Mel B

Mel B in 2016
Born
Melanie Janine Brown

(1975-05-29) 29 May 1975 (age 48)
Other names
  • Scary Spice

  • Melanie B
  • Melanie Brown
  • Mel G
  • Melanie G
  • Melanie Gulzar
EducationLeeds West Academy
Occupations
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • television personality
  • actress
Years active1993–present
Works
Television
Spouses
  • Jimmy Gulzar
    (m. 1998; div. 2000)
  • Stephen Belafonte
    (m. 2007; div. 2017)
Partner(s)Max Beesley (2000–2002)
Christine Crokos (2002–2006)
Eddie Murphy (2006)
Rory McPhee (2018–present; engaged)
Children3
RelativesChristian Cooke (cousin)
Tillie Amartey (niece)
Musical career
Genres
Instrument(s)Vocals
Labels
Member ofSpice Girls

Melanie Janine Brown MBE (born 29 May 1975),[1] commonly known as Mel B or Melanie B, is an English singer, songwriter, television personality, and actress. She rose to fame in the 1990s as a member of the pop girl group Spice Girls, in which she was nicknamed Scary Spice. With over 100 million records sold worldwide,[2] the group became the best-selling female group of all time.

Mel B debuted as a solo artist in 1998 with the release of "I Want You Back" which reached number one on the UK Singles Chart. Mel B released her debut solo album Hot in 2000, which respectively produced the successful singles "Tell Me" and "Feels So Good". She released her second solo album, L.A. State of Mind (2005), which spawned the single "Today". Mel B released "For Once in My Life" in 2013, her first single in eight years; it peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[3]

Since 2007, Mel B has established herself as a television personality and talent show judge. She participated in the fifth season of the American dance competition series Dancing with the Stars (2007), finishing in second place with her professional partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Between 2011 and 2016, Mel B served as a guest and main judge on the Australia and UK shows of The X Factor. She also co-presented the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars for one season (2012). Mel B judged on the NBC reality show America's Got Talent (2013–2018), served as a coach and mentor on The Voice Kids Australia (2014) and judged on The Masked Singer Australia (2022–). From 2016 to 2018, she co-presented Lip Sync Battle UK alongside rapper Professor Green and served as a judge on Queen of the Universe (2023).

Early life

Melanie Janine Brown was born in Harehills, Leeds,[4] and grew up in the Burley area of the city, the daughter of Andrea and Martin Brown.[5] Her father is from Saint Kitts and Nevis and her mother is English. Through her mother, Mel B is a first cousin of actor and director Christian Cooke; Cooke's mother Di, and Mel B's mother Andrea, are sisters.[4][6] Mel B studied performing arts at Intake High School in Bramley, Leeds before entering the entertainment industry.[7] For a time, she worked as a dancer in Blackpool, Lancashire.[8][9]

Career

1994–2000: Spice Girls

In 1994, Mel B, along with Melanie C, Geri Halliwell and Victoria Beckham responded to an advertisement in The Stage magazine.[10] Around 400 women who answered the advertisement attended auditions at Danceworks Studios in Mayfair, London. Halliwell, Melanie C, Beckham, Mel B, and Michelle Stephenson were originally chosen as the members of the group which was known as Touch. Stephenson later left and was replaced by Emma Bunton.

The group were unsatisfied with their original management, Heart Management, and broke with them. In 1995, they toured record labels in London and Los Angeles. After teaming up with music manager Simon Fuller, they signed a deal with Virgin Records and the group name was changed to Spice Girls.[10] Their debut album, Spice, was a worldwide commercial success. The album peaked at number one in more than 17 countries and was certified multi-platinum in 27 countries.[11] The group's massive and sudden popularity was compared to Beatlemania.[12] In total the album sold 30 million copies worldwide[13][14] and became the biggest-selling album in music history by a girl group and one of the most successful albums of all time.[15][16] The album's first single, "Wannabe", reached number one in 37 countries and all of the subsequent singles from the album – "Say You'll Be There", "2 Become 1", "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Mama" – also peaked at number one in United Kingdom.[17][18]

