Melanie C's Fabulous Mag interview
Writer: Louise Gannon
Date: August 2008
Typed by: -
Mel C has always swum against the tide – and at 34, she’s happier than ever to confound expectations…
She’s the only Spice Girl who hasn’t become a yummy mummy – but Mel C still has no plans to join the baby club.
“Arggh!” she yells. “Don’t mention the ‘B’ word! Everybody asks whether I’m going to be next or whether I’m trying at the moment.
“I hate to disappoint people, but the answer is ‘no’. Everyone thinks that because I’m 34 and in a serious relationship, I’m desperate to start a family.
“But I’m not. I love kids and one of the best bits about touring with the Spice Girls this time round was getting to know everyone’s babies.
“I think people expected me to start feeling broody, but I didn’t and I still don’t. I’m sure at some point babies will be part of my future, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling happy without them.”
Melanie Chisholm has many reasons to be cheerful. She’s been loved-up with her property developer boyfriend Thomas Starr for six years, has homes in London and Wales, and is feeling chilled about life. But motherhood can wait.
“It’s great the other girls are mothers, but we all have different paths in life, and mine doesn’t include babies right now.”
She bursts into an impromptu laugh. “And while I’m being so honest, I’d better say my current plans don’t include marriage either. Maybe one day, but right now neither of us is in any rush to change things.”
Melanie was always Singular Spice. Back in the heady days of Spicemania, she felt like the odd one out.
She was the only one who could sing, the only one truly bothered about writing songs, and the only one who didn’t feel pretty or special enough to be in the band.
As a result, her days of fame and fortune were scarred by a series of self-destructive eating disorders.
She would survive months of touring and non-stop performances on just a handful of salad, and force herself to run up to five miles a day and spend hours in the gym.
“I felt I wasn’t pretty enough to be a Spice Girl so I thought I had to try to have the best body,” she said.
It took the band’s break-up – followed by years of yo-yo dieting and professional help – for her to get to where she is today: a healthy size 10, no longer obsessed with food.
Still the straight-talking Scouser she always was, Melanie admits she was very much against the recent Spice Girls’ reunion.
She explains: “I was the one who didn’t want the reunion. I took a hell of a lot of persuading because I was so reluctant to go back into it for all sorts of reasons.
“Part of it was I felt we could never recapture those times, and there was a big part of me that just didn’t want to be reminded of who I was back then.
“It’s amazing to think that as part of the biggest band on the planet I spent most of my time completely miserable because I had a terrible eating disorder.
“At the height of it all I wasn’t eating and I was exercising so much my periods stopped and my bone density was low.”
But her main worry is the impact her skinny image may have had on her fans: “The worst thing for me was that I was a role model to millions of young girls,” she says.
In the end, Melanie decided that a reunion would finally put her demons to rest.
She smiles: “Eventually I thought: ‘Why not?’ The other girls really wanted to do it. At first I was frightened of being overwhelmed by all those old feelings, but then I started to feel that maybe this was something I had to do.
“The idea of putting on a great pop show was appealing, as was the idea of spending time with the girls.
“It was an incredibly positive experience. We’re all older and wiser, and we put a lot of ghosts to rest on that tour.
“When it was over, I was finally proud to be a Spice Girl. All those frightened, negative, mixed feelings had disappeared.
“Whatever was said, we all got on incredibly well. We’ve had our fights and feuds, but we’re now more like sisters than friends.”
Not that there’s likely to be a repeat of the band’s reunion.
“When it finished, we all knew that was it. Never again. But in a good way,” she says.
Right now, Melanie’s thoughts are close to home – her true home of Liverpool – where she is returning to headline a gig in memory of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, who was shot dead while out on his bike a year ago.
“I’m from Liverpool and I was horrified, shocked and saddened when I read about little Rhys,” she says. “Like everyone else, I just wanted to do anything I could to help.
