Within minutes of meeting, it’s clear Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice, and I are not going to become best buddies. Maybe she’s tired.
After all, her five-day whistle-stop tour of London has been absolutely flat out: posing for selfies with fellow former Spice Girls Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell; popping up on Emma’s Heart Radio show; being interviewed on TV about a possible return to ITV’s The X Factor as a judge; and doing teasing publicity about whether the Spices will reunite to mark the 20-year anniversary of Wannabe, the single which turned them into global superstars.
Or perhaps she’s simply feeling fed up.
Not only has Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham put the kibosh on a full Spice Girls anniversary tour, preferring to focus on her multi-million global brand, but Melanie (Sporty Spice) Chisholm has pulled out too, to focus on her solo career. Which leaves just three — Scary, Baby and Ginger.
Within minutes of meeting, it’s clear Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice, and I are not going to become best buddies. Maybe she’s tired
In any case, we are at cross-purposes because all she wants to talk about (endlessly, although not looking at me) is a pantomime in which she’s due to appear in Birmingham — in seven months’ time.
To be fair, it isn’t any old panto. It’s billed as the world’s biggest — with a giant castle, 24 ft fountains and a cast of 100 including someone called Rylan who came fifth in The X Factor in 2012, and Take Me Out presenter Paddy McGuinness.
‘I love panto. I was bought up going to panto and being in panto,’ she says. ‘It’s nice to be involved in a British, how would you put it . . .’
‘Yeah. And I’m going to take the panto to America with me.’
Melanie has lived in LA for 15 years and looks the part. Her hair extensions gleam, her nails are perfect and her neon-white smile is a teeny bit hard, even when talking in a broad Yorkshire accent about her beloved ‘Spice Ladies’.
She says she met up with Emma and Geri soon after she arrived back in the UK. ‘We slot back in, it’s like we saw each other yesterday.’
The three clearly have plans — with countless news stories about their two days holed up in a recording studio, and talk of new music.
‘I never said I was in the studio,’ she bristles. ‘We’re just hanging out together and bouncing around a few ideas.’ She is similarly coy about the anniversary celebrations and the much-discussed tour.
Certainly, a tour would seem a bit thin with just three of them — and the last one didn’t sound much fun. After bickering and staying in separate hotels, they abandoned ship completely in February 2008, removing six cities from their tour dates.
The internal ups, downs, rifts and rows of the Spice Girls have been well documented over the years.
‘Everyone’s done really well,’ says Mel. ‘We’ve always been really supportive of each other. Which is nice. We’ve always done what we wanted.’
Melanie has lived in LA for 15 years and looks the part. Her hair extensions gleam, her nails are perfect and her neon-white smile is a teeny bit hard, even when talking in a broad Yorkshire accent about her beloved ‘Spice Ladies’
She insists they all wear Victoria’s clothes range, though it’s hard to imagine those tiny outfits on Mel’s wonderful curves.
Is she surprised at just how successful Victoria — never the best singer or dancer, but incredibly focused on contracts and merchandise revenue even back in 1997 — has become as a fashion designer?
‘We’re all very determined, strong, independent women. I’m not surprised that individually, personally, spiritually and professionally we’ve all done pretty good.’
They’ve certainly been on different journeys — Mel C, Geri and Mel B had successful solo careers, the others less so. Geri had a much-publicised eating disorder and breakdown. Emma was always the nice one, which has served her well as a TV and radio host.
Victoria married David Beckham and conquered the world. All now have children, partners or husbands and seem settled.
‘You never know what’s going to happen,’ she says. ‘I like that, not knowing. You can never predict.’
No one would ever have predicted Melanie’s career trajectory.
One moment, she was an ambitious Leeds schoolgirl who attended a performing arts school and then answered a newspaper advert looking for girls to form a pop group. The next, she was a member of the most successful girl band in history.
In just three years, they sold hundreds of millions of records. They jet-setted around the world, met the Queen (‘nice’), Nelson Mandela (also ‘nice’), Prince Charles (‘nice’), and earned a fortune.
When the band went on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ in 2000, Mel moved to LA, pursued a solo career, popped up on various talent shows, had three daughters, invested in a water company. And now . . . pantomime.
And that’s not even touching on her very exotic love life.
She’s been married to producer Stephen Belafonte since 2007, having wed four months after they met.
Victoria married David Beckham and conquered the world. All now have children, partners or husbands and seem settled
‘We just get on. He’s a funny person,’ she says. ‘I like him, which is important. We’re just really good friends and I think he’s gorgeous and a nice person. And I fancy him, which helps.’
They might have another baby, they might not: ‘It’s undecided,’ she says. Last week she was quoted as saying they’ve discussed renewing their wedding vows.
‘No we’re not!’ she snaps. ‘It’s our ninth anniversary. I’ve not been married long enough.’
Which is odd, because they’ve already renewed them once — for a lavish OK! magazine photoshoot in Egypt in 2008. But if she’s touchy about Belafonte — who is conked out in their hotel room after a night of partying — it’s no surprise.
