Such was the imprint the Spice Girls — Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Posh — made on popular culture during their initial late-’90s period of world domination, some 14 years on from the release of their debut single, the five women have sustained successful solo careers, a huge reunion tour and even a planned big-budget stage musical.
Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice, remains one of the most publicly visible of the Spice Girls, thanks to endeavours both professional (her 2007 standout stint on the US Dancing with the Stars) and personal (her paternity dramas with ex-boyfriend Eddie Murphy, father of youngest daughter Angel).
She’s now entering the world of reality TV with the 10-episode fly-on-the-wall doco Mel B: It’s a Scary World.
Talking to the Sydney Star Observer from her LA home, Brown explained she was keen to present the world with another side of a life that’s been tarred by tabloid misinformation.
“Me and my husband (producer Stephen Belafonte) have read all the tabloids in the past couple of years, and we thought: we’re already in a situation where people comment on what we do; we’d rather people comment on stuff that’s actual fact and comes from us, rather than hearsay,” she explained, her thick Leeds accent untainted by more than half a decade spent living in the US.
As is the way with many celeb-reality shows, It’s a Scary World skirts the line between documentary and fiction. Much of the first episode is taken up with Mel agonising about whether she’s hot enough to accept an invitation to dance with the Pussycat Dolls — a little hard to believe when the rock-bodied performer has just released her own workout video and is the face of the Ultimo lingerie line in Britain.
“I’m just like any other woman. You put any 35-year-old woman up on stage next to a bunch of half-naked 18-year-olds and she’ll have the same insecurities,” she insisted.
But what does she think of the Dolls and their ilk? The Spice Girls were always more innocent than most of today’s female pop stars — the closest they got to sex was a bit of zig-a-zig-ah and Geri Halliwell’s ample bosom trying to escape while she pinched Prince Charles’ bum.
“It’s true. We’d get our sexy on too, but that wasn’t our main goal, our main goal was to show our individuality and our togetherness as five young girls doing it for girl power,” she said.
Post-Spice Girls, Brown’s own solo career has been a collection of hits and misses. While she’s diversified into television, film and stage work, her two albums to date both underperformed (2005’s L.A. State of Mind, released ‘as a gift to fans’, seemed to be the gift no-one wanted, selling a lowly 670 copies in the UK). Perhaps because of this, she was cagey when discussing the prospect of new music, despite an upcoming episode of the series centring around her quest to secure a guest rap from Ludacris on a possible future single, Lip Lock.
“Music launched me into this world, and it’ll always be a part of my life. There’s no release date on the next album; I’ve got to finish it first and go from there.”
The Spice Girls 2007 reunion tour proved that together, the fivesome still have a huge global audience. But there’s no denying the operation was somewhat botched: after first announcing a handful of planned dates across the world, the group then spent most of the 47-date tour playing in London and the US, before admitting towards the end of the tour that plans to perform in South America, Asia, Africa and Australia had been scrapped.
Fans in these regions were left with little consolation when it was revealed that there would be no DVD of the tour.
Mention of the reunion debacle was the only time in the conversation Mel showed her Scary side.
“There were no (Australian) dates,” she said pointedly.
“Our tour started out as a week’s worth of shows at (London’s) 02 Arena, and then we just extended it and extended it. It’s funny when people say ‘you cancelled those dates’, because the dates were never set in stone. And all our kids had to go back to school.”
The fact remains though, that Australia, the one country in the world to have sent the tour’s accompanying Greatest Hits CD to number one, is also one of the few countries in the world they have yet to perform live. What does an Australian Spice Girls fan have to do?
“It’s a case of all of us getting our schedules in order — I would always love to have another Spice Girls reunion, but there are four other people who all have to sign off on it,” she said, not altogether convincingly.
But the Spice brand continues to roll on, with a West End musical planned for 2012.
“We haven’t got many details yet, other than that (Mamma Mia producer) Judy Craymer’s on board and that Jennifer Saunders is writing the script.
“We’re all control freaks. It is our story, so we have to get it right.”
info: Mel B: It’s A Scary World premieres on Foxtel’s Style Network at 8:30pm on November 2.