Black Text = 3am Girls
Blue Text = Melanie C
IT WAS an extraordinary interview even by our standards. There we were, innocently powdering our noses in the toilets backstage at Madonna's sell-out show, when we were accosted by a superstar in crisis. Spice Girl Mel C was ready to talk. And she wanted to talk to 3am.
The last time we met, she dismissed us with a snarl, bellowing: "You're
fucking sluts." This time, at the Brixton Academy in South London, it was very different. In
a remarkable 30-minute outpour, the troubled singer made her peace with us and spoke frankly about the demons which possess her glamorous life. She talked for the first time of her deep depression, her alleged pill-popping and the erratic behaviour which is worrying her friends and fans.
While other toilet-seeking celebs Sara Cox, Donna Air and Natalie Appleton
looked on, Mel, 26, was all smiles as she buried the hatchet. She grabbed us and declared: "Let's make peace, I don't want to be your enemy. Why don't we stop all this nonsense and just be friends?" She offered us her hand and we all shook on it. Then she stood with us by the wash-basins for 30 mesmerising minutes in which she talked from the heart as never before. She said:
"No one knows me at all, and everyone seems to have had their go at slagging me off. But no one knows what it is really like to be in my shoes. I have cried about the things people have said about me. I have been in tears when I've been called fat and a lesbian. It's hurtful, and no one but me really has a clue about my life. Like any woman, I'm not happy that I've put on a bit of weight, but no one has the right to criticise me so unpleasantly about it."
Mel has been suffering from depression since January and last month confessed to The Mirror she was on Prozac, the powerful anti-depressant drug. She said:
"Yes, I have been depressed and I want to stand up to everyone and say: 'I am suffering from depression but it's all right to be depressed.' I'm not trying to cover anything up about my life. I try to be as open as I can, because I do understand I am in a special position. But sometimes I think: 'Why do I have to tell everyone about who I'm going out with?' Can't I be left alone, at least sometimes?"
Mel has admitted she turned to Prozac to beat the deadly cycle of starving and binge-eating. She told us:
"I spent a long time trying to give myself self-esteem through dieting and keeping fit. There was no fat in my diet. And no alcohol. I didn't want to carry on like that. I wanted to come to terms with what I really am, not some image of what I think I ought to be. I know I've flown off the handle a few times lately, especially to you. But I'm getting it together. Things are going to be ok."
In May, Mel was cruelly nicknamed "Beefy Spice" after she was photographed on a Caribbean beach with her female personal assistant Ying Yau. The jibe tipped her over the edge.
"That just devastated me. I cried and cried. I knew I wasn't as slim as I used to be, but they didn't have to kick me when I was down."
Mel was even more upset when she was forced to deny that she was having a lesbian affair with Ying.
"I am not the first girl to go on holiday with a female friend. What did I do wrong?"
The Spice Girl arrived at Madonna's star-studded gig hand- in-hand with her 22-year-old musician chum Dan Williams, whose band Tomcat supported on her recent solo tour.
"He's a friend," she smiled. "It's early days and you can make of it what
you will. I just don't feel happy sharing my personal affairs with the world. But that doesn't mean I'm some sort of freak, does it?"
Wearing a black V-neck T-shirt, black rimmed glasses and baggy trousers, the star went on to discuss her future with the girl-power group that made her famous. Her on-screen slip on ITV's Frank Skinner Show two weeks ago appeared to
have sealed her fate as an ex-Spice Girl. She told Frank: "Actually, I've been luckier since I left... well, since I've been doing my own thing, I'm so glad you missed that one." Putting the record straight she told us:
"Everyone keeps saying I want to quit, and it's true I've had my problems about being a Spice Girl. But it's something I can handle. What I want to say is that Mel B, Emma, and Victoria are my very dear friends and I would never do anything to let them down. We've been through a lot together and people don't realise how close we are. I'm not walking out on the Spice Girls."
Nevertheless there IS Spice tension following the disastrous performance of the band's third album Forever, which flopped on both sides of the Atlantic. At the MTV Awards in Stockholm two weeks ago, Mel threw down her microphone and stormed off stage at rehearsals. It was an echo of her unprovoked rant at the 3am team as we arrived at London's Red Cube club for the Forever launch party. But Mel insisted that she has no plans to leave the group.
"I don't know why everyone says I'm about to leave the Spice Girls. We will have to see what the future brings. We are all friends and we are not about to walk out on each other."
At the Madonna gig, Mel chatted to showbiz pal Shaznay Lewis from All Saints and seemed genuinely happy in the company of her new man Dan. She said:
"I am getting over all this. I'm starting to feel much happier about my life. I never wanted people to think I don't appreciate the good fortune I've had. To many people, I'm sure my life seems terribly glamorous. But I suppose I am living proof that fame and wealth don't necessarily make you happy."
Liverpool-born Mel is working on her solo career and played to a packed crowd at London club G.A.Y. at the Astoria last weekend. She has often been hailed as the only Spice Girl who can really sing, and her energetic dance routines always left the others in the shade. Her debut album Northern Star has been a runaway success story. Sporty's disc, still in the top 40 almost a year after its release, has produced four top ten singles, including two number ones. Away from the constraints of teen-idol superstardom, Mel has revealed a distinctive personal style. Her first solo British concert last year featured a surprise rendition of the Sex Pistols punk rebel hit Anarchy In The UK. And Mel showed she was a grown-up by not being shy about swearing. She had the crowd in stitches with her introductions to her self-penned songs. She told us:
"I will be working a lot on my album next year and want to be left alone to get on with it. But it's like watching Madonna perform in London. If anyone dares to criticise her they should have seen her on stage. If anyone has a go at me about the way I look and about the way I behave, then they should see me on stage. If critics see me perform, they will see the real me. No one really knows me at all and no one has the right to criticise my private life. If you don't like my performance on stage, you have every right to criticise it. But I think I've surprised a few people, and I hope to carry on doing my
own thing." With a plaintive look, she added: "I just wish people would be nicer to me. I can't believe the amount of abuse I get. People seem to forget I'm only 25. I am just a young girl at the end of the day and I just want to get on with my music."