In 1997, they released their second album, Spiceworld. The album's first two singles "Spice Up Your Life" and "Too Much" reached number one in the UK, marking seven consecutive number one singles, an all-time record for a musical group.[19] The album was a global best seller, selling 20 million copies worldwide.[20] The group also starred in their own film, Spiceworld: The Movie, which grossed $100 million worldwide. The third single from Spiceworld, "Stop", peaked at two, breaking the group's sequence of number ones. "Viva Forever" was released as the album's final single in July 1998. The single was another number one and was the group's first single released following Halliwell's departure from the group in May 1998.[21]

Mel B debuted as a solo artist in September 1998 with the release of "I Want You Back". The single charted at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart and also had success around the globe. The song was recorded for the soundtrack of the film Why Do Fools Fall in Love. The single sold 218,000 copies and became the 82nd Bestselling British Single of the year.[22] In late 1998, the Spice Girls released "Goodbye" as a four-piece. It topped the UK Singles Chart and became their third consecutive Christmas number-one – equaling the record previously set by The Beatles.[23]

1999–2004: Hot and acting

In 1999, Mel B began recording her debut album, working with producers Sisqó, Teddy Riley, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the latter of whom she was also working with on the Spice Girls' third album, Forever.[24] At the suggestion of her then-husband Jimmy Gulzar, Brown covered Cameo's 1986 hit "Word Up" as her next solo release.[24] The track was included on the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The song charted poorly, peaking at fourteen on the UK Singles Chart, making it the lowest-charting Spice Girls-related single of the 90s.[25] Turning to television work, she hosted Pure Naughty, a weekly BBC2 magazine show focusing on black music.[24] She hosted the MOBO Awards on two occasions, in 1998 with Bill Bellamy and in 1999 with Wyclef Jean, and took part in the BBC-funded short film Fish.[24] She hosted a number of TV shows such as This Is My Moment (a talent show) for ITV1 and shot a documentary called Voodoo Princess for Channel 4.[26] She took part in smaller projects as a presenter such as Top of the Pops, Party in the Park for The Prince's Trust and The All Star Animal Awards. She appeared as herself in an advert for the Yorkshire tourist board in a series which included contributions from other Yorkshire-born celebrities, and in the film Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde.

Mel B's debut album Hot was released in October 2000, a month before the final Spice Girls album Forever was released. Following the release of Forever, which was far less successful than their previous two albums, the Spice Girls stopped recording and the members began investing more time into their solo careers. Hot was not a success and garnered mediocre reviews,[27] selling a disappointing 7,419 copies in its first week and charting at No. 28. Hot was preceded by the lead single "Tell Me" in September 2000. "Tell Me" debuted at No. 4 in the UK charts with about 40,000 copies sold in its first week of release.[24] It sold approximately 100,000 copies, making it the 158th "best seller" of 2000.[28] In February 2001, "Feels So Good" was released as the second single from the album and peaked at No. 5. It followed by "Lullaby" in June, a pop number dedicated to her daughter.[24] It was accompanied by a video shot in Morocco and featured Mel B with Phoenix Chi. The media criticised Mel B for using her child in the music video and single artwork, labeling her "Desperate Spice" and insinuating that she was exploiting her child as a marketing tool.[24] The single entered and peaked at No. 13. Mel B left Virgin records in July 2001.[29]

In 2002, Mel B released her autobiography, Catch a Fire, which reached No. 7 in the official books chart,[7] and saw her touring the UK to promote it with a run of book signings. In 2003 Mel B's first movie role came in the form of a British drama, Burn It.[7] She acted in a long run of shows as part of the cast for The Vagina Monologues. She was in the movie The Seat Filler, co-produced by Will Smith and starring Destiny's Child star Kelly Rowland. In April 2004, Mel B took part in the musical Rent as Mimi Marquez in Netherlands.