“It terrifies me to think that little kids are growing up in a country that is getting more and more violent. Kids carrying knives is just too awful to think about, but we can’t sit around being shocked. We all have to do what we can to try to stop it.
“All I think about is what sort of low self-esteem and sense of self-worth these kids have if they accept that being killed in this culture of violence is just a fact of their lives.
“I grew up in a typical working-class area of Liverpool. After school my mum didn’t see me because I was outside all the time playing. But kids can’t do that any more. All the innocence of childhood is slowly being stripped away.
“It also makes me sad to think that girls start worrying about their weight at such a young age. It’s crazy. I hope society wakes up to the way we’re bringing up our kids.”
Melanie’s immediate future includes more touring.
“I’ve just come back from Canada,” she says, then leans forward and adds: “But they’re a bit behind with their gossip. They kept asking me whether I was a lesbian, which was funny and quite sweet.
“I haven’t been asked that in years. I know everyone thought I was gay when I had my hair cut and put on a bit of weight, and, of course, because of my tattoos.”
Misconceptions? All part and parcel of life as Melanie Chisholm, apparently…Mel C's Cosmopolitan Interview
Typed by: Anna Marina & Luisa Damulakis
As one fifth of the biggest girl band in the world, Melanie C, 33, went to hell and back to look good. Here, she reveals how she got through her darkest days and spills her secrets on finding true happiness.
“It’s been funny being back in the whole Spice Girls bubble again,” says Melanie, wearing – wait for it – a tracksuit. The former Sporty Spice has been impressing the Cosmo team all morning with her new ultra-sophisticated look, complete with a sparkly top and sky-high stilettos. Then, the minute the photo shoot is done, she settles down for a cuppa and a chat, changing right back into her trademark trackie. You can take the girl out of the Spice Girls…
“We’ve kept in touch over the years,” she continues, sitting cross-legged on a sofa at one end of the London studio. “But we’ve never really had time all together, so I’m looking forward to that. For me, the tour is very much about nostalgia. It’s two months and then it’s over – bye-bye and thank you.”
What about the rumours that there are already new rifts between the famous five? “It’s fun to see that nobody has really changed that much,” she says. “But then again, that also has it downside. We don’t have punch-ups anymore, like we used to at 22, when there would be a few too many drinks and we’d all get overexcited. But we’ve never been like the Gallagher brothers…”
You mean you never held anyone down by the throat? “No! But I wanted to,” she laughs. “Melanie B and Geri’s relationship was always very fiery; they were either inseparable or had big blazing rows.” We remind her of the others theories – in 2005 Melanie B’s ex-husband Jimmy Gulzar hinted that his then-wife and Geri had been more than just friends.
“That isn’t true,” Melanie laughs. Then, with a wink, adds, “As far as I know. No, they were both just very passionate. The main difference with us now is a slight – and I emphasize ‘slight’ – mellowing. We never knew until that press conference whether or not the chemistry was still there, but it was and it feels quite magical to be together. My concern was that we were always a bit raucous and shambolic, and maybe that’s quite charming when you’re in your twenties, but now we’re on our thirties, can we get away with it?”
Since the Spice Girls split in 2000, after the surprise defection of Geri in 1998, they’ve all had their share of solo success – Melanie C more than the rest with four solo albums and a bunch of top-10 hits. But along with that, they’ve also has their share of dark times: Melanie B may still be living through hers, what with the ongoing Eddie Murphy saga (she’s since married Stephen Belafonte); Geri has had her eating disorders; and Victoria has had to deal with rumours of David’s infidelity and the continuing issue with her weight.
“Emma’s the only one who’s gone unscathed,” says Melanie, whose own dark times included severe depression and an eating disorder. “When I was diagnoses with depression, I was relieved because I’d been wondering what the hell was wrong with me,” she says matter-of-factly. “But I was also quite shocked because I never really saw myself as a person who would be depressed. I suppose for anyone who grows up wanting to be famous, there’s an underlying insecurity. So when you’re thrust into that world, there are going to be repercussions.”
