Mel B Interview: "I Think All Five of Us Are Interested in a Spice Girls Reunion"
Image attributed to Damon Kidwell
Melanie Brown is best known as Mel B or “Scary Spice” of the British pop girl group the Spice Girls formed in the 1990s. In addition to being a singer/songwriter, the talented artist is also a dancer, actress, author, model and talent competition judge. She is known as Mel B in order to distinguish her from the Spice Girls bandmate, Melanie C.
The Spice Girls’ debut single, “Wannabe,” went to number one in 31 countries worldwide and became the biggest selling debut single of all time. Follow up singles “Say You’ll Be There” and “2 Become 1” also went to number one in the UK and reached the top 5 across most of Europe and in the US. The debut album called Spice sold two million copies in its first week and ten million copies in the next seven months. More hits followed, and the Spice Girls became known as the fastest selling British act since the Beatles.
"Well, I think all of us are interested [in a Spice Girls reunion]. We started this group almost 20 years ago, and we launched on the scene together. So we’ve all got a mutual respect for each other … but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. The doors are open, and let’s just see where it takes us and when it actually happens."
Brown embarked on a solo career with “I Want You Back” with Missy Elliott that charted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, followed by the release of her debut album, Hot, and a second studio album entitled L.A. State of Mind. The first single from her third album, “For Once in My Life,” was released in September 2013, becoming Brown’s first record to be released after several years.
In September, 2007, Brown became a contestant on the fifth season of Dancing with the Stars in which she placed runner-up overall, and she returned to television work as a judge on the Australian version of The X Factor from 2011 to 2012.
In June 2013, Brown joined the ABC reality TV series America’s Got Talent, joining fellow judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and host Nick Cannon for the eighth season. Season nine of America's Got Talent premieres May 27, 2014. Brown has two daughters from previous relationships and one daughter and stepdaughter with husband Stephen Belafonte.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mel, what can you tell me about the upcoming season of America’s Got Talent?
Mel B: What we found this season is that people are getting so much more creative like they’re not just standing there and singing. They’re either on a tricycle and singing, or they’re dressed up in a baby outfit and singing opera. We have this eight year old throwing knives at his dad and just missing him by inches! The acts that we’ve seen this year are really on top of their game moreso than last year, which is a big surprise to me because I thought, “Well, is there any more talent left in America?” But clearly there is.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you a tough judge to impress?
Mel B: You know what it is? I love to be entertained. I love to laugh. I love to enjoy an act. If the act is just silly or stupid, it annoys me a little bit. But you have to remember, we sit at that desk for 13 hours straight day in and day out seeing at least 30 or 40 acts, so when you get a bad run act after act, that’s just pointless, and it gets really frustrating, so then I get a little moody (laughs). But I always like to think I give somewhat constructive criticism back to them so they walk away with something that they’ve actually learned.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have specific criteria that each act must pass in order for you to vote them through to the next level?
Mel B: No. I mean, I just want to be entertained. I want you to grab my attention in those first three, four, five, six seconds and make me not want to press my buzzer and make me want to think that I would actually want to pay money to go and see that show, to see that act with my family and friends. You could be anything from a dancer act to a magician to an aerialist to a ventriloquist … just anything. As long as you are entertaining, then it’s all good.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You met Howard Stern a few years ago?
Mel B: I was on his show, oh my God, 16 years ago with the Spice Girls, and I recently did his show last year. Oh yeah, he’s funny.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you and the other judges been at odds with each other this season?
Mel B: I mean, obviously we don’t always agree on every act. And you’ve got four different personalities coming from four different walks of life with four different entertaining skills. But somehow, we compliment each other. We don’t always agree, and thank God this year, we have a golden buzzer, so if you really feel for an act and you really feel passionately about the act no matter what anyone else says, you can press the golden buzzer and save that act. We have one lifeline each. So that’s all worked to our advantages. Yeah, we argue, but we respect each other’s differences.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mel, is it confirmed that you will once again become a judge on The X Factor (UK)?
Mel B: Oh, I haven’t confirmed anything. I like to leave lots of mystery until I have to say anything (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have the details been ironed out for the Spice Girls reunion next year in Las Vegas?
