MUM'S THE WORD Spice Girl Mel C says motherhood has been her biggest achievement
"I noticed I got a lot more respect from my daughter – She definitely thought I was cool. But that’s kind of sliding away now..."
SHE hit global superstardom as a member of the Spice Girls, but Melanie C says that nothing has compared to the joy of being a mum.
The iconic Sporty Spice has an 11-year-old daughter, Scarlett, from her former marriage to a British property developer.
Chatting by Zoom from her home in England, 46-year-old Melanie tells the Sunday World: "I can't imagine life before her now. Motherhood is the best thing in the world, and it was such a positive thing for me as well. It really changed everything when this wonderful person came into my life.
"It's been the best thing, the hardest thing and the scariest thing at the same time. I love having that responsibility of looking after this wonderful person. In fact, she looks after me. She's 11 now, and I find her comforting me saying, 'It'll be alright mum.'"
The Spice Girls kicked off their 2019 tour at Dublin's Croke Park, so what does Scarlett think of mum the pop star? "Do you know what, she actually really loves my music," says Melanie, who is set to release a new solo album next Friday.
"She's very supportive. Of course, 2019 was just the best year ever! Seeing Mum up on stage as Sporty Spice blew her mind. I noticed I got a lot more respect from her. She definitely thought I was cool. But that's kind of sliding away now," she laughs.
"I always say she's proud of me and embarrassed of me in equal measure, which I think is a healthy balance. The Spice Girls reunion was great for our kids. We have so many kids between us ranging in age, but they just had such a wonderful time.
"They were on the road with us, they were coming to sound checks, meeting all the dancers and then seeing their mums up there every night in all of our glory. It was a magical time."
When our talk turns to the heyday of the Spice Girls, I mention my claim to fame - I had a cameo role as a reporter in their 1997 movie, Spice World. Yep, the camera lands on me for a split second as Jonathan Ross interviews the girls on a stage outside London's Royal Albert Hall. I even got paid for the role - one pound!
"Were you? I love that!," Melanie laughs. "I meet people all the time who were in it, people you wouldn't expect. One that blew my mind is [soccer star] Peter Crouch. I was doing his [BBC TV] show over the summer and he told me that he was in our movie as a kid. There was a crowd scene that you could just turn up to, and he went down with his sisters."
The Spice Girls spent time in Ireland at the height of their fame and rehearsed for their first global Spiceworld Tour while living here in 1998. "I went back a lot, and recorded my first solo album in Windmill Lane Studios, because I love it there," says Melanie, whose grandmother was born in Dublin.
"My nan, God rest her soul, we lost her a couple of years ago, was an O'Flaherty from Dublin. So there's some Irish blood, and I knew there must be because whenever I'm there I feel like I'm at home."
Melanie reveals that her mum, Joan, also toured Ireland in a Tina Turner tribute band during her early years. "My mum is amazing, she's been singing in bands since she was 14," she says. "When she started in the late '60s early '70s she sang folk music, but she loved soul music. Her voice got really raspy, so she actually sounds like Tina Turner and she's obviously a big fan."
Coming from a working class background, Melanie admits she found it difficult to cope with the massive fame and wealth that came with the success of the Spice Girls, and she developed depression.
"We were so young," she explains. "I was 22 when Wannabe came out and I didn't even know who I was at that point."
It's only now in her 40s that she appreciates who she is and what she has achieved. "It's because there are so many emotions tied to that whole fame scenario, one of them being guilt," Melanie explains.
"I was a working class girl from a working class background in the north of England, and there's something about becoming very successful and wealthy that I did have enormous guilt about. Maybe a bit of it is due to my Catholic upbringing as well. So that was quite hard to navigate. And then suffering with depression, having your wildest dreams realised and then being very unhappy and you feel guilty… there's just all these incredible emotions you're dealing with."
She believes that it was the stardom and life in the fast lane of the music industry that brought on her depression.
"I still believe it was the cause," Melanie says. "I'd never had any issues before, and even when the doctor said it to me I was surprised as well as relieved that I had a diagnosis. I never expected myself to suffer with depression. I had always been happy-go-lucky and very optimistic. But I kind of feel like it was in many ways a reaction to how my life had changed so dramatically.
"It's funny, because I grew up wanting to be famous and then when I became famous I was like, 'oh, I don't really like the invasion of privacy.' You can't prepare for it, you don't know how you are going to feel about it and there is no manual on how to deal with it all.
"It would be nice to be able to switch the fame on and off, but you can't. Once you've done it it's too late."
- Melanie C releases her new self-titled album next Friday.