The one thing Mel C didn’t like about Spice Girls’ success
When the Spice Girls hauled their children on stage at their final Wembley Stadium show last year, there was one notable absence.
Melanie C's 11 year old daughter Scarlet was backstage, while Scary, Baby and Ginger paraded their kids on stage.
"Mean mummy," Melanie 'C' Chisholm laughs.
Chisholm, aka Sporty Spice, doesn't post pictures of her daughter on social media and shields her from paparazzi, so wasn't about to introduce her to a stadium full of camera phones.
"She hated me for about half an hour. We'd already talked about it at length, she understands. Sometimes she doesn't like it but I think she gets it and will appreciate it one day. I hope so anyway."
Chisholm says becoming a mother was "in many ways the making of me."
She left Scarlett's father, property developer Thomas Starr, in 2012, acknowledging it wasn't a happy relationship and not the kind of environment she wanted her daughter to grow up in.
"I very quickly learned that in order to teach what is acceptable behaviour for her to be treated, I had to make sure I was treated the right way. Children are incredible, they have all this in-built wisdom, she's like my little guru. As much as I'm her teacher she's teaching me everyday. That gave me an incredible strength."
That is captured on Chisholm's new solo single Who I Am, a return to dance pop that doubles as a candid ode to self-acceptance and self-discovery.
She sings "when I look in the mirror I finally like what I see, there's been so many changes, I accept they're a part of me."
The song's video sees Chisholm, 46, in a museum to herself, from her Scary Spice tracksuit-clad era through to the short-cropped hair of her solo career around the time of hits I Turn to You and Never Be the Same Again.
"It's my life. It's the journey and where I'm at. Getting older, you hope you get a little wiser, a little braver and care less about certain things. That's been quite liberating. I've got a new found honesty. I've always been very honest with my feelings, and with my lyrics, but I've become a lot more honest with myself."
At one point she sings "I forgot I was human, I must set my body free." She admits it's a direct link to late 90s when the Spice Girls ruled the world.
"Part of my coping mechanism when the Spice Girls became successful and the experience I was having was that you're in survival mode. You're tired? You're missing home? Tough, get on with it. Part of my own narrative in my head was I'm like a robot who has to just get on and do it."
For Chisholm, her way of coping was to at least be able to control what she ate - she developed a binge eating disorder, something she would later reveal.
"I found myself in a place with the Spice Girls in the 90s where it felt very much like we were public property, especially in the UK. Our lives were lived in the media, thank God we didn't have social media at that point.
"I felt like I didn't have a choice but to be very open and honest about my battles and challenges. It was difficult at the time, I was still very vulnerable, but now I'm older I realise that it was very important to talk about it and it was very helpful to a lot of other people who were suffering. Although at times I've felt very exposed, I think it's for the greater good that it's spoken about."
The 2019 Spice Girls reunion tour was not only wildly successful with fans there in the 90s, but, Chisholm notes, was seen by a younger audience who've discovered the group since their split.
One such teenage fan - Billie Eilish.
Chisholm recently presented Eilish with a Brit Award and was on stage as the teenager spoke about the pressures of success at a young age.
"I absolutely adore Billie," Chisholm says. "We do have this mad connection, when I went to her gig, it was predominantly young girls screaming at her. There was this unspoken knowing between us that is quite unique, it's lovely to have spent a bit of time with her and talk about the madness. I gave her some advice, and she's spoken about it, which is nice that it wasn't just a case of 'Shut up gran!' I spoke to her about taking it all in, this moment can pass so quickly."
While many of her Spice bandmates have written autobiographies (Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown have released two each), Chisholm has always declined offers to write her memoirs.
"I've never really felt like the time is right, like when you can be really brutally honest, to quote Melanie B's book, I'm a bit old-fashioned. I like it when you have the memoirs of someone who's lived a really long and colourful life. And then towards the end of those days when you really don't care what people think you put a book out. Celebrity culture is an odd thing. It's really evolved a lot in the last 20 years. There are parts of it I'm not comfortable with."
Has she read any of her bandmates' books?
"I'm not much of a reader … I've had to proof read bits of some, if I'm in them, for legal reasons!"
While last year's Spice reunion didn't include Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham), it saw Halliwell make a belated onstage apology for quitting the band in 1998.
Just before Goodbye (the song the girls wrote about her after her exit) Halliwell said "I'm sorry I left, I was just being a brat."
Chisholm said the other Spice Girls didn't know it was coming.
"I don't know if it was spontaneous, I'm sure Geri thought about it a lot, but for the rest of us it was quite emotional. Silly cow! She doesn't need to say sorry, so much water has gone under the bridge by now, we've more than forgiven her."
Chisholm, who is now also moonlighting as a house DJ, is working to finish her eighth solo album which will include songs written with indie acts Little Boots and Shura, as well as Spice Girls co-writer Richard (Biff) Stannard.
"Sometimes on a project things just fall into place and this feels like one of those."
Who I Am is out now.
How close did Australia get to a Spice Girls tour last year?
"Very very close. Will we tour Australia? Anything's possible in Spiceworld, trust me. That we actually did the shows last year was incredible, it's hard to pin us girls down and get everybody together, There's schedules and careers and kids and families. We are very very aware that we owe our Australian fans some shows, I know lots of people have been disappointed more than once. It's not we don't care, we really do, if I had the power I'd make it happen, unfortunately I only have a quarter of the power."
Is Geri the sticking point?
"I couldn't possibly comment!"
You said on stage last year Goodbye was about Geri.
"Was that a secret? I thought everyone knew that, it's quite obvious. She definitely inspired the lyric when she did one."
Did you film last year's tour?
"We didn't film for DVD, I know the fans have been screaming for a DVD, unfortunately, but we've got lots of footage that isn't broadcast footage but they're memories we can share along the way.."
You're loaded, and yet you still do all this promo work - where does that work ethic come from?
"It's all relative. It depends what lifestyle you want to have, I love what I do. In order to do that, you have to work hard. I'm from a working class background, I was brought up that way."
Originally published as The one thing Mel C didn't like about Spice Girls' success