"People are going to be amazed when they see these pictures!" says Melanie
Chisholm, inspecting a Polaroid of herself teetering on sky-high heels, her
lean body cling-wrapped in Gucci, her shiny mane of blue-black hair tousled
by a wind machine. "But I must say, I'm loving this. The clothes feel
gorgeous, and these heels make your legs look fabulous, don't they?"
Ah yes, legs. As high-kicking, tomboyish Sporty Spice, Mel has spent three
years as the world's most famous tracksuit wearer, her limbs always encased
in something baggy. Yet the toned legs she unveils for the photo-shoot are
just one of the many surprises Mel has to offer.
For a start, she's pretty and tiny - a small-boned, almost frail-looking 5ft
6in with huge brown eyes. And, despite an estimated £13 million in the bank
and superstar status, she's utterly unspoilt. Unlike many stars, Mel
arrives for the shoot bang on time, fresh from the gym, wearing a Morgan
T-shirt and no make-up. when the photographer, fashion assistant and yours
truly ask for autographs she agrees with a charming smile. Far from being
the aggressive character her image might suggest, Mel is Nice Spice: gentle,
friendly and softly-spoken.
"I think people's preconceptions of me are pretty wrong," she says. "Yes,
I have my tomboyish side, but I'm actually quite girly. I'm very shy and
soft, and incredibly tidy - my nickname is Monica after the Friends
character." She saves her extrovert side for the stage. "When friends
come to see the Spice Girls I'm embarrassed because on stage is where I
really let go. Afterwards, I think, 'Oh no, was I acting really stupidly?'"
Acknowledged as having the best voice in the group, Mel is the girl everyone
wants to get to know. "Madonna took me out to dinner in New York," she says,
diffidently. "I was thrilled. She's been an idol of mine since I was a
child." Pressed, she reveals, "I'm recording a solo album, probably next
year, and I plan to work with her."
Life, it seems, is changing fast for this 24-year-old. After years of
being the "other one" in the group, Mel's suddenly blossoming. And when
her phone rings it's likely to be an international superstar on the line.
"I met Bryan Adams in LA," she says. "Then he rang me at home to ask me
to sing on his new album. The only person who rings me at home is my mum,
so when I answered I automatically said, 'Hello, Mum.' And he said, 'No,
it's Bryan, Bryan Adams.' He sounded quite startled!"
Mel also delivers a hint at her future beyond the Spice Girls. Their
Christmas single, out on 14 December, is tantalisingly entitled Goodbye.
And the girls' third album will "include a lot more solos and duets". As
the babies arrive and the solo records are released, what, I ask, will
Mel do when it's all over? "When it's over?" she replies, astounded.
"This will never be over - oh, I don't mean the Spice Girls - I mean my
career." She glows with confidence. "I don't want to do anything else."
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Mel was born in Merseyside. Her mother was a singer, her father worked
for a coach travel firm. They split up when Mel was seven and she moved
to Cheshire with her mum. Both her parents eventually remarried and she
now has five brothers and a half-sister Emma, whom she only met last year.
MEL C ON...
...HER NEW ROMANCE
"I have sort of met someone. His name is Jake Davies and we met in a
recording studio in Dublin [he's a record producer]. We're having fun
together, but it isn't serious. The problem is, I only have to be seen
with someone and the papers are marrying me off. That's so embarrassing!
You know how it is when you start a relationship. You just go out for a
few drinks and you don't know how it will go. With me, it's suddenly in
the papers that I'm in love. It makes me think 'Aaargh! I've only just
met him!' And it's frustrating too, because I want to say, 'I'm still
available, everyone else!' Put it this way, I think of myself as still
young, free and single and I know Jake won't be upset to read that."
...THE MAN OF HER DREAMS
"I'd love to meet someone special. But I'm not looking - I don't believe
that works. You do get to the age when your friends are getting married
and having kids and it makes you think, but I'm so not ready for that
now. I'm very happy as I am. My ideal man has to be ambitious - I find
that really attractive. He'll like football and having a laugh.
Initially, looks are important, and physically my ideal is quite big and
strong. Not a Peter Andre type, but big enough to give me a big hug."
...RED HOT RUMOURS
"Yes, I did go for dinner with Anthony Kiedis, [the sexy lead singer with
The Red Hot Chili Peppers] after we met in LA, but there's no romance."
Why not, didn't you fancy him? "Er, no. But I do like him. He's a
very nice guy."
...FAME AT LAST
"I've wanted to be famous ever since I can remember. As a child, I
thought everyone felt like that, but they don't, do they? For some
people it would be a nightmare. Why do I want to be famous? Because
it's a sign of acceptance. I've been in the public eye three years now,
and it has changed me. It's made me feel more confident and comfortable
with myself. But what makes me angry is when I get special treatment
because of my fame. Recently I had to catch a train and I didn't have a
ticket. I asked if I could buy one on the train and the railway
offical said no until he realised who I was. Then it was all, 'Oh, it's
a Spice Girl, let me help you on the train. Don't bother with a ticket.'
I thought that was so wrong!"
...MEETING COURTNEY LOVE
"She's a talented, mixed-up woman. She was great to meet, though. She
took the mickey out of me by impersonating my Liverpool accent and she
was better at it than me."
...WORKING WITH ALL SAINTS?
"I'm listening to a lot of William Orbit albums [he produced Madonna's
Ray Of Light album]. I also like Natalie Imbruglia, Robbie Williams,
and (sly smile) All Saints [rumour has it they're planning a
collaboration]. But Blur are my favourite band."
...HER BACHELORETTE PAD
"I wish you could see the one-bedroom flat I rent in North London.
There's only room for my bed, a wardrobe and my exercise bike - and if I
get up in the night I knock the bike over. I'm looking for a place to
buy in London. Some of the girls have bought these huge mansions, but
I'm not ready for that. I just want a modest pad - somewhere spacious,
but not so big your family come and stay all the time! I've also just
bought a flat in the Liverpool docks, just under Jamie Redknapp and
"I still wear the ring she gave all of us when we were demo-ing the
first album. But I respect her decision to leave. If you're not
happy with something you should change it. It was a relief for her to
walk away - the Spice Girls life is very stressful."
"When I was 18 and unemployed, I used to walk into Mis Selfridge or
TopShop and think, 'One day I'll be able to afford anything I want.'
Of course, nowadays I don't particularly want anything. I never think
about money - but, that said, it's when you have money you can say it's
not important. I'm happy to have bought houses and cars for my family,
but money isn't what drives me."
"Over the past two years, I've hardly been home because of tax. I've
only spent 60 days in the country. I miss silly things like Richard
and Judy, Heinz baked beans and normal milk. I always pack photos,
candles and a teddy bear to make hotels feel more like home."
"People tend to be very nice to me. I suppose I have less to be jealous
of than some of the other girls. Victoria and David have so much, and
they're so in love, that people envy them. With me, 'it's Sporty!' I
still go out socially, and I go to the supermarket. People come up to
me and say, 'What are you doing here?' How else do they think I eat?
I've developed my own ways of being incognito - you wouldn't get away
with dark glasses and a baseball cap in Liverpool! In shops I keep my
head down and move fast. The only thing I worry about is the young
girls who practically camp outside my flat. Sometimes it gets to 11pm
and I know they're miles from home, so I go out and beg them to go home."
"It's not just an image with me. When we started out, our first
management told us we