers — you’d be surprised.

‘We are managing it today, but it’s there.’

There was also a series of disastrous breast augmentation operations prompted, both say, by their record label’s decision to hire a well-endowed model to cavort through the surf on the seaside video to one of their songs, leaving the smaller-chested Cheekies singing forlornly on the shore.

‘We didn’t want to be glamour models, but we were really a bit depressed because she looked a lot sexier than we did,’ says Monica.

‘That’s the way we saw it because we had nothing, just two cherries on a cake really.’

They had surgery on London’s Harley Street, which didn’t work out because of their low body fat.

‘Our bodies rejected the implants — we looked more awful than before,’ says Monica.

‘They kind of moved. It looked terrible. And then we ended up having the second operation to correct that.’

Gabriela said of her time in the spotlight: ‘People think being a pop star is such a glamorous life and we did travel the world and get to meet a lot of people, but every movement was dictated — what you ate, what you wore, who you met.’

Gabriela said of her time in the spotlight: ‘People think being a pop star is such a glamorous life and we did travel the world and get to meet a lot of people, but every movement was dictated — what you ate, what you wore, who you met.’

Both went on to have three more corrective surgeries, Monica’s last one in 2017 when one of her implants ruptured in two places, requiring removal and replacement.

The duo didn’t even really make any money, not helped by their record label Telstar going bust in 2004, owing the twins — according to Margit — £2 million in royalties.

‘We were just about to sign for our second album when we read in a newspaper that Telstar Records had gone into administration,’ recalls Monica.

‘We had the contract in front of us. After that, we never received any royalties for the Cheeky song.

‘So probably we should have been rich, but after that we survived on our own.’

In 2009 they were both declared bankrupt after it emerged they owed £60,000 in tax.

Gabi also had the unfortunate experience of a broken engagement with the Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Oik, an unlikely May-December romance (17 years her senior), that had captivated the nation.

‘I’m not going to say that my relationship with Lembit wasn’t genuine because it was — but having such a public relationship is not very healthy,’ says Gabi now.

‘I was really young, 24 or so, and that was one of the main reasons why the relationship didn’t survive because it was just all too much.’

After several long-term relationships, Gabi started dating Adam, a professional bodybuilder.

They met at their local fitness center, and he’s eight years older than her.

‘We kind of eyed each other a few times in the gym and then he came to talk to me,’ says Gabi.

‘And he is amazing. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t go clubbing.

‘He’s not bothered about the age or anything like that. I think I was a little more worried.

‘But I can tell that he really loves me for who I am, and for what I am, and we have a really genuine relationship, so I am happy.’

Monica has been happily married to Shaun Taylor since 2016, and they live in a Lincolnshire community.

Despite the distance between them, their bond is strong. They talk every day at dawn while they work out on the treadmill.

‘We’ve always been gigging, and we’ve always worked,’ says Monica. ‘We did a few TV shows abroad, so it hasn’t been just in the UK.’

They aren’t just trading off their past glory; pre-Covid, they were still in the studio recording more tracks by Margit. And there are plans to release a new mini-album.

Monica says: ‘She wrote every single line and every single chorus of every song we ever sang. She would call me at midnight and say, “What do you think about this?” And she would start to sing it to me. And she is still writing.’

The bond between the twins remains as strong as ever: they talk every day at dawn as they clock up their miles on the gym treadmill, and see each other as often as they can, not least because they still perform together

The bond between the twins continues to be strong. They talk every day at sunrise as they run miles on the treadmill. And they see each other as often possible, not least because they still do the same thing.

Alas, those hoping for a Cheeky Christmas single will be disappointed: the twins have recorded one called Ain’t No Christmas Without Party, but are not releasing it this year as they say they have no time to promote it.

They do, though, have plenty of gigs coming up, including one on Halloween — their 39th birthday.

‘I don’t know what this lockdown has done to people, but they are even more happy to see us now than before,’ says Gabi.

‘It’s a new generation now too; they appreciate us differently. We said to each other as long as the telephone rings and people want to see us then we will keep doing it.’

They are certainly not lazy. They both work six days per week in car sales, sometimes crisscrossing the country late at nights after gigs to make sure they get their shifts.

Do people do a double take in the forecourt?

‘You don’t instantly put the two together, especially at work when I am not wearing the hot pants,’ giggles Monica.

‘But sometimes people do realise.’

Monica got into the industry six years ago after moving to Harrogate, her husband’s hometown.

‘I found myself feeling a bit lonely and I just realised, although we did have everything still going on with The Cheeky Girls, building up a second career would be absolutely amazing.’

So when a friend of mine mentioned a Mercedes-Benz host position, she jumped at it.

‘I said to her, “Look, go back to them, and say to them that I’m a size 6, with an amazing figure and a huge personality” — and the next day I got the job,’ she laughs.

‘So this is how I started. But it’s not so crazy. My family is very car-oriented. My dad has five cars. Then I moved into sales.’

Gabi followed in her sister’s footsteps eight months ago after a stint selling make-up for Boots. ‘I can’t stay at home, during lockdown I was going mad,’ she says.

It’s impossible not to like the Cheekies who, despite nearing 40, today retain some of the naivety and girlish enthusiasm that charmed us all two decades ago.

‘It’s true, we have not really changed,’ says Gabi.

‘We have had a lot of experiences and we have learned a lot, but we are the same as we ever were really.’ Monica adds: ‘We are The Cheeky Girls and nobody will ever replace us.’

But there’s clearly more to them than their pop personas: if you want to buy a Hyundai, you know whom to contact.