It's a glorious time to be a Spice Girls fan. Not only is the 25th anniversary of the Spice World album coming up this autumn (not to mention the movie of the same name, aka the best film of 1997), along with rumours that the band could be spicing up a future Glastonbury, but we can also gain new insights into the Girl Power era, thanks to Melanie Chisholm’s autobiography.
Never one to rest on her laurels when she could be back-flipping across the stage, Sporty Spice spent the pandemic writing the book, titled Who I Am: My Story. And now the world’s favourite Scouser has found time for a chat about her years with the band, along with her mental health battles, the real meaning of "zig-a-zig-ah", and the one moment she'd love to relive...
You're the final Spice Girl to write an autobiography – are you pleased to finally have your say?
All of us are so different – that’s the beauty of the Spice Girls. And I think, with any situation in anybody’s life, we all have a slightly different recollection of things. We definitely all have a different perspective on things. So, although this touches on the other girls’ and my experiences with them, it’s very much my story from my point of view. I’ve thought about being very sensitive to my compatriots, and not telling stories that are not mine to tell, but I think it's really nice to have a little taste of the "behind the scenes" of the really iconic moments, like the BRITs in 1997, for the Olympics in 2012. Those are some of the really joyous moments in the book, but of course, it's my life, so it's a journey. There's lots of highs, but also some lows.
Do you think there’s anything in the book that will surprise fans?
I think they will probably be surprised at how dark some of the times got. I’ve always been very open and vocal about my issues with eating disorders and mental health. But I don’t think, until you really put your feelings on the page, people can fully get an idea of what you went through.
You say you were the cleanest Spice when you all lived together in the early days. Can you tell us who was the grubbiest?
I’m not gonna throw any of the girls under the bus, but I think it’s fair to say – and she wouldn’t mind – Mel B, like her personality, as we all know, can be chaos. There would be times when things were all over the shop. But then every once in a while, she’d just have this tidying spree. And that is very much like her personality – she’s a million miles an hour, but every now and again, it’s like, “Right, order.” And she gets everything cleaned up.
Do you still recognise traits in the other girls that you remember from being in your early twenties?
A hundred per cent. We actually laugh at ourselves and at each other. When we were rehearsing for the tour in 2019, there were just moments when – whether it’s our behaviour, or what we were wearing – when we went, “We’re just d-ckheads.” Because Mel B will be in leopard print, and I’ll be in me trackies. Even just the way we behave – we are caricatures of our nicknames – there’s no getting away from it. If anyone ever doubted it or felt that it was a marketing idea, if you spent any time with us, you’d be like, “No, they literally are what they say on the tin.”
You mention in the book that there were power imbalances, and with hindsight you would have done things differently. What would you have changed?
In all areas of my life, I wish I’d been more vocal. It’s really important to be strong, follow your instincts, and speak out. I think people are doing that more now – I think we live in a society where things are changing, and my daughter’s generation are definitely more outspoken [she’s mum to 13-year-old Scarlet]. That’s where I have the most regrets.
You talk in the book about feeling silenced within the band. Did it make you frustrated when one of the others would say something daft in an interview?
Even now this happens! Often, if one Spice Girl does or says something, it reflects on all of us, which is ridiculous, because the band is about individuality. We're all different, we have different personalities, and different beliefs in certain areas. There's a lot we share, obviously. The band is about inclusivity, and we have very strong feelings towards, for instance, the LGBTQ+ community, of which we are allies, and obviously fighting for girls’ equality. It was wonderful to be at the Euros final with Geri – you know, really supporting women. So, yeah, there are certain things where we do really share the same beliefs. But then there are other things where we have very different beliefs. I think it’s really bizarre to think we all think the same thing about everything. You know, we’re very different people.
How did it feel to relive some of your darker moments – was it nerve-wracking or cathartic to write about them?
In all honesty, I think a bit of both. It’s been hard to relive them. This was really one of the driving forces of writing the book, because obviously, my experiences of being a Spice Girl and meeting royalty and dignitaries, that isn’t something that everybody can identify with. But some of the issues that I’ve dealt with, sadly, lots of people do deal with. So, it was important for me to try and express that in a way that people could identify with and hopefully be helped by.
You finally answer the great Spice Girl question: the meaning of zig-a-zig-ah [having sex]! Are you going to get in trouble?
I think I might! I’m a little bit nervous about that revelation. It was always a bit of fun, as Wannabe is as a track. It was our introduction to the world and expressing who we were as a band.
Tell us about the voicemail that the Spice Girls left for Seal?
We truly are the most ridiculous people on the planet. Any opportunity, we would do something silly. We’d sneakily found Seal’s number and we called him and made seal noises on his answer phone. I don’t know what we would have done if he’d answered, but we were just young and silly. Luckily, Seal has long since forgiven us.
Did he know it was you, or did you confess?
We confessed a couple of years later. We met him in 1998 in LA, and we confessed and apologised and he was very gracious.
What was touring in 2019 like compared to the 1990s? It looked like you had a blast...
It was wonderful, because it gave us the opportunity to just really appreciate it. I think in the ’90s, we were under so much pressure and we were so exhausted, because it had just been non-stop for almost a couple of years until we got on tour. But then in 2019, we came back and we were playing bigger venues than we played back then. It made everything feel more real. You can look at the statistics, and we could reminisce and look back, but when you see 70,000 people losing their sh-t every night at the gigs over 20 years later, it’s just like, “Wow, we really did affect so many people in such a positive way.” That was a real affirmation for us all.
What’s it been like working with LGBTQ+ collective and club night Sink The Pink?
We found out quite quickly that we weren’t just a band for girls. We had so many young girls as fans, but the LGBTQ+ community have been huge supporters, too. This is a community that’s continuing to evolve, and we’re having more and more understanding of people, and just how individual everybody is, so [working with Sink The Pink] was an insight for me to understand parts of the community that I’ve never experienced before. That was very, very special. And it was wonderful to find further acceptance in myself about who I am and all
the aspects of me.
Sink The Pink gave you the drag king name “Jim Bunny”. Did this help you explore different parts of yourself?
Sometimes, I laugh at myself, because I’m literally like a teenage boy –I want to get on a bike and go out and graze my knees. And that is a part of me, but then also, I trained in classical ballet and there’s a very graceful and feminine side of me. What I love about our culture now, and learning so much more about gender fluidity, is that we’re all so many things, because we have male and female within us. That’s just the way humans are built. I just think we need to embrace all of those things about ourselves.
If you could relive one moment from your career, what would it be?
The one that jumps out immediately is London 2012. I think because, obviously, it was the five of us. It was the last time it was all five. And being Sporty, of course, I love the Olympics, and having the Olympics in London. It was such a happy time in the city.
You appeared at Glastonbury this year DJing and during Blossoms’ set. When are the Spice Girls going to play it?
You know what? It’s something we talk about – we’d love to do it. We’ve never been approached. [Organisers] Emily or Michael Eavis have never popped the big question. When I was there this year, I was manifesting us doing it.
Who I Am: My Story by Melanie C (Welbeck, £20) is published on 15 September