Mel B: Nothing has actually been set up yet. We’ve been in talks about doing something together at some point, but there have been no dates, no confirmation of anything really. It’s just a conversation. Obviously, I’m always the one that’s always saying, “Yeah. We’re going to get back together.” But until it actually happens, until we have a solid contract, then it’s kind of all up in the air as usual.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Victoria Beckham is not interested in another reunion?
Mel B: Well, I think all of us are interested. We started this group almost 20 years ago, and we launched on the scene together. So we’ve all got a mutual respect for each other … but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. The doors are open, and let’s just see where it takes us and when it actually happens.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It was a shame you had to miss Victoria’s 40th birthday bash in London due to work.
Mel B: I was so bummed (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Judging by the photos, it looked like a blast!
Mel B: It did. I spoke to Geri, and she said, “Oh, you were so missed.” We all collected our money together and got her an amazing present between the four of us. So yeah, she had a good time, and the girls were there. They had a drink for me while I was working away.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was just listening to “For Once In My Life,” which is really a great song.
Mel B: Oh, thank you.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): “Unstoppable” and “standing strong.” Are those lyrics personal to you?
Mel B: Oh yeah. Definitely. Everybody goes through ups and downs. I hadn’t had music in six or seven years, so it was a real turning point, especially being on America’s Got Talent where you see talent day in and day out. I was sitting at the judge’s desk thinking, “You know, bugger! I have that fire in my tummy! I want to get up there and do my thing!” And because I’m not signed to anybody, I literally recorded “For Once In My Life” that night. I did the video a couple of days later, and it kind of just snowballed into something happening really quickly. I just didn’t even do a formal release.
Usually you have to do six weeks of promotion on radio and TV, but I just released it, and the song did pretty well. I was surprised and humbled by it. And yeah, I’m wanting to get back into the studio again in the next couple of weeks to just see what direction I happen to take and just take it from there. It’s nice because there’s no pressure. I’m not signed to anybody. I’m just doing it myself.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did your parents influence your desire to perform at an early age?
Mel B: I was very hyperactive as a child. I was into everywhere whether it be acting or dance classes. I went to the local community dance school after school. It was nice and cheap and local (laughs). I had the desire from the age of about ten just to be free like that and expressive either through acting, dancing or singing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And your parents were always supportive?
Mel B: Yeah. I think half of it was, “Well, she’s gonna come home from school and have all this energy. Why don’t we just direct it into that area?” I used to come home from school and go straight to dance class or acting class, and then I’d be exhausted, would do my homework and go to bed.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And dream of becoming part of the biggest selling female group in history?
Mel B: I don’t think you can ever even think that way. You can hope and pray that one day you will be noticed. And that ad in The Stage trade magazine we answered that day in 1994 wasn’t even for the group that we formed. It was for a different group, and a few of us got together and said, “This management team is not signing us. They don’t really believe in us. Let’s go off and do our own group.”
That’s when we went off and created Spice Girls, and we were together for about a year before we ever had representation, before anybody had even heard of us. It’s nice to know that it wasn’t just all manufactured, and we all just kind of knew each other beforehand. We worked hard, and our number one goal was just to be heard, to spread the word and love of girl power.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who in the world thought you were scary?
Mel B: (laughs) It was a teenybopper magazine that was probably too lazy to remember all our names, but this writer just named us all these silly names. They just happened to stick, and we went with it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were so young back then.
Mel B: I was 17 or 18 yeah. We wrote two albums in a year, and nobody had even heard of us. We were taking all these different meetings with record companies, and nobody was interested, but we were at it for a good year and half before we even got on the scene and before our song even got any kind of airplay. It didn’t happen to us overnight. We worked hard and spread our work internationally before the public ever heard of us. We’d take flights to Japan and to American and just bug all the record companies and bug all the radio and TV stations begging for our music to be heard.
These days it’s kind of easier because through social media, you can get yourself be seen or heard, but that door’s so wide open that everybody’s doing it. But you have to be somewhat different, or you have to be literally so talented that you stand out from the pack, and in that respect, it is difficult. These are different times. It’s just a different way of doing things.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would you call yourself an activist, Mel?
Mel B: Um, yes and no, kind of (laughs). I have my own charities. I just think that if you talk about it too much, it just takes away from you giving back, if you know what I mean. So I like to stay low on the radar when it comes to stuff like that. I’ve done amazing things for many different charities.
