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In conversation with Melanie C

Posted on 23 September 2022

Melanie C, aka Sporty Spice, joined us in conversation at the Academy to talk about her book Who I Am. Told in her own words, the book is a full and honest account of what life was really like in The Spice Girls, one of the biggest music acts of all time.

The Spice Girls' 1996 debut single ‘Wannabe’ topped the charts in 37 countries and the group's debut album ’Spice’ went on to sell more than 31 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a female group. They went on to sell more than 85 million records.

As a solo artist, Melanie has achieved over 3 million album sales, two Number 1 singles and six Top 10 singles, including the iconic hits ‘I Turn To You’ and ‘Never be the Same Again’. In recent years, Melanie has performed at Pride parades all over the world with the LGBTQ+ club collective Sink the Pink – including taking the stage in Times Square, New York for World Pride’s closing party in 2019.

The full recording is below:

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions.  Conversations on the legal topics affecting businesses and individuals today.

She has performed for millions of people in some of the biggest venues in the world.  She has rubbed shoulders with world leaders and Royalty alike – no doubt with a million great stories to tell – and she’s broken countless records along the way and we are very honoured that she’s here today to talk to us about her amazing life and career to date.  So, without further ado, please give a very warm welcome to Sporty Spice herself, Melanie C.

Mishcon de Reya

I think we can see from the room how popular this talk is.  It feels like people at the back are about to sort of get on each other’s shoulders to peer in.  What is the long-lasting popularity of the Spice Girls and specifically you in 2022?

Melanie C

For me it kind of started in 2019.  We did stadium shows here in the UK and Ireland and I think that was the first time it really began to sink in, for all of the Spice Girls, you know the legacy that we’d created and we knew it but to kind of have some kind of acceptance of it, really hadn’t happened until we would see each night 70, 80,000 people. 

Mishcon de Reya

My view of the Spice Girls where they were a sort of manufactured band that was sort of created, can you talk about that first stage of applying for the advert and how it came about?

Melanie C

So, I went to performing arts college in Kent, in Sidcup, and because my dream was to work in the music industry but I knew that was incredibly difficult.  I was sitting with a friend at an audition and this flyer was handed to me and it was you know, are you between, I think it was like 18 and 24, and all these things outgoing, dancing, and I was like, that’s it, that’s what I’m going to do.  We were just shouting out ideas and pulling up songs that we liked and you know and all these different things and that before able to kind of hone that into something that actually resembled a song and that was kind of how it grew when we formed our identity as a band. 

Mishcon de Reya

Thinking back over the Spice Girls, there was nothing like the Spice Girls and even looking back over your past performances, you all sing, you all dance, you all have your part, you all have your different personalities.  Was that, I mean you’ve talked a bit about it already, was that very important to all of you?

Melanie C

Absolutely, and I think especially when we realised that that was striking a chord, it was like oh wow, this actually is something really important and we started to talk about Girl Power – never out intention, when we started as a band – but people were telling us girl bands don’t sell.  You know, we were told time and time again, girls can’t do this, girls can’t do this, right.  Never say that to a Spice Girl. 

Mishcon de Reya

And ‘Wannabe’ came out, obviously huge success.  At what point did you realise, I am massively famous. 

Melanie C

I probably thought that after I’d been Surprise Surprise with Cilla Black.

Mishcon de Reya

Really.  Wow. 

Melanie C

You know, obviously, we were hugely successful at this time.  The eyes of the world were on us and you know the lovely British tabloid media always trying to knock us down.  This was the next big challenge, you know, can they do it?  Can the Spice Girls sing?  Can they hold their own for ninety minutes, you know?  So, there was a lot of pressure. 

Mishcon de Reya

How did that link in with what we talked about before in relation to your family, growing up and being a people pleaser?

Melanie C

I think because, you know, quite early on, I kind of felt because I did feel alone in many ways, I felt like I have to make my place on this Earth.  It’s very interesting because obviously, my life was becoming out of my control, like you say, the schedule was, wasn’t really ours, you know it wasn’t, it’s what we wanted to do but we weren’t in control of it.  So, I could control what I ate, I could control how long I was in the gym so, yeah, it just became more and more excessive. 

Mishcon de Reya

How bad were your mental health issues during that period when the solo album was coming out?

Melanie C

So, throughout the, like the late nineties with the girls, even though you know my eating and my eating was disordered and my exercise was becoming obsessive, I was in complete denial, it was just the way it was, that’s the way I had to be to do the job that I was doing and there was, there was no, there was no option.  So, I was just getting on with that and doing that and having an amazing time being a Spice Girl, right?  And my body just took over at one point and it was the Millennium when I started to have, you know, very low feelings and lethargy and struggling to get out of bed and then you know I started binge eating and you know that just started to escalate to the point where I was so scared because I didn’t know what was happening to me, that I did reach out and I went to my GP.  So, my GP said to me, “well first of all, we need to address your depression” and I was like I’m depressed?  What?  And I was like, it was such a relief, it sounds weird right?  I’m so relieved I’m depressed but it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders because it gave it a name and it meant that I could be helped, you know, and I could get better because up to that point, I just thought I’m losing my mind, you know, there’s a lot of pressure on us and we don’t give ourselves enough time to, you know, to recuperate, to recover. 

Mishcon de Reya

And I think you talking about it so openly in the book, both what you went through and then solutions you found, is amazing. 

Audience member

You were wrong when you said that the diehard Spice Girls fans were in their thirties, we’re actually in our early forties.  And they grew up inspired and energised by the individuality and the ambition of it all but I remember reading those articles and seeing how you girls were women, were and then girls, were reported on in the tabloids and how you were pitched against each other and how your bodies were pulled apart and your everything was attacked.  I remember just thinking that is such a tough ride.  What advice would you give to someone who was rising in profile now, to try not to have to suffer some of the attacks that you and the Spice Girls did?

Melanie C

Yeah.  I think the thing is for me, what has taken me so, so long to try and get back to, is trusting your own instinct because I think so early, we have it, as children and then I think it’s just knocked out of us and personally, for me, I believed for a long time people knew better than me.  Oh they must know better.  You know, they definitely you know are more experienced than me so they know better.  But you know what, you know best, you instinctively know best what is right for you and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t, you know and so I would always say that to a younger artist and I think to try and shut out the noise and it’s really hard but it’s really important and, you know, there are so many ways that we consume media now but you know obviously a lot of it is online and it’s like don’t read the comments because other people’s opinions of you, it’s none of your business, you know, the other thing is, you know, I don’t like everybody and everything so I can’t expect them all to like me and it’s just kind of making peace with that.

Mishcon de Reya

That is an amazing place to finish.  Thank you so much for coming.

Melanie C

Thank you.

 

 

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions.  To access advice for businesses that is regularly updated, please visit Mishcon.com. 


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