Melanie C: How motherhood saved me and why Rihanna is too sexual for her young fans
MANY will remember her as the trackie-wearing, muscled hard nut of the Spice Girls.
But 15 years on, glowing and beautiful, Melanie Chisholm is a totally different woman.
Crediting motherhood for “changing her life”, nowadays nothing riles the softly spoken star... except Rihanna.
Fiercely protective and in love with daughter Scarlet, she is vehemently opposed to the sexualization of children, and believes artists like Rihanna have a responsibility to censor any “inappropriate” performances.
Mel says: “It’s a very hot topic at the moment and is something we do have to talk about. People have to take some responsibility because we’ve got to a point where over-sexualisation of young children has gone too far.
“I think music is a big part of that. Women in music, very successful women, are extremely sexual and they have young fans. It is inappropriate.
“Rihanna has responsibility and although culture’s always changing, it’s changed too much. It needs to be dealt with. It’s reached saturation point, we owe it to our kids to protect them.
“Rihanna’s free to do as she pleases, of course, but I think her take on the criticism she’s had is interesting.
“I love Rihanna, I think she’s a f****** brilliant artist, with great songs, a great record and she looks fantastic... but she’s not a mum. Maybe if she becomes one she’ll feel different. I hope so anyway.”
It is a subject the Scouse singer feels passionately about, especially given her band were famously lambasted during their heyday... for wearing crop tops. She adds: “It’s a long time ago since the Spice Girls were first together and we were criticised for being sexual. Yes, we wore crop tops, I mean look how much has changed. But we always sat down as a group, be it in photoshoots, videos, interviews, and if somebody felt something was inappropriate for our young fans, we did something about it.
“And I think that’s something young people in the music industry today, like Rihanna, should do now.”
With a new single and album to promote, the Melanie C of 2011 is a markedly different prospect to the slightly self-conscious, hesitant young woman I first encountered five years ago. Exercise and weight-obsessed during the Brit pop years, she has since battled with both her weight and her confidence.
Today, she boasts a slim, enviably toned size eight figure and is, at 37, settled in her heavily tattooed skin.
Content with her long-term partner, property developer Thomas Starr, the couple celebrated the birth of their only daughter in February 2009.
A hands-on mum – “I had a little visitor in the middle of the night last night...” – Melanie has also thrown herself into work, determined to secure Scarlet’s future and make her proud.
Sipping a mineral water in her publicist’s North West London offices, she says with a smile: “Becoming a mum has changed me and my entire outlook. It’s actually made me more determined to succeed and make Scarlet proud.
“Of course it’s important I can provide for her but I grew up in a very different time and so financially, that’s never been as much of a motivation.
“She’s changed my life in so many ways, it’s so hard to express it. I feel so much more confident as a woman. I was lucky, I had a great life before. Sure, I’ve had tough times, personal problems, battles to overcome but I had a great relationship and career before. But when my little girl came along, the sunshine came out.
“Like all parents it’s such hard work. It’s a terrifying job. You’re always worrying about doing the right thing, and thinking people are laughing at you pushing the pram for the first time cos you’re doing it all wrong.
“It puts everything else in perspective, and there’s something incredibly liberating about joining this club.
“I met new mums, new friends, through NCT classes and it becomes something to identify with. You strike up conversations with people.
“Nothing prepares you for being a mum. Those first few months were really hard. Finding your feet, getting to know your child, coping with the lack of sleep... you simply go into survival mode. It’s exhausting but my daughter is the light of my life... it’s just so hard trying to express that verbally.”
After making a successful West End theatre debut in Blood Brothers – she received a Laurence Olivier nomination – Melanie has returned to the studio for the first time in four years, ahead of her new album, The Sea.
Released on her own label, Red Girl Records, she again credits motherhood for making this album her most “courageous” to date. A one-time fitness fanatic, she now trains three times a week and last month completed the VirginActive London Triathlon – coming first in her women’s group.
Fifteen years ago she suffered from anorexia, but nowadays is happy to eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Again, something she puts down to being a mum.
But with more and more children shunning family meals for lazy TV dinners, the singer is intent on creating a stable family life for her toddler.
Dating for nearly 10 years, Melanie has insisted previously she is reluctant to marry in case it “ruins” the trio’s happy set-up.
However, today she admits the couple, keen for more children, are considering marriage, although they’re in no rush to walk down the aisle.
Melanie says: “I did have problems with my eating but it’s something which is prevalent in our culture today... men, women and children, even. Because of these external pressures, it was important to me Scarlet had a healthy attitude to food.
“I felt that was my responsibility.
“We eat very healthily at home but we have lots of treats. We try to eat meals together as it’s important to provide structure in her life. At weekends we love taking her to restaurants and she’s pretty sophisticated. Scarlet loves noodles and pasta. She has sushi sometimes. She wants to try absolutely everything.
“Thomas and I have talked about marriage and it would be very cool to have Scarlet as a bridesmaid.
“But we don’t feel it’s something we need to do right now. Scarlet is actually going to be a flower girl next year at my sister’s wedding. We’d love more children.”
In contact with all the Spice Girls – she exchanged birthday messages with Geri Halliwell on her 39th over the weekend – Melanie was the last person to see Victoria Beckham before the birth of her daughter, Harper Seven. She says: “I was working in LA with Melanie B when Victoria was about to give birth.
“I went around to their house the night before and was drinking red wine while Victoria was being a very good pregnant lady and not drinking red wine. It was so lovely seeing her. They were just so excited about the prospect of having a little girl.”
Melanie is happy to consider a second band reunion if the quintet get asked to perform at next year’s Olympics – an idea which has been widely mooted. She says: “We’ve exchanged messages since the birth and Victoria sounds so happy.
“I think the Olympics is a brilliant idea and I’d love to do it although everyone always thinks I’m the one to put the kibosh on things. But will it happen? I don’t know.
“All I know is that I would never want to neglect being a good mum.” And with that, the star is beaming again. In fact, interviewing her, you get the impression Melanie is physically restraining herself from getting out the baby album during any lull in conversation.
Unconcerned by celebrity tittle-tattle, she admits to being behind on gossip but “just about OK with what’s happening in music”. Melanie, it is safe to assume, will not be pictured stumbling out of London’s Met bar any time soon. She says: “I haven’t been clubbing for a few years. Every morning I’m so excited getting up at 7am to see my little girl’s face and have a cuddle, before breakfast together.
“Everything changes when you’re a mum, everything. I find myself talking about the best nappies, the best CBeebies shows or the cutest kids’ clothes.
“Whenever I go to the pictures now it’s always to see an animated movie. My life has changed in every way and I wouldn’t change any of it.”