2005–2008: L.A. State of Mind and Spice Girls reunion

Mel B performing in 2007 with the Spice Girls

After Rent, Mel B began recording new songs and decided to release them through an independent label, Amber Café.[24] [30] Mel B said that she was working on acoustic music in contrast with her previous releases.[31] The resulting album, LA State of Mind, was released on 27 June 2005.[32] It was released with a bonus DVD featuring an in-depth documentary filmed and directed by Mark McConnell.[33] In a scathing review, AllMusic stated that this album was one of the worst pop albums of the decade.[34] The only single from the album, "Today", saw a UK release in June 2005. "Today" entered the singles chart at No. 41, selling around 1,000 copies in its first week.[32] The same year, Mel B appeared in the films Telling Lies and LD 50 Lethal Dose.[35] In 2006, Mel B appeared in the short film Love Thy Neighbor.

In September 2007, Mel B joined the fifth season of the US television dance competition, Dancing with the Stars with her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. On 27 November 2007, they took second place in the show,[36] losing to Hélio Castroneves and his partner, Julianne Hough. That year, the Spice Girls re-grouped and announced plans for a reunion tour, from which they were said to have earned £10 million each (approximately $20 million).[37] The group released Greatest Hits in early November 2007 and the tour began on 2 December 2007. The Spice Girls appeared in Tesco advertisements, for which they were paid £1 million each.[38]

2009–2018: Television and other projects

Mel B at The New Face of Jenny Craig, in 2011

In April 2009, Mel B joined actress and former Dancing with the Stars champion Kelly Monaco as original stars of a Las Vegas revue called Peepshow at the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino.[39] In September 2009, Mel B appeared for a week of shows as a visiting panellist on ITV1's daily lunchtime show Loose Women.[40] From June through August 2010, Mel B hosted the Oxygen weight loss show Dance Your Ass Off.[7] In September 2010, her own reality show aired on the Style Network called Mel B: It's a Scary World.[7] In November 2010, the console game Get Fit with Mel B was released in North America and Europe.[41] Mel B served as a celebrity mentor on the second season of the Australia show of The X Factor during the quarter-final of the live shows in 2010.[42] During the results show, she performed a duet with the remaining five acts singing "Stop" originally by the Spice Girls.

Mel B was featured as a judge for the third series of the Australia show of The X Factor, which premiered in August 2011. She appeared alongside Ronan Keating, Guy Sebastian, and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. For her first series on the show, she was given the Girls category. In April 2012, Mel B appeared as co-host on twelfth season of the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars.[43] On 31 March, it was announced that Mel B signed a global partnership with EMI Music Australia for the release of her third studio album, but she later broke from the contract.[44]

Mel B returned for the fourth series of The X Factor Australia and mentored the Boys category. Her act Jason Owen reached the final, but finished in second place after losing out to Samantha Jade, mentored by Guy Sebastian. In June 2012, Mel B appeared as a guest judge for the Manchester auditions of The X Factor UK.[45]

In July 2012, Mel B reunited with the Spice Girls for a one-off performance at the 2012 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony in London, performing their hits "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life". The performance was the most tweeted moment of the entire Olympics with over 116,000 tweets on Twitter per minute.[46] Later in the year, the Spice Girls reunited again to launch and attend the premiere of the musical Viva Forever!.[47] The group appeared in the documentary Spice Girls' Story: Viva Forever!, which aired on 24 December 2012 on ITV1.[48]

In March 2013 it was confirmed that Mel B would judge Australia's Got Talent to replace Dannii Minogue and that she would not return as a judge for the fifth season of The X Factor Australia and was replaced by Minogue, due to her commitments with Australia's Got Talent.[49] However, Seven, the Australian TV network that airs The X Factor Australia, filed suit to prevent Mel B from appearing on Australia's Got Talent and any rival networks.[50] The judge ruled that Mel B was still under contract with Seven until January 2014, which prevented her from appearing on a program aired by another network until after that date.[51]

Mel B at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards in October 2012.