For Melanie, the whole thing centered on her striving to look perfect. She ended up eating only fruit and vegetables, and going to the gym excessively. “I’d have this little voice in my head saying, ‘You can’t live like this.’ Then another voice would say, ‘You have no choice.’ I was having this internal battle, but when you have an eating disorder you’re embarrassed about it. I became secretive and quite isolated in the band. I was like a robot, thinking that was how it had to be. And then my body took over and said, ‘No, it’s not’, which is when I started binge eating and putting on all the weight. Luckily, thank God, I never made myself sick or took laxatives.”
It didn’t help that the press was using this sudden weight gain and an opportunity to label her Butch Spice and start openly wondering if Melanie was a lesbian. They linked her romantically with her assistant and even ran pictures of the bed the ‘couple’ were supposedly sharing. “At first that made me laugh because it wasn’t ever something that had crossed my mind,” says the still tomboyish Melanie.
“And then it kind of pissed me off when I thought, ‘Because I have short hair and am quite muscular with a few tattoos, am I the stereotypical lesbian?’ But I don’t think it did me any harm. I’ve always had a huge gay and lesbian following and I’m really proud of that.”
We ask her if there was ever any truth in those rumours (looking deep into her eyes!) and she screams, “No!” What, not even a girl-on-girl snog? “Not in a sexual way. Jokingly with the Spice Girls, maybe. A few of them have had snogs.” And that’s as far as it went sex-wise with the Spices? “As far as I know,” she says, laughing. “When I was in the room, at any rate.” But the way she felt at the time was no laughing matter.
Melanie’s body chaos saw her piling on the pounds and shedding them just as rapidly. And she starved herself until her periods eventually stopped altogether. “I’ve never had suicidal thoughts,” she insists.
”I’ve been in bed and thought I’d rather not wake up in the morning, but I think there’s a difference between thinking that and doing something about it.”
Melanie’s recovery started when she finally visited her GP. Antidepressants, counseling and even acupuncture helped her start to feel better. “I was desperate to get my menstrual cycle back,” she says, “I didn’t have a period for years, but when you’re young you don’t worry about having children. I wasn’t thinking about the consequences, I was concerned about not looking fat in photos.”
BACK ON TRACK
Melanie says that the other Spice Girls tried to talk to her about her weight but believes it’s hard to approach somebody when they don’t want hear it. “If anyone broached the subject, I’d just keep them at arm’s length,” she explains. And it still breaks her heart to see people like Nicole Richie slim down to nothing (even if she has bounced back now that she’s pregnant).
”It freaks me out,” says Melanie of Nicole. “When I was first in the public eye, I was already thin. With someone like Nicole, who used to be quite a curvy girl, she started losing weight and looked quite thin for a while. It got to the point where my heart sank and it just brought it all back.”
Now Melanie’s very much back on track, although she stills suffers temporary downs. “I never feel as bad as I felt then but everyone has low days. Just fewer and further between. And my boyfriend’s company is enough to lift my mood.”
Ah, yes, the elusive boyfriend. The lucky man in question is property developer Thomas Starr. They have been together for nearly six years and, even though there are no rings on significant fingers, it’s a very serious relationship. “I met Thomas at a really good time,” she says. “I wasn’t 100% but I was well on the way to recovery and he was the final piece of jigsaw. Just to have somebody love you and find you attractive makes you think, “Yeah, I’m alright!’ Not that I want to sound like a woman who needs a man’s approval, of course. But I was single for such a long time and I was lonely. People would say, ‘Oh, you’re never going to meet anyone if you don’t go out,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t want to meet some idiot in a bar.’”