My husband and I got married in Egypt, and I had everybody donate to the children’s hospital here in LA rather than give me wedding gifts, and we raised a lot of money. I support a shelter for battered wives in my hometown of Leeds, and I auctioned off every single thing in my house when I left London. I had a ten-bedroom mansion, and I auctioned everything off. Everything went to that charity. I think when you can do something like that every now and then, it’s important.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why is Stephen your ideal mate?
Mel B: I’ve known my husband for years. I met him about 15 years ago on a movie set, and we became really good friends. I think because we have such a bond on a friendship level … there were no secrets. We knew everything about each other, and we were fundamentally friends just before anything ever happened. That’s the key to a relationship.
At the end of the day, if you want to be with somebody, and you’re going to grow old with them, you want to make sure that you actually like the person that you’re with (laughs). And I thoroughly love my husband and genuinely like him. You know, he annoys me at times, but yeah.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I found it fun to learn that actress Emma Stone was “fangirling” over you (laughs).
Mel B: (laughs) I sent her a video message on a radio show in Sydney. She was at the station the day I left, so I sent her a video message, and her response was shocking! I was like, “Oh my God, you really are a Spice fan! That’s so cool!”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there someone you “fangirl” over?
Mel B: Oh, there are so many people. I was actually doing a SoulCycle class in Beverly Hills, which is like a Spin class but to music. Charlize Theron was riding beside me, and I was speechless and starstruck. I get starstruck really easy, like stupid.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who do you listen to?
Mel B: Right now I’m listening to Iggy Azalea. I just got their new album the other day, which is great. And the obvious ones, Beyonce and Rihanna, all those girls out there that are killing it. I have three daughters – fifteen, seven and two, so I get to listen to everything in this house.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you explained to the oldest daughter what to watch out for when dating?
Mel B: Luckily, she’s a bit of a tomboy. She just made varsity and is the youngest one to be playing basketball on her team. So she’s very much into sports, and I’m like, “Good. Stay a tomboy for as long as possible!” But she knows what’s up. She’s a very well traveled, well educated 15 year old, and she has seen a lot in life, so hopefully she’ll stay very focused and stay a good kid.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you stick to a daily health regimen?
Mel B: I travel around a lot, but I try to stay consistent with my eating healthy. On weekends, I just think it should be a free for all. You should eat whatever you crave whether it be a pizza or burger or whatever you want. Then during the week I try and keep it more healthy. With traveling, it’s kind of hard to work out, but luckily I get to stay at nice hotels. They always have gyms, so I get to do my bit of cardio and then when I’m here in LA, I get to SoulCycle. I have my own gym in my house, so I get to work out on my own time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you ever get tired of the paparazzi watching and photographing your every move?
Mel B: It is what is it, and I signed up for this, so I don’t get mad. There are certain places where you can go where there are no paparazzi. I’ve got a very private house and a very private backyard, so you can hang out and chill out without anybody looking at you. But that’s part of the gig when you become somewhat known. You’re going to get followed a little bit, and it just is what it is. It doesn’t stop me from doing my own grocery shopping or dropping my kids off at school.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is it time for a new autobiography?
Mel B: I wrote one about ten years ago, but I’m kind of due to write another one at some point. We’ll see about that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’re celebrating a birthday in a few weeks!
Mel B: My birthday and my husband’s birthday are nine days apart, and we’re the same age. We were questioning ourselves wondering whether we were turning 38 or 39 this year. I think we’re 39, not the big 4-0 yet (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Big party planned for the two of you?
Mel B: The kids are off school for the summer break, so maybe we’ll go away somewhere. Living in LA is like a holiday anyway with the sun shining. It’s beautiful here.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Can you see yourself slowing down any in your 40s?
Mel B: What I do is not really considered to me to be work. I get to hang out at America’s Got Talent and be entertained hours on end by all these different acts. I do The Voice Kids in Australia, and that’s also fun. So I don’t really see my work as work yet. Yeah, I have early call times and sometimes really long days, but it’s all fun stuff being around entertainers. It’s just exciting for me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will the new music be available soon, Mel?
Mel B: I’ll be in the studio actually next week. I just wrote a song, and I need to lay it down. So hopefully it turns out well, and I’ll be releasing that soon.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And we’ll all have to wait on The X Factor announcement (laughs).
Mel B: There is always speculation about who’s going to be a judge on that panel. Always.
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