Mel B had a small part in the final episode of the ITV2 drama series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. In 2013, she appeared in the Lifetime movie Twelve Trees of Christmas. From August to September 2013, she was a judge on the televised dancing show, Stepping Out, alongside choreographers Wayne Sleep and Jason Gardiner. That month, Mel B released her first single in eight years, "For Once in My Life".[52] The single peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs charts.[53]

On 20 February 2013, NBC announced that Mel B would be a judge on America's Got Talent to replace Sharon Osbourne for its eighth season, alongside Howie Mandel, Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, and later Simon Cowell in 2016. Mel B judged seasons 8 through 13, and the first season of America's Got Talent: The Champions before her departure was announced in February 2019.[54]

In early 2014, Mel B become a coach on the Australia show of The Voice Kids, alongside singers Joel Madden and Delta Goodrem. Later that year, Mel B was a permanent judge for the eleventh series of The X Factor UK when she replaced Nicole Scherzinger.[55] In December 2014, Mel B missed The X Factor UK Saturday final due to illness and did not return for the twelfth series, and was replaced by Rita Ora[56][57] In the same year, Mel B became a guest co-host on the Breakfast program of Sydney radio station 2Day FM, alongside Jules Lund, Merrick Watts and Sophie Monk. In late 2014, she appeared on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year and a sketch with the cast of Coronation Street for charity telethon Text Santa.[citation needed]

In January 2016, Mel B began presenting Lip Sync Battle UK alongside Professor Green. Later that year, Mel B guest judged the thirteenth series of The X Factor UK at the London auditions. In 2016 she announced that the Spice Girls – except for Victoria Beckham and Melanie C – were working on new material and a 20th anniversary tour for 2017.[58] Plans for a reunion were dropped when Halliwell announced she was expecting her second child. Mel B also confirmed her return to The X Factor Australia after a three-year absence to replace Minogue. In 2017 she returned to Broadway to star in the musical Chicago as Roxie Hart.[59] The same year, she returned to acting in the movie Chocolate City: Vegas Strip and made a cameo in the movie Killing Hasselhoff.[60][61] In late 2017, Mel B had a cameo appearance in the music video for "Spice Girl" by Aminé.

2018–present: Second Spice Girls reunion and further television work

On 5 November 2018, Mel B announced the Spice Girls reunion tour on her Instagram profile.[62] It was confirmed that Mel B and ex-bandmates Melanie C, Bunton and Halliwell (but not Beckham) would return for a 13-date UK and Ireland stadium tour Spice World - 2019 Tour, their first in a decade.[63][64]

In 2021, Mel B appeared on the second series of The Masked Singer as "Seahorse" and finished in 11th place.[65] In May 2021, Brown collaborated with Fabio D'Andrea in his short music film, "Love Should Not Hurt", in support of Women's Aid.[66] In 2021, she also appeared on the Spanish version of The Masked Singer as "Medusa" and finished in ninth place.[67] Mel B later appeared on the panel of fourth season of the Australian version of The Masked Singer.[68][69] In 2023, it was announced that Mel B would be returning to the panel for a fifth season, set to premiere in the second half of 2023.[70]

Mel B was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to charitable causes and vulnerable women.[71][72][73] Mel B was also appointed as a tourism ambassador from the United Kingdom to Nevis in 2022.

In November 2022, Mel B presented the BBC documentary Trailblazers: A Rocky Mountain Road Trip alongside Ruby Wax and Emily Atack.[74] In December 2022, she starred in the Christmas TV A New Diva’s Christmas Carol, alongside Ashanti and Vivica A. Fox.[75]

In 2023 Mel B appeared as a guest star in the French version of The Masked Singer and covered Katy Perry's "Roar".[76] In June 2023, Mel B announced that she will appear as a judge on the second reason of the Paramount+ reality series Queen of the Universe.[77]

In 2024, Mel B returned to America's Got Talent to judge on the spinoff, America's Got Talent: Fantasy League.[78]

Personal life

From 1996 to 1997, Mel B dated the Icelandic businessman Fjölnir Thorgeirsson.[79]

