Back in the ’90s, Mel C was the Spice Girl who really defined Girl Power. She
was the ultra-confident chick, who bared her washboard stomach as she
back-flipped up the charts.
The poster girl for ladettes, she spurned the sequins and short skirts worn by
Posh, Scary, Baby and Ginger, and kicked ass as a new-wave feminista.
Even when the Spices split, she was the one who forged a successful solo
career, knocking out four albums and touring the world.
So when her band mates started matching and hatching, it wasn’t a total
surprise that Melanie Chisholm bucked the marriage and baby trend.
Granted, she’d found The One in the form of property developer Thomas Starr,
38, but even after the Spice Girls reunited and hit the road in 2007 with
all their kids in tow, she still resisted the urge to become a mum.
We last spoke to Melanie 14 months ago, when she insisted she wasn’t a bit
broody. Fast-forward to today, however, and boy, how life has changed.
Melanie (absolutely not Mel, insists her publicist) is now bursting with pride
over her eight-month-old daughter, Scarlet. Talk about a turnaround! So, we
ask, what changed?
“The time had never felt right before because work and my recording career
always took priority,” she explains. “I was enjoying my life and wanted to
wait for the right moment.”
The moment happened last year. Baby Scarlet arrived safely this February and
her mum is absolutely smitten. When we ask about her daughter, Melanie’s
face breaks into a grin.
“I’m constantly astounded by her,” she says. “I could stare at her for hours.
She fascinates me. I find it incredible to think that she’s part of me and
Tom. It’s impossible to explain how life-changing motherhood is.”
Not only has Melanie, 35, embraced her new life wholeheartedly, taking eight
months off work to nurture her family, she admits she’s finally conquered
the body battles that have shaped much of her life.
“I feel completely different about my body now,” she admits. “I’d had a
healthier attitude towards food for a long time, but pregnancy eradicated
any feeling that I could go down that rocky road again.”
The difficulties Melanie endured are well documented. Competitive eating was
rife among the Spices and at the height of her fame, Melanie was battling a
series of self-destructive eating disorders. There was a time when she ran
five miles a day and survived on a fistful of salad.
When the band split in 2000, Melanie sought solace in food, comfort eating her
way from a size 8 to a 14.
Being branded ‘Sumo Spice’ left her so low, she sunk into a pit of depression,
which prompted years of therapy and antidepressants.
Acutely aware of her history, Melanie consciously battled her body issues
during her pregnancy.
“At the end of the day the most important thing is the health of your child,”
“I didn’t binge, but instead of saying: ‘I better not have pudding’, I was
like: ‘Yeah, bring it on!’ I let go with food more than I ever had before.”
And unlike many of her fellow celebs, Melanie was more relaxed about dropping
the pounds after the birth. Her rules were simple: no pressure and eat what
“At the start I was eating cake constantly,” she laughs.
“I figured that, having had a baby, I’d done the most amazing thing in the
world so I was allowed.”
Melanie recoils at the thought of embarking on a Mel B-style regime of low
carbs and rigorous daily workouts to get back her famously trim tum. That’s
not her style these days. In fact, she’s vehemently against new mums feeling
forced to lose weight.
“The pressure on women is disgusting,” she says, shaking her head. “It’s hard.
You’re exhausted and you have enough going on without having to think about
how you look.”
Melanie – who is still breastfeeding – credits running around after Scarlet
for helping her drop some of the 31/2st she gained during the pregnancy.
Now a healthy size 12, Melanie returned to the gym last month to help her lose
another dress size and get back to her pre-baby weight. She has a personal
training session once a week and runs for 20 minutes two or three times a
Conscious she’s not got the gym-honed, hard body she had before, Melanie
arrives at our shoot clearly nervous.
“I haven’t felt this self-conscious in a long while,” she admits as she pulls
on a pair of leggings.
She looks in good shape, which surprises us considering her team advised us to
avoid styling her in tight trousers and anything too revealing. She looks
curvy, natural, healthy and sexy. Her skin is flawless and fresh and she’s
prettier in the flesh than in the pictures we’ve seen over the years.
“In my every day life I don’t even think about what I look like,” she admits.
“Although I don’t weigh myself, I can feel that a lot of my baby weight has
come off. But now I’m here I’m thinking about the wobbly bits I never had
Ask her about where the baby weight’s gone and what she dislikes most about
her new mum figure, and Melanie seems unhappy about drawing our attention to
“My tummy isn’t what it was and I’m not sure about my legs. I did think about
trying to lose a few pounds before this shoot, then I thought: ‘Nah, I can’t
Melanie’s nonchalance is a true testament to how far she’s come, although she
still hasn’t mastered the art of accepting a valid compliment. When the
photographer admires her statuesque legs she sheepishly says: “It’s just the
high heels”. Our biker-chick shoot marks the end of her maternity leave –
tomorrow she starts a six-month run in the musical Blood Brothers in
London’s West End. It’s her theatrical debut and she’ll be playing the
iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, the brothers’ mum.
