Melanie Janine Brown, better known as Mel B or Scary Spice, admits she’s always had a bit of a crush on herself. A few weeks ago she turned up atJonathan Ross’s fancy dress Halloween party as Scary Spice. “I put on a massive wig, the boots, and Julien Macdonald made me a really sexy leopardskin catsuit.” Her friend Leigh Francis, who was responsible for a brutally funny impression of her on his TV show Bo’ Selecta!, didn’t realise it was the real Brown behind the hair. “He goes to me, ‘Bloody hell, you look like a good Scary Spice’, and I’m like, ‘Leigh, I’m your mate, it’s me’, and he goes, ‘Who the fuck dresses up as themselves?’ and I went, ‘Me!’ and he went, ‘Exactly!’”
As Scary, Brown was the Spice Girl you didn’t mess with; tough, sexy, funny, filthy, hard work. Although Francis’s parody of Mel B is extreme – leopardskin bra and knickers, huge glasses that slide down her nose, huge mouth that split her face in two, and a Yorkshire accent broad as the Dales – it is unerringly close to the real thing. As I walk up the stairs of the London studio where she is having her photo taken, I hear a roar of laughter. Mel B is in the house – swapping from Prada dress to black tailored jumpsuit to ribbed roll-neck jumper, complaining that her surgically enhanced boobs look too big, telling her teenage daughter Phoenix (who’s here for support) she loves her, showing off the £20,000 renewal wedding ring her husband, film producer Stephen Belafonte, has just bought her.
As Scary Spice, Brown had a raw beauty. Today, the tongue stud has gone, the hair is straightened and the leopardskin catsuit replaced with shirt and trousers. She could pass for the fanciable if forbidding CEO of a public company.
By her standards, Brown has been virtually invisible for the past decade – living in Los Angeles, bringing up her three daughters, establishing herself as an entrepreneur (she part owns a bottled water company). But even at her most withdrawn, she’s done her bit to keep the tabloids in business. So there have been the lesbian affairs, the alleged threesomes, the relationship with Eddie Murphy, the DNA test over the child who proved to be his, the marriage to Belafonte, the “love of her life”, who has a criminal record for domestic violence. And occasionally she has been in the newspapers for her work – starring in the musical Rent and The Vagina Monologues, appearing as part of the re-formed Spice Girls one-off at the London Olympics, producing her own reality show, and judging America’s Got Talent and Australia’s X Factor.
source: the guardian