The unravelling of Scary Spice
FOR as long as she has been famous, the spectacular highs and lows of Spice Girl Melanie Brown have made headlines.
But in recent months the life of the scariest Spice seems to be spiralling out of control as she struggles to deal with the fallout of her nightmare 2017 split from ex Stephen Belafonte.
The former couple are currently embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their seven-year-old daughter Maddison.
In the latest blow, a judge last week ordered Brown to undergo random drug and alcohol tests for four months as part of a joint custody agreement.
Up until last week's hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court, Maddison had been living in the care of her father, who claimed in court that Brown cared so little for the child she neglected to ring her on her seventh birthday last Saturday.
The awarding of shared custody came despite explosive claims by the pair's former "manny" Rusty Updegraff, who accused Brown of endangering her young daughters by engaging in marathon drinking sessions and inviting men to the house for sex.
In a damning declaration submitted in support of Belafonte's bid to prove the former Spice Girl is an unfit mother, Updegraff claimed he saw the star "use cocaine pretty regularly", including when she was looking after the children.
He alleged she even asked him to obtain the drug while she was in hospital - on the same day she gave birth to Angel, her 11-year-old daughter by Eddie Murphy.
When the couple initially filed for divorce in March last year, citing "irreconcilable differences" and applying for joint custody of Maddison, there was little hint of the scandal that was to come.
But proceedings turned ugly less than a month later on April 3 after Brown obtained a restraining order against Belafonte.
In court documents, she alleged he had been physically and verbally abusive throughout their decade-long marriage, starting on the night Brown appeared on the finale of US talent show Dancing With The Stars way back in 2007.
The ensuing court battle lifted a lid on their dysfunctional relationship as both parties levelled increasingly shocking accusations against each other.
They included claims Belafonte used his wife's money to pay for an abortion after he impregnated their children's nanny Lorraine Gilles and that he bullied her into having group sex with him and "random women".
Brown also stated Belafonte kept a gun at their home, defying a weapons ban imposed following a 2003 domestic violence conviction relating to Nicole Contreras, the mother of his first child.
Belafonte hit back by accusing his wife of 10 years of orchestrating a smear campaign against him and threatened to release video tapes of their sexual encounters if she persisted with her claims.
In her filing, Brown said Belafonte "threatened me with violence and threatened to destroy my life in every possible way … destroy my career and take my kids from me".
She changed her joint custody application to a request for sole custody without visitation privileges for Belafonte.
Her complaint also detailed a suicide attempt in 2014. In December of that year, Belafonte had been publicly accused of abusing her after she missed appearing on an episode of the UK's X Factor because she had been rushed to the hospital.
When Brown showed up for filming the following night, she had visible bruising, prompting fellow X Factor judge Simon Cowell to advise her to leave her husband, according to TMZ.
"Idon't (sic) usually respond to Twitter msgs but I will respond to comments of hitting my wife which I think are quite disgusting un true!" Belafonte tweeted at the time. "Mel was very ill a bunch of doctors helped her get better if fans can't just relax B4 being negative they r not real fans of @OfficialMelB."
Brown went on to include photographs of those bruises in her restraining order application, stating: "I still had visible facial and body wounds from Respondent's abuse."
Brown's marriage to Belafonte may have been her most disastrous relationship but it was not her first.
The star has a history of toxic relationships, including a difficult union with legendary Hollywood actor and comedian Eddie Murphy.
For years, Murphy denied paternity of their daughter Angel and has had little to do with her upbringing.
Belafonte used the situation to his advantage in March this year when he took Brown to court in a bid to obtain step-parent visitation rights with the child, whom he said "has called me daddy since she started to talk".
Belafonte's lawyer Grace Jamra told the court she had been trying to reach Murphy to discuss the request but was instead informed by the actor's lawyers that he was "not interested".
"Mr Murphy has had no contact with the child," Ms Jamra told the judge.
Ms Jamra said she had tried to serve him with legal papers, but concluded "Mr. Murphy is avoiding service".
The relationship between Brown and Murphy appears to have improved significantly in recent weeks, with the actor reportedly taking pity on his ex in the wake of her bruising battle with Belafonte.
According to People, Murphy, who is about to become father to a 10th child, whisked Angel to Hawaii for a holiday with his family just last month.
"They all have a very good relationship," an unnamed insider told the magazine.
"He always makes sure to get them involved with Angel. She had something at her school recently and a number of her siblings turned out to support her."
The friend dismissed Belafonte's claims Murphy was an absent father.
"She texts Eddie and is on the phone with him all the time, she loves her dad," the source said.
"And he gives her all the gifts. At Christmas, there are 150 boxes under the tree … dresses, shoes, toys, you name it, her birthday, literally every occasion."
But it's not just men who have let Brown down. In 2014, an American woman she dated briefly called Christa Parker gave a tell-all interview with The Sun.
"Everything was intense between us," Ms Parker told the tabloid. "There is no doubt that I fell in love with Melanie and she fell in love with me.
"I had never been in a relationship with a woman or even had a female crush. But our children became friends and after a while we became inseparable too.
"And Mel was lots of fun. I never saw her as this famous Spice Girl - to me she was always just Melanie.
"We would have play dates for the kids and the evening always ended on the deck of her house drinking and talking until long after the children had gone to bed."
Ms Parker claimed the pair became lovers after a boozy night at the star's mansion just a couple of months after they first met.
"Melanie was always open about her sexuality, to a point," she said.
"I knew she had dated women before and she would always tell me, 'You need to try new
Brown also enjoyed a long-term relationship with British filmmaker Christine Crokos whom she dated for four years before their split in 2006.
The former Spice Girl has recently been photographed with a new lover, hairdresser Gary Madatyan