As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also prepping for Women Of Rock, a charity
concert taking place next month. This sudden burst of work commitments
triggered the need for Melanie to reluctantly hire a nanny.
“Leaving Scarlet with someone else is really hard, but I’m working a lot and
so is her daddy,” she explains.
This is the first time Melanie will be without her daughter since she was
“I already really miss Scarlet, but looking after a baby is the hardest job in
the world. Doing the day job is a bit of a rest!” she laughs.
“I thought that I’d worked hard before – I lived on so little sleep in the
Spice Girls – but nothing could have prepared me for being a new mum. It
totally wiped me out.
“It was overwhelming at times,” she admits. “When the baby won’t sleep and
it’s 4am and you’re beyond exhausted, it can be lonely.”
Melanie pauses, her big brown eyes suddenly intense. “Sometimes you feel like
the worst mum in the world because you think that everyone else is doing
better. I can see how easy it would be to flip into post-natal depression.”
With her past experience of depression, Melanie worried she’d fall victim to
the baby blues. To guard against it while home alone with her newborn, she
made an early decision to accept all the help she could get from friends and
family. Her mum Joan stayed with her in Hampstead, north London, for the
first couple of weeks and the other Spices pitched in too.
“The first time Emma visited, I’d had a bad day. I was tired, Scarlet was
crying and everything felt terrible,” Melanie says.
“I opened the door and burst into tears. Emma and her partner Jade took
Scarlet out and gave me the little break I needed to catch up on sleep. She
rescued me that day.”
Melanie’s own baby journey began at the £9,000-a-birth Portland Hospital in
London. Because Scarlet had initially failed to engage and then became
stressed during labour, Melanie’s consultant insisted she have an emergency
“I didn’t want one,” says Melanie. “People can be snobby about Caesareans but
let me tell you, recovery is horrible. Afterwards I couldn’t even pick
“The positive aspect was that Tom changed her first nappy and bathed her,
which helped him bond with her.”
However, Melanie admits that having Scarlet has taken its toll on her
relationship with Tom, who she met in 2002.
“It can be a strain,” she admits. “It can be hard for the dad because they’re
not number one any more, but we knew that before we had Scarlet. We haven’t
had a chance to be just ‘us’ since we had her, but we’ve got through it
because we’ve always been very open about it.”
For many unmarried couples, a new baby is often the catalyst to getting
So, Melanie, do we hear the chime of wedding bells? She shakes her head with
another of her disarming smiles.
“Marriage has never been something I’ve thought about,” she admits. “We’re
happy together, we have a child and a home, and that’s the biggest
commitment you can make. I hope we’ll be together forever.”
She will, of course, always share a deep bond with the Spice Girls. And as
more rumours surface that the band will get back together again, Melanie
confirms new projects are in the pipeline.
SO MELANIE, HAVE YOU EVER
Lied about your alcohol consumption to your GP? I have in the past
although I don’t drink much any more.
Pretended to be a lesbian to put off a guy? I don’t need to pretend –
everyone thinks I’m a lesbian anyway!
Slapped someone’s cheek in anger? Me and Mel B would often have
Said ‘I love you’ but not meant it? No, I love lots of
Used your celeb status to get a free outfit or meal? I sometimes use it
to get a table – I tell them Victoria is coming!
HAIR: ROSS WILLIAMS MAKE-UP: CAROLINE
FRAZER USING SIMPLE SKINCARE STYLING: LYNNE MCKENNA STYLIST’S ASSISTANT:
FAYE SMITH MELANIE WEARS: JACKET, NEW LOOK; TOP, ASOS; LEGGINGS AND
NECKLACES, ALL TOPSHOP; SHOES, ASOS BLACK PHOTOGRAPHY: ALPHA, LONDON MEDIA,
STARSTOCK, CAMERA PRESS MELANIE WEARS: (P7) JACKET, MISS SELFRIDGE; T-SHIRT,
TRUFFLESHUFFLE.COM; GLOVES, CUBE (THIS PAGE) JACKET, AS BEFORE; BODY, H&M;
LEGGINGS, RIVER ISLAND; JEWELLERY, GALIBABRDY.CO.UK; GLOVES, AS BEFORE;
SHOES, TOPSHOP BOUTIQUE