Her relationship has obviously worked wonders for Melanie. Today, she’s glowing. And, we might add, that’s not due to the rumoured Botox and fillers loved by the rich and famous. “I’m open to the idea of plastic surgery, but it freaks me out,” she says. “I’ve just got an anti-Botox fringe.” She now has a healthy, balanced diet with treats and a sensible exercise regime. She does cross-training, running, mountain biking and yoga. (“But I’m no Madonna!”)
So what has Thomas got that her exes – like Jason ‘J’ Brown from boy band Five – don’t? “They weren’t adult relationships,” Melanie says, still grimacing at the memory. “I wasn’t well at the time and it was just a bizarre situation. It was never going to work – we were two people in bands and both quite screwed up by the whole experience.”
Ask if there will be the sound of wedding bells in the near future and Melanie just smiles sheepishly. “Getting married is not at the forefront of my mind, but we intend to be together forever. He’s 40 and I’m 33, and I think age gap works. He’s my sugar daddy.”
True, Thomas is a millionaire in his own right, but surely that’s not a match for those Spice dollars? “I don’t even think about that. I just feel safe with him and I’d love to be a mum. At my age, the clock is ticking, so I don’t want to leave it that long. I do lots of live shows and festivals, which is a lifestyle that won’t suit having a child. I need to seriously consider taking a bit of time out for that.”
But with that mega Spice Girls tour coming up – and a whopping three million ticket requests already in – it’s probably not worth knitting any bootees just yet.
THE SPICE YEARS
A look back at the girls through the ages…
It might have been more than a decade since the Spice Girls released mega-hit Wannabe in 1996, but how much have the fivesome really changed since the days when they first brought Girl Power to Britain and the rest of the world?
OK, so Melanie C is the only one without kids and there’s no trainer or Union Jack dress in sight. But Posh still doesn’t smile, Baby still doesn’t stop smiling and Mel B remains as fiery as ever (even with her new grown-up hair). Which is why we can’t wait for their The Return Of The Spice Girls tour, which kicks off in Vancouver, Canada, on 2 December and comes to London on 15 December.
Let’s hope Victoria invites her new Hollywood crew – we’re dying to see Tom and Katie getting down to Spice Up You Life…
The Cosmo Quiz
Name: Melanie Chisholm
Nickname: Mel C, Sporty Spice
1)My favourite part of my body is:
My hands! They have a few scars on, each a memory.
2)My favourite celeb man is:
MC: Stephen Fry. I love him!
3)I feel sexiest in:
MC: a- A designer dress
Don’t wear them much, when I’m lucky enough to be lent one I feel quite special
4)The last book I read was:
MC: Buried, Mark Billingham, a great British crime writer. DI Thorne always gets his men.
5) If I wasn’t a singer I’d be a:
MC: e- Other
I’m an animal lover, I’d like a zoo! Or a farm.
6) My favourite TV show is:
MC: Coronation Street
7) The movie I watch over and over is:
MC: Shaun of the dead, Simon Pegg is a genious.
My worst habit is:
MC: Cracking my knuckles.
9) My friends always make fun of me for:
MC: Being a ridiculous drunk!
10) I like men who are:
MC: b - Funny
e – Clever
f – Sporty (of course)
g – Other
LOADED!! Just kiddin’
11) I’ve been in love:
MC: a – Once
12) Love is:
MC: Having someone who brings out the best in you.
13) My idea of a romantic night is:
MC: b – Dinner in a swanky restaurant
d – A spontaneous trip to Paris
e – An evening picnic in the park with champagne
They all sound good.
14) The best thing about being famous is:
MC: Strangers complimenting you in the street.
15) I’m not as BIG as I look ON THE TELE!
16) You’ll be shocked to find out I’ve never:
MC: Had a filling!
17) My wedding will be:
MC: b – Small, low key and intimate
18) One thing I’ve learnt about men that I wish I knew 10 years ago is:
MC: Still haven’t learnt anything.
19) My most embarrassing moment:
My pants splitting on stage on Miami
20) The best party I ever went to was:
Courtney Love’s birthday party in LA in 1998. Rock + Roll!