In March 1998, she began a relationship with the Dutch dancer Jimmy Gulzar while on the Spiceworld Tour. They became engaged on 13 May 1998, Mel B became pregnant that June, and the couple were married in Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire, on 13 September 1998.[80] Mel B changed her stage name to Melanie G while they were married.[81] Their daughter, Phoenix Chi Gulzar, was born on 19 February 1999.[81] Mel B filed for divorce in 2000, and the divorce was finalised later that year.[82] Mel B won custody, and paid a settlement of £1.25m to Gulzar.[83][84] Gulzar was prosecuted for threatening Mel B and attacking her sister, Danielle.[85] In August 2001, Gulzar was found guilty of the assault, but later cleared by the court.[86]

From 2000 to 2002, Mel B was in a relationship with actor Max Beesley.[87]

From 2002 to 2006, she was in a relationship with the film producer Christine Crokos.[88] Mel B and Crokos lived together in Los Angeles, California.[89] Speaking to Gay Star News about the relationship, she said: 'It wasn't experimentation. I fell in love with a woman for five years. An experiment doesn't last five years.'[90] Asked about the relationship, Mel B said: "People call me lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual, but I know who's in my bed and that's it. I have a huge libido and a great sex life."[91] Brown and Crokos's relationship ended in 2006.[88] Brown said that she had had a four-year relationship with a woman when she was in her teens.[92] In a 2019 interview with Piers Morgan, Mel B was asked if she had slept with Halliwell in an intimate manner and she nodded yes.[93] Halliwell released a statement saying that the press reports following the interview had been "hurtful to her family".[94] Brown later said: "I just said it was like a little thing and we giggled about it the next day and that’s that. It's the press [who] have taken it onto a whole new level."[95]

Mel B became the subject of tabloid stories during her relationship with the Hollywood actor Eddie Murphy,[96] who is the biological father of Mel B's second child, Angel Iris Murphy Brown,[97] born 3 April 2007.[98] By early December 2006, Mel B and Murphy had separated. Murphy told a journalist that the parentage of Mel B's then-unborn baby could not be proven until a paternity test was performed.[99] On 22 June 2007, a court-ordered DNA test confirmed that Murphy was the child's father. Murphy admitted paternity and indicated that he and Mel B had reached a paternity settlement of $7 million.[100]

In February 2007, Mel B began dating the film producer Stephen Belafonte.[101] They secretly married on 6 June 2007 in Las Vegas.[102][103] They renewed their vows in front of their families on 8 November 2008 in Hurghada, Egypt.[104] On 1 September 2011, Mel B gave birth to her third daughter, Madison Brown Belafonte.[105] Mel B and Belafonte separated in December 2016.[106][107][108] Mel B filed for divorce in March 2017, and accused Belafonte of emotional and physical abuse.[109] In court, Belafonte's representative said that due to the couple's "extravagant and affluent" lifestyle, Brown had "wiped out all her Spice Girls money – approximately $50 million (£38.3 million), if not more".[109] The divorce was finalised on 15 December 2017.[110] Mel B cited her divorce from Belafonte and her father's death as her reasons for seeking treatment for PTSD.[111] In November 2018, Brown became a patron of the domestic violence survivors' charity Women's Aid.[112]

In December 2018, Mel B collapsed, breaking several of her ribs and suffering a serious cut to her hand, for which she underwent emergency surgery.[113][114] In 2019, Mel B revealed she has been diagnosed with anxiety, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and ADHD.[9][115][116] In October 2022, Mel B announced she was engaged to Rory McPhee.[117][118] It is thought the pair have been in a relationship since 2018.[119] It was revealed in 2024 that Mel B's former Spice Girls group member, Victoria Beckham, would be designing Mel B's wedding dress.[120]

