There was a strange sense of déjà vu about Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV). Even though this was the first airing of his conversation with Mel B, aka Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, its headline revelation was revealed two months ago.
Brown’s provocative confession – “a Spice bombshell” as Morgan called it, ever the tabloid editor – that she’d slept with Geri “Ginger Spice” Horner née Halliwell (to give her her full title) during the Spice Girls’ Nineties heyday was widely reported when this interview was filmed. Having been gleefully picked over by the press already, would the programme itself prove an anticlimax? Partly. Instead what emerged was a portrait of a vulnerable but remarkably resilient force of nature.
Anyone hoping for insights into the pop industry would have come away disappointed. This hour-long profile was strictly about Brown’s tumultuous private life. Morgan did his usual prodding and probing in a bid to extract juicy titbits and make his subject blub but he was largely redundant. The outspoken Brown was an open book and pretty much interviewed herself. In fact, a few of Morgan’s interjections rather ruined her flow.
As Brown recalled the first of her two suicide bids, he butted in with, ”Let’s go to the next VT”, which was incongruously about her fashion sense. When he tried to wheedle out more detail about sex with her bandmate, Brown scoffed “Stop it, you pervert” and moved swiftly on.
She was a veritable soundbite machine. Horner was branded “bats--- crazy with great boobs”, while Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham was “a bit of a b----”. Brown spoke with searing honesty about the prejudice she faced as a mixed-race child in Leeds. She admitted that Hollywood comic Eddie Murphy, who fathered the second of her three children, was the love of her life and always would be.
Rawest of all, was her discussion about her traumatic 10-year marriage to the film producer Stephen Belafonte. Tears flowed as she recalled promising her father on his deathbed: “I’m going to divorce this monster.” Brown even showed how she’d symbolically cut Belafonte out of her life with the removal of a piece of skin where his name was tattooed. She has since become an ambassador for victims of coercive control and domestic abuse.
Beneath the bravado, Brown shone through as a complex, admirable character. As her mother Andrea concluded: “For somebody that famous, the highs are unusually high – but then the lows are going to be lower.” It was an apt summation of her daughter’s chequered life. Mothers always know best.