Melanie Janine "Mel B" Brown (born
29 May 1975) is an English pop singer and songwriter turned actress and
television personality best known as one of the members of the girl group
the Spice Girls, the most successful female group of all time. She was
given the nickname "Scary Spice" by the British media because of her
outrageous, "in-your-face" attitude, 'loud' Leeds accent, throaty laugh
and manner of dress.
Brown was born in Harehills, and grew up in Burley, Leeds, West Yorkshire.
She is the daughter of a White mother and a Black father. She has a
younger sister named Danielle who is an actress. She studied performing
arts at Intake High School, in Leeds, before entering the entertainment
industry. For a time she worked as a dancer in the holiday resort,
After seeing an advertisement for an audition in a newspaper, Brown
started her music career in a band known as Touch. The group left the
original management team and eventually teamed up with music manager Simon
Fuller. In this pairing, she and the other girls became known as the Spice
Girls. After the group achieved worldwide success, she embarked on a solo
music career in 1998. Her first solo album, Hot, produced by Virgin
Records, was a moderate success, including a number one hit. However, it
did not sell or chart very well. In 2005, she released a second solo album
which did not attract much attention.
In 1996 Brown, along with Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton,
and Victoria Beckham (at that time Victoria Adams), shot to fame as a
member of the Spice Girls with the release of "Wannabe". The debut album,
Spice, shot to number one all over the globe, including the U.S.. Mel B
was called Scary Spice because of her animal print clothing, big hair,
loud Leeds accent, throaty laugh, and aggressive attitude. The Spice Girls
were popular in the late 1990s, selling over thirty-five million albums in
just two years. They went on to become one of the best-selling girl groups
of all time, selling more than fifty-five million records worldwide. They
had nine UK number-one singles and two number-one albums. After a third
album release, Forever (UK number-two), the members went their separate
ways, and Brown developed a solo career.
Solo Artist As a solo artist Melanie B has charted up five UK Top 20
singles, including two Top 5 hits and a number 1 hit. She has sold over
half a million records.
At the height of the Spice Girls' success, Brown was invited to work with
Missy Elliott on the single "I Want You Back", a song for the soundtrack
of the film Why Do Fools Fall in Love. It was recorded in just one
afternoon, due to Brown's busy Spice Girls schedule. The video featured
Brown's then husband Jimmy Gulzar, who appeared chained and submissive to
his wife. Upon its British release in September 1998, I Want You Back sold
80,000 copies in its first week alone, giving Brown her first and only
solo #1 in her home country. This was confirmed on the day that the Spice
Girls played their last world tour concert at Wembley Stadium in front of
52,000 fans. Ultimately the single sold 218,000 copies and became the 82nd
Bestselling British Single of 1998.
At the suggestion of her then-husband Jimmy Gulzar, Brown covered Cameo's
1986 hit Word Up as her next solo release. The track was notable for being
produced by Timbaland. The track was already released on the soundtrack to
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. This resulted in its flopping in
the UK (peaking at #14), making it the lowest charting Spice Girls related
single of the 90s. The European video was a surreal animation, directed by
Jimmy. A further video was shot which featured the mini me character from
Austin Powers. The track was not included on Brown's UK version of her
debut solo album, and speaking at the time of her album release she stated
that she "didn't really like 'Word Up'".
Following the disappointing performance of Word Up , Brown stopped
releasing records for a while, but worked quietly on tracks for her debut
solo album and the third Spice Girls album. Turning to television work,
she hosted Pure Naughty, a weekly BBC2 magazine show focusing on black
music. She also hosted the MOBO Awards on two occasions, in 1998 with Bill
Bellamy and in 1999 with Wyclef Jean, and took part in a BBC funded short
film entitled Fish.
As a way of dealing with the problems of her marriage, Brown continued
working on her debut solo album. She worked with producers such as Sisqo,
Teddy Riley, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson, Prince), with
whom she was also working on the Spice Girls' third album, Forever.
In September 2000, she said that she heard the first single release from
the album, "Tell Me". The track debuted at #4 in the UK charts with about
40,000 copies sold in its first week. It finally sold approximately
100,000 copies, making it the 158th "best seller" of 2000. The album, Hot,
was released one month later on 3 October, was not a success and garnered
mediocre reviews. It sold a disappointing 7,419 copies in its first week
and charted at a weak #28, before quickly falling out of the charts.