He has a history of receiving stolen property, vandalism and domestic assault on a former girlfriend. He also admitted killing a duck with a brick and was involved in a brawl in a London bar.
And then, in 2014, there was a huge hullabaloo over their relationship when she missed the first of The X Factor finals live broadcasts with ‘illness’, spent three days in hospital and then appeared in the final visibly bruised, shaky and without her wedding ring.
‘I was ill,’ she tells me. ‘I just missed a show and I came back.’
So why all the fuss? Why the hiding away? Was it all just a stunt to increase ratings? ‘I don’t know. I don’t pay too much attention to that stuff to be honest. I had a great time doing The X Factor and Simon [Cowell] is great.’
Belafonte — who denied hitting her — is her second husband. First, there was dancer Jimmy Gulzar (nicknamed Jimmy Goldcard thanks to his enthusiasm for her money) who’s the father of her eldest daughter, Phoenix, now 17 (‘a tomboy’). Their marriage lasted little more than a year.
Next came a couple of years with British actor Max Beesley. And then a five-year relationship with a woman — Christa Parker, whose children were at the same school in Los Angeles as Mel B’s daughter, and who claims a sex-toy saleswoman occasionally joined them in bed.
Not forgetting a short relationship with Hollywood star Eddie Murphy, who fathered her daughter Angel, nine (‘such a girly girl’).
Oh yes, and according to various sources, a brief liaison with a woman a year after she and Belafonte were married — though today she insists she’s only ever had one same-sex relationship.
Over the years she has been breathtakingly open about her sexual needs, most recently in an interview in which she said: ‘People call me lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual, but I know who’s in my bed and that’s it . . . I have a huge libido and a great sex life.’
Today, she’s having none of it, insisting she’s never said she’s bisexual.
‘No, no, no! Don’t believe everything you read.’
It’s been a rocky old road on the love front and she has every right to feel a bit upset. But she insists she’s on good terms with everyone. ‘All my exes are fine now,’ she says. ‘I’m not one to hold grudges. Life’s too short.’ She also insists she’s successful, happy, honest and never grumpy.
Over the years she has been breathtakingly open about her sexual needs, most recently in an interview in which she said: ‘People call me lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual, but I know who’s in my bed and that’s it . . . I have a huge libido and a great sex life’
Not even a teeny bit grumpy? This is, after all, Scary Spice, the woman who recently said in an interview she’d once tried to rip the hair weave off a rival singer from the group All Saints in a cloakroom cat-fight.
‘I’m not a grumpy person,’ she says. ‘It’s a waste of energy sometimes, making an effort to be grumpy when you can just get on with it and stop moaning.’
Perhaps her new Zen-like calm can be put down to her unlikely passion for meditation.
She recently bought a meditation chair. ‘It’s nice to take 20 minutes out to just sit and forget about everything. I don’t do transcendental or anything — I just do my own thing.’
She also knits, sews and alters clothes for her kids. And, famously, says what she thinks. ‘I’m a very honest person — but over the years, I’ve learnt to be a bit more tactful.’
Does she ever wish she’d kept her mouth shut? She looks astonished. ‘That’s like wishing I’m a different person. Why would I want to do that?’
Oddly, it’s when asked if she’s a feminist that she really loses it.
‘My god! What are these questions?’
But weren’t the Spice Girls all about girl power and strong women? She rolls her eyes.
‘I don’t like to pigeonhole myself. I’m a believer in supporting women. The Spice Girls were about supporting women and giving them the chance to believe in themselves, no matter what they look like. If you love yourself, the rest of the stuff can be a bit easier.’
And with that, we move back to panto, again, and how, by happy coincidence, panto audiences are mostly women aged 35 to 50, with children. ‘It’s the Spice Girls demographic!’ Her four children will take part in the seven-day run. ‘They are beyond excited.’
Eventually, neither of us can bear it any longer.
‘Look,’ she says. ‘I only want to talk about positive stuff. You’re never going to understand me.’
And she gets up in a huff. ‘I’m going to go to the bathroom.’
She’s quite right, of course. I am struggling to understand. It’s hard to get a handle on someone when they won’t even make the time to look at you.
Which is a shame, because, like thousands of others, I absolutely loved her on The X Factor — she was the freshest and most exciting judge on the panel for years.
‘I’m still answering your questions,’ she snaps when the bathroom break is over. And with that we move to the photoshoot. She criticises the quality of the light — ‘not yellow enough’. The resulting pictures? ‘Not pretty enough.’ The angle of the shots? ‘All wrong.’
Finally, Melanie and I make a grateful escape. Or almost. Because goodness, in all the excitement, I almost forgot — the panto, Snow White!
What part does she play?
‘I am the Scary Queen, of course — which is fitting. I’m good at it.’
Scary, or just plain rude?
Mel appears as the Scary Queen at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham 19th December – 22 December and at SSE Arena Wembley 28th December-30th December.