Discography

Main article: Mel B discography

See also: Spice Girls discography

Filmography

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1993 Coronation Street Amy Nelson (uncredited) 1 episode
1993–1994 Emmerdale Extra 2 episodes
1999 Pure Naughty Presenter
MOBO Awards Co-presenter With Wyclef Jean
2001 This Is My Moment Presenter Television singing competition
2002 Voodoo Princess Television documentary
2003 Burn It Claire McAdams Main role
2004 Seat Filler (movie) Sandy Supporting Role
2005 Bo' Selecta! Herself Episode: "Avid Merrion's Christmas Special"
2007 Dancing with the Stars US Contestant Season 5
2008 Miss Universe 2008 Presenter
The Singing Office
Step It Up and Dance Guest Judge Episode: "A Scary Surprise"
2009 Loose Women Panellist Series 14
Living on the Breadline Mother Television documentary
2010 Dance Your Ass Off Presenter Season 2
Mel B: It's a Scary World Herself Reality series
2010–2012, 2016 The X Factor Australia Judge / Mentor Season 2 (guest)
Season 34, 8 (principal)
2011 Secret Diary of a Call Girl Sylvia Burke Episode: "4.8"
2012 The Spice Girls Story: Viva Forever! Herself Television documentary
Dancing with the Stars Australia Presenter Season 12
Britain's Next Top Model Guest Judge 1 episode
2012–2016 The X Factor UK Judge / Mentor Season 9 and 13 (guest)
Season 11 (principal)
2013 Stepping Out Judge
2013–2018 America's Got Talent Season 813
2013 Twelve Trees of Christmas Cordelia Television film
The Eric Andre Show Herself
Miss Universe 2013 Presenter
2014 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Herself Episode: "Mel B"
The Voice Kids: Australia Judge / Mentor
The Pro Herself Television film
Black Dynamite Connie Lingus (voice) Episode: "How Honeybee Got Her Groove Back"
MOBO Awards Co-presenter With Sarah-Jane Crawford
Text Santa Santa's Body Guard Television special
The Big Fat Quiz of the Year Panelist
2015 Project Runway Guest Judge Season 14
Episode: "The Runway's in 3D!"
RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7
Episodes: "ShakesQueer" and "Countdown to the Crown"
2016 Running Wild with Bear Grylls Herself 1 episode
Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway
2016–2018 Lip Sync Battle UK Presenter[121]
2018 Loose Women Panelist
2019 America's Got Talent: The Champions Judge
Drop the Mic Herself Series 3, Episode 6
2019–2020 Celebrity Juice Panelist Team Captain on 2 series
2020 Michael McIntyre's The Wheel Herself Celebrity Expert on The Spice Girls
2021 The Masked Singer UK Herself / The Seahorse
Mask Singer: Adivina quién canta Herself / The Jellyfish (Medusa)
Name That Tune Herself Guest; 1 episode
2022-2023 The Masked Singer Australia Judge Seasons 4-5
2022 The Circle Contestant Season 4; played with Emma Bunton, as catfish “Jared”
RuPaul's Drag Race UK Guest Judge Series 4
Trailblazers: A Rocky Mountain Road Trip Presenter
A New Diva's Christmas Carol Herself Television Christmas movie
Special Forces: World's Toughest Test Contestant voluntarily Withdrawn in Ep 3
2023 Queen of the Universe Judge
The Masked Singer France Herself / The Sun Season 5 Special Guest, 1 episode
2024 America's Got Talent: Fantasy League Judge

Films

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Spice World Scary Spice Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress
Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star
1998 Creche Landing Lola (voice)
2000 Fish Angela
2003 LD 50 Lethal Dose Louise
2004 Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde Herself Documentary
2005 The Seat Filler Sandie
Telling Lies Maggie Thomas
2006 Love Thy Neighbor Lonnie
2007 Giving You Everything Herself Documentary
2014 Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Fury (voice) UK version
2017 Chocolate City: Vegas Strip[122] Brandy
Killing Hasselhoff Herself
2021 Love Should Not Hurt[66] Victim Short Film in support of Women's Aid

Theatre credits

Year Title Role
2004 Rent Mimi Marque
2009 Peepshow Peep Diva
2016–2017 Chicago Roxanne "Roxie" Hart
2019 Brutally Honest Herself

Bibliography

References

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