Following the release of "Feels So Good", rumours began that if her next
single flopped she would be dropped by her record company, Virgin Records.
In May, Brown performed a small set at the London G-A-Y Astoria club, her
only solo gig until 2004. A source said her introduction was too long,
which prompted cries of "get on with it!" from the G-A-Y patrons. A third
single was released in June 2001, "Lullaby", a pop number dedicated to her
daughter. It was accompanied by a very simple video shot in Morocco and
featured Brown with Phoenix Chi. The media criticised Brown for using her
child in the music video and single artwork, labelling her Desperate Spice
and insinuating that she was exploiting her child as a marketing tool. The
single entered and peaked at a disappointing #13, and Virgin duly dumped
Brown from their label.
In April 2004, Brown was approached to take part in the musical Rent. She
played the role of Mimi Marquez and achieved positive reviews, but not
from the show's fanbase. A few weeks after Brown finished her Rent stint,
she played her second and last solo gig to date in a New York club,
performing some songs from the musical and showcasing some new material
she had written. As the songs received positive feedback, Brown decided to
release them a year later through an independent label, Amber Café.
The only single from the album, "Today", saw a UK release in June 2005.
Brown had stated it was just a gift to her fans, and minus a few small
appearances no promotion was made. "Today" entered the singles chart at
#41, selling around 1,000 copies in its first week.
The album, LA State Of Mind, was released on 27 June 2005 in two formats:
as a regular CD and as a Limited Edition with a 30 minute DVD documentary
detailing Brown's life in LA. The album fared even worse than its lead
single, selling just 670 copies in its first week and charting at #453
Rumours of a second single were fuelled by "Beautiful Girl" bouncing
around on the UK Singles Release Schedule for a couple of months.
Allegedly a video was made, but due to the poor sales of both the previous
single and the album, this release never materialised. Brown was not
dropped from Amber Café; both parties decided to amicably part ways.
Brown revealed in June 2008 that she was busy recording tracks for a new
album she expects to have ready for release late 2008. "It's an R&B-pop
kind of thing, a cross between early Pink and Destiny's Child. Urban pop.
That's what I do best, where I come from, what people know me for, I've
recorded four songs so far with some really great people," she says. One
of the producers behind the album is Rodney Jerkins, aka Darkchild, who
previously worked with Brown on the Spice Girls' final studio album,
Forever, in 2000, as well as on Melanie's first solo album, Hot in 2001.
Scott Storch revealed they are currently working on Brown’s new album
together and tracks are "MEL-ody", "Sex", "B*stard Is A Too Good A Word
For You". Brown revealed in June 2008 that she had completed ten tracks
and will be working with Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim. In November 2008, it
was revealed that Brown would be scheduled to make an appearance on Missy
Elliott's "Milk & Cookies", from the rapper's seventh album. Brown made a
brief appearance on British morning show GMTV and announced that she would
be releasing a fitness DVD, and then continued to say the new album is not
ready yet and said the expected arrival of the album would be in 2009. The
first single was rumored to be called "Whose Is It", and was expected to
have dropped in late 2008. The song "Whose Is It" was first demoed by the
American girl group Danity Kane for Tapemasters, Inc. After not making it
on their second studio album, Welcome to the Dollhouse (album), it was
re-recorded for Mel. She has since confirmed that "Whose Is It" will not
be on the album. Thus far no official release date has been set for the
album, no official announcement for the album has been made nor official
confirmation from any record label has been made, she has said to fans on
her official website asking about the album that it is not finished yet
and she wants to finish her album before finding a label for it.
From Melanie B concentrated on a variety of non-singing projects. 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 which got
many good reviews. 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 has 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
In 2002, Brown released her hit autobiography, Catch A Fire, which reached
#7 in the official books chart and saw her touring the UK to promote it
with a run of book signings.
In her autobiography "Catch a Fire" Brown talked about how she loses
interest in her passions with time. She lost interest in dancing once she
found music (with the Spice Girls), and after her album failed to meet
expectations she found herself not interested in making another. With that
she turned to acting. Outside of SpiceWorld and 'Fish' Brown's first real
role came in the form of a British drama, Burn It. She appeared in a
horror film entitled, LD 50 Lethal Dose, which was released directly to
DVD in 2004. She acted in a long run of shows as part of the cast for the
Vagina Monologues which was a big success in the UK. She was in the movie
The Seat Filler, co-produced by Will Smith and starring Destiny's Child
star Kelly Rowland. Melanie also appeared as Mimi in the broadway
production of Rent.
