You know you've got it made when you get your own reality TV show. When you have had your own reality TV show, participated in several other reality TV shows, made a grand total of four documentaries, and have an autobiography under your belt that probably doubles as a skirt, you’re Melanie Brown, a.k.a. Scary Spice. As part of the highest-selling, most questionably fashionablegirl group in history, you don’t slack off even when your career as you know it ends, as the Spice Girls' did after releasing the underwhelming Forever in 2000. After that, Mel B simply applied her workhorse ethic elsewhere.
Since the Spices disbanded over a decade ago—except for a couple of reunion tours and their extremely sequined, multi-black-cab performance at the Olympics—Brown has spiced up her life(go ahead and watch that video again if you know what’s good for you) with a pretty varied career. So far, she has put out two solo albums in addition to appearing in a Will Smith-produced moviewith Kelly Rowland (!), playing Mimi in Rent, and doing a stint with The Vagina Monologues, among other things. To wit, girl’s been keeping busy.
Most recently, she’s served as a judge on The X Factor in the U.K. and Australia, Dancing With the Stars, and America’s Got Talent, the new season of which premieres on June 4. After traveling from San Antonio to New York to New Orleans, Mel B called me from the last day of auditions in Chicago. She only had a 15-minute break, but between getting cut off and an incessant car alarm on my end we managed to talk about clogging, dance-offs with her kids, Margaret Thatcher, and that interview with Prince.
Do you see anyone get onstage at America’s Got Talent who reminds you of when you were going to auditions? Does anyone come close to the Spice Girls' talent?
My auditions were in a room full of people. These people on stage are auditioning in front of six thousand people. It’s definitely a much bigger scale, but I can sympathize with the nerves and how much you want to get through. We’ve seen some amazing acts, from snakes to danger acts to magicians to a man swallowing swords to traditional dance, Chinese acts. I’m worried we’ve found half a dozen people that deserve to win this million-dollar prize.
You signed a deal with EMI back in the spring of 2012 to release an album late last year. Is that record still in the works?
What happened is I was living in Australia and we did sign to EMI, but after a few months of going backwards and forwards and realizing that I’m probably not going to be coming back to Australia, I decided to have a more international base. Right now, I'm working with my music and hopefully I'll be bringing some stuff out soon. But there’s no point in talking about anything until I’ve actually got the materials. Otherwise it’s just me talking about thin air.
You’ve had a reality TV show, made several documentaries, and you’ve written an autobiography. Do you think that need to chronicle your life comes from being a part of the Spice Girls, and being on camera and at the center of attention, for so many years?
My life is kind of documented anyway. As soon as I walk out my door there's a camera in my face, whether it be TMZ or paparazzi. If people are going to be interested, you may as well show them the real story. My kids were cool with it.
In Viva Forever!, Geri [Halliwell] said her kids don’t really know her as a Spice Girl. Do you feel like your time with the Spice Girls is part of this secret life that your kids don’t know about?
I have a fourteen-year-old, so she's been on tour with us and been around all of the girls. My kids ask me to play my music and to watch me on YouTube—not all the time, but every now and again my six-year-old will ask me and my one-year-old will be standing there watching. Even when we were singing in the Olympics, my kids came along and watched me rehearse. I think it's important for kids to learn that you need to go out and earn money and enjoy what you do.
Have your kids shown any interest in following your career as a singer and a dancer?
I mean, what kid doesn't like to dance? We’ll have dance-offs in the house every night before bed just to get their energy out. But my kids are very much into school, their friends, sports. It could all change in six months, who knows.
Of all the casts you’ve been a part of—Rent, AGT, The X Factor, The Vagina Monologues—what’s been your favorite to work with?
I enjoyed performing on Broadway or in the theater in London because you get a different audience every day, but it's scripted so there isn't much room for improvisation; being onstage with the Spice Girls, we never knew what we were going to say from one song to the next. And judging-- I've been judged my whole life. I've judged people my whole life. It's nice to be part of a family variety show, the only variety show that's left. And X Factor is obviously amazing because you find genuine singers that have come from nowhere. It's like, “Where have you been hiding?”
I recently watched Part 2 of your interview with Prince. How did you get to talk to him?
He just called me up and asked me. I was like, “Is this a joke? He must know I'm a big, huge Prince fan." And he said, “No. I haven't been interviewed in years and I want you to interview me. I don't want a boring journalist. I want someone who is entertaining people like I do.” So he flew me out to Minneapolis and I stayed there for three or four days.
Were you nervous?
I don't really get nervous. I get very, very excited. I get almost overwhelmed with, oh my god and what is this going to be like and I can't wait to just get into it and I don't know and what's going to happen! It's more of an excited way of going into things. I get butterflies but it's more excitement butterflies. Like, I'm really happy and wondering what's going to happen in the next second.
You played a game where you asked him ten different words you thought of and he had to give his first reactions to them, so I’m going to do the same to you with some words I came up with. Ready? Reality television.
Your husband ordered them on date night in an episode of Mel B: It’s a Scary World.
The little, like, shrimp prawn things? I said prawns. He said shrimp. That’s funny.
She died recently and she was an icon. She stood for everything we wanted from a woman in her position. She made a change.
A lot of British musicians were very much opposed to her.
I don't know about that. Me and Geri were not. The rest of our group loved her.
Harley Brown can run the 40 yard dash in 4.3 seconds (maybe). She's on Twitter - @harleyoliverb