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Immortalized forever as "Scary Spice" or "Mel B," Melanie Brown was one of the founding members of the Spice Girls, the world's most successful girl group of all time. Championing "Girl Power" and British pride, the Spice Girls scored a No. 1 hit with "Wannabe" on both sides of the pond, as well as the U.K. No. 1 hits "Say You'll Be There," "2 Become 1," and "Spice Up Your Life," among others. One of the most iconic pop cultural phenomenons of the 1990s, the Spice Girls conquered the world with an unprecedented avalanche of endorsements, albums like 1996's Spice and 1997's Spiceworld, and even scored a hit movie, "Spice World" (1997). After parting ways, the group members attempted solo careers, with Brown scoring a U.K. No. 1 collaboration with Missy Elliott with "I Want You Back" and releasing the 2000 album Hot and 2005 follow-up L.A. State of Mind. She had more success as a TV host, judge and reality show star, with gigs on the Aussie edition of "The X Factor" (Network Ten, 2005; Seven Network, 2010- ), "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 2006- ), and a second place run on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), as well as reuniting with her fellow Spices for a blockbuster reunion world tour which...
Immortalized forever as "Scary Spice" or "Mel B," Melanie Brown was one of the founding members of the Spice Girls, the world's most successful girl group of all time. Championing "Girl Power" and British pride, the Spice Girls scored a No. 1 hit with "Wannabe" on both sides of the pond, as well as the U.K. No. 1 hits "Say You'll Be There," "2 Become 1," and "Spice Up Your Life," among others. One of the most iconic pop cultural phenomenons of the 1990s, the Spice Girls conquered the world with an unprecedented avalanche of endorsements, albums like 1996's Spice and 1997's Spiceworld, and even scored a hit movie, "Spice World" (1997). After parting ways, the group members attempted solo careers, with Brown scoring a U.K. No. 1 collaboration with Missy Elliott with "I Want You Back" and releasing the 2000 album Hot and 2005 follow-up L.A. State of Mind. She had more success as a TV host, judge and reality show star, with gigs on the Aussie edition of "The X Factor" (Network Ten, 2005; Seven Network, 2010- ), "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 2006- ), and a second place run on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), as well as reuniting with her fellow Spices for a blockbuster reunion world tour which reaffirmed the band's pop cultural immortality. As a fierce, outspoken Spice Girl and talented solo star, Melanie Brown became a role model and idol to countless fans around the world.
Born May 29, 1975 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, Melanie Janine Brown was the daughter of a black Caribbean father and an English mother. Training as a singer and dancer throughout her youth, Brown dreamed of a career in the entertainment industry and started hitting the audition circuit in 1992. The following year, she landed the opportunity of a lifetime when she answered an ad in The Stage that read, "WANTED: R.U. 18023 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated? Heart Management Ltd. are a widely successful music industry management consortium currently forming a choreographed, singing/dancing, all-female pop act for a recording deal. Open audition. Please bring sheet music or backing cassette." As one of 400 eager young women who auditioned, Brown was given one minute to sing and dance for the management company, and her fiery personality, charming self-confidence and heartfelt rendition of Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" earned her a callback. Brown nailed her second audition and, along with Victoria Adams, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell and Michelle Stephenson, became the founding members of the new group Touch.
Moving into a house together and subsisting off of the most basic of living expenses, the five women began an arduous training schedule that included multiple daily singing and dancing lessons as well as media training. Although the intensity of their regimen helped bring the women closer, it soon became obvious that Stephenson was a weak link, and she was dismissed from the band and replaced by Emma Bunton, who proved a natural fit. Although originally formed with mercenary motives, the band proved to have a one-of-a-kind chemistry and drive that would help them become music industry icons as well as assuring them an amount of control unthinkable to many other similarly-created pop entities. Changing their name to "Spice," the women began performing in showcases and writing songs, but soon butted heads with their managers over the direction of the band. Led largely by Brown and Halliwell, the group's strongest and most aggressive personalities, Spice left their management and sought out new representation on their own, eventually impressing power manager Simon Fuller with their talent, verve and charm.
Signed by Fuller to his 19 Management, the women underwent another professional metamorphosis when, upon realizing that "Spice" was already in use by a U.S. rapper, they dubbed themselves the "Spice Girls" and signed with Virgin Records. Quickly charming the press with the overwhelming force of their personalities, charisma and effervescent good cheer, the Spice Girls gained valuable touring experience during the all-important process of writing and recording their debut album. Although many industry experts augured success for the group, no one could have predicted just how massive the Spice quake that would rock the world would be. The band burst into the public's consciousness in 1996 with their debut single, "Wannabe," a sing-a-long tribute to female friendship that topped charts all over the world. Serving as the ultimate introduction to the Spice Girls, "Wannabe" was also powered by a charming video that featured the band at their mischievous best. Helping to fuel the SpiceMania was a feature in Top of the Pops magazine, which gave each of the band members nicknames: Posh (Adams), Baby (Bunton), Sporty (Chisholm), Ginger (Halliwell) and Scary (Brown), the latter earning the sobriquet for her fearless, dominating demeanor. The group's Melanies, Brown and Chisholm, were also well known by their nicknames of "Mel B" and "Mel C" as well.
After the glorious reign of "Wannabe," which hit No. 1 in 31 countries including the United States, the Spices scored another massive U.K. No. 1 with their follow-up, "Say You'll Be There," which in turn helped pave the way for their global blockbuster debut album, Spice, which was the biggest album of 1996 in the U.K. and of 1997 in the U.S., eventually selling more than 23 million copies worldwide. Earning an unprecedented amount of endorsements, the Spice Girls quickly achieved not just pop cultural ubiquity, but also an amazing degree of power pushing their updated brand of feminism, embodied in their frequently declared motto of "Girl Power!" In fact, for many cultural critics, despite the enormous musical milestones set by the Spice Girls, the greatest legacy of the band was their ability to steadfastly broadcast an aggressively pro-female message to all corners of the globe and to help start serious conversations about the face and future of modern feminism, despite their cartoonish and over-the-top antics. The group went on to score U.K. No. 1 hits with "2 Become 1" and "Who Do You Think You Are"/"Mama" and made headlines around the world for their performance at the 1997 Brit Awards, which featured Halliwell in a Union Jack dress that would later become the most expensive pop star memorabilia item ever auctioned off. Conquering the U.S. charts, the Spice Girls helped usher in a new era of pop music, reclaiming radio from grunge and harder rock, and their universal popularity helped their debut film "Spice World" (1997) become a global blockbuster, despite negative reviews and a Worst Actress Razzie shared by all five members.
Although they set the media world afire with the news that they were dropping Simon Fuller and managing themselves from that point on, the Spice Girls saw their chart success continue. The accompanying album, 1997's Spiceworld, became another worldwide sensation, hitting No. 1 in the U.K. and launching the chart-topping singles "Spice Up Your Life," "Too Much" and "Viva Forever," as well as the No. 2 hit "Stop." The media firestorm that Fuller's departure had caused, however, was nothing compared to what happened when rumblings began that Halliwell was potentially leaving the band; when it was announced that she was, in fact, leaving, shares in the record label itself dropped. With Halliwell out of the picture, Brown became the band's leader, although news that she and Adams had both become pregnant cast some doubt on the viability of the Spice Girls continuing. Nevertheless, they completed their successful world tour, with Adams marrying soccer superstar David Beckham and Brown marrying dancer Jimmy Gulzar, briefly going by "Mel G." The year 1998 ended on a high note for the Spices; their aptly named tribute to Halliwell, "Goodbye," went to No. 1, giving them their third consecutive U.K. Christmas single.
Earning Lifetime Achievement honors from the Brit Awards, the Spice Girls scored another No. 1 with "Holler"/"Let Love Lead the Way," which, like "Goodbye," was off their post-Halliwell album, 2000's Forever. The album, however, sold less than its predecessors, and the Spice Girls made the mutual decision to put their band on hold and to follow in Halliwell's footsteps by launching solo careers. Brown burst out of the gate by scoring the first solo No. 1 of the group with her Missy Elliott collaboration "I Want You Back," but her subsequent solo album, 2000's Hot, failed to live up to its title, although she did place a cover of Cameo's "Word Up!" on the soundtrack to "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). Despite her Spice success, Brown had difficulty building a solo career and after a poorly received indie follow-up, 2005's L.A State of Mind, turned her focus to work as a TV host and actress with roles in the stage musical "Rent" and in the screen projects "Burn It" (BBC, 2003), and "The Seat Filler" (2004), as well as publishing her autobiography in 2002, Catch a Fire. She made some scandalous headlines when, six years after her divorce from Gulzar, she gave birth to her second child, which she stated was Eddie Murphy's, a claim that was denied by the comic but proven true after a paternity test.
In 2007, each member of the Spice Girls, including Halliwell, had a career-reviving burst of energy when they reunited as a band under the management of Simon Fuller and launched a massively successful greatest hits set and reunion tour that took them around the world and helped cement their status as enduring pop cultural icons, culminating in their own documentary, "Spice Girls: Giving You Everything" (2007). With her career reignited, Brown competed on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), coming in second place, and booked a slew of hosting gigs, including "Entertainment Tonight" (syndicated, 1981- ), the Australian version of "The X Factor" (Network Ten, 2005; Seven Network, 2010- ), "Dance Your Ass Off" (Oxygen, 2009-2010), as well as starring in her own reality projects, including "Mel B: It's a Scary World" (Style, 2010). In the summer of 2012, the Spice Girls reunited once more to perform onstage during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, held in London. Although Brown and company did not appear in it, West End audiences also had the opportunity to see the Jennifer Saunders-penned Spice Girls jukebox musical, "Viva Forever!" although reviews were less than kind. In early 2013, Brown, along with supermodel Heidi Klum, was named one of two new judges to join the "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 2006- ) panel alongside Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.
By Jonathan Riggs
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