In recent years, Brown has also been seen playing herself in episodes of
the comedy series Bo' Selecta and A Bear's Tail. In 2003, Brown made a
cameo appearance in the music video Bo Selecta's Proper Crimbo. In late
2007, she hosted a television special for Canada's MuchMoreMusic called
Your Fave Videos of the 80's.
Following an appearance in the short film Love Thy Neighbor, in September
2007, Brown joined the fifth season of the U.S. television hit Dancing
with the Stars with her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The pair was the
highest scoring couple during the season and made it to the finals. On 27
November 2007, in the season finale, although they had a perfect score on
their final dance, they took second place in the show.
In April 2009, Brown 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.
It is unknown when Brown will release her next album, some reports suggest
that Brown will be taking a break after the peepshow tour and possibly
release her new album after the hiatus.
On August 17 2009, Brown was announced as a visiting panellist on ITV1's
daily lunchtime show Loose Women, having been interviewed on the programme
in the past. She appeared for a week of shows during September 2009.
In September 2009, Brown took part in the filming of ITV1 series 'Seven
Days on the Breadline,' during which she spent part of a week staying with
a family living in poverty in Leeds, UK. In the programme she received
criticism from the family for not spending enough time with them and for
returning to the house in the early hours of the morning after nights out.
Subsequently Brown wrote an article in the tabloid paper The Mail on
Sunday, titled 'My Week in Apathy City.'
In January 2010, Brown was selected to replace Marissa Jaret Winokur as
the new host of Oxygen's weight loss show "Dance Your Ass Off".
Following her rise to fame, Brown had a long relationship with Icelandic
Fjolnir Thorgeirsson and a short relationship with Australian singer Peter
Andre in 1996.
While on the Spiceworld Tour, Brown began a romantic relationship with
Dutch dancer Jimmy Gulzar. They married in Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire,
on 13 September 1998; Mel B changed her stage name to 'Melanie G'. Their
only child together, daughter Phoenix Chi, was born in Westminster,
London, on 19 February 1999, this made her the first Spice Girl to become
a mother. Marital problems ensued, including allegations of abusive and
inattentive behaviour by Gulzar, and the marriage collapsed by the end of
1999. In 2000 Brown filed for divorce, which was finalized later that
year. The custody battle for her daughter was highly publicised; Brown won
custody, but had to pay a large alimony settlement of £1.25m to her
Brown's next serious relationship was with British actor Max Beesley, from
whom she split in 2002. In 2003 Brown moved to Los Angeles, California
with her daughter Phoenix stating that she planned to live there
permanently. In 2006, Brown became the subject of many tabloid stories, on
the basis of her relationship with Hollywood actor Eddie Murphy.
Unconfirmed stories quickly came that the pair had tattoos of each other's
names, were planning a wedding, and had introduced each other to their
respective families. On 17 October 2006 AOL claimed that Brown was in fact
having a baby by Murphy. Brown was quoted as saying: "We're in love and
get on really well. All the children have met and get on too - it's like a
great big happy family. I can't wait to spend Christmas with him and I
can't wait to have this baby."
In early December 2006, news came that Brown and Murphy were no longer a
couple, and Murphy told a journalist of the Dutch TV show RTL Boulevard at
the Dreamgirls film premiere that the parentage of Brown's unborn baby
could not be proven until a paternity test has been performed, stating: "I
don't know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test.
You shouldn't jump to conclusions, sir." Brown gave birth to Angel Iris
Murphy, on 3 April 2007, which coincidentally is also Murphy's birthday.
Murphy was listed as the father on the birth certificate despite the
ongoing paternity battle. On 22 June 2007, People magazine reported the
results of a court-ordered DNA test, confirming through Brown's publicist
that Murphy was indeed the father of Brown's baby. Murphy has since
admitted paternity. Brown indicated her feelings about Murphy, stating:
"The less said about the Beverly Hills Cock the better."
In February 2007, Brown began dating long term friend and movie producer
Stephen Belafonte. Brown and Belafonte quietly married on 6 June 2007, in
Las Vegas, Nevada. They renewed their vows in a marriage ceremony in Egypt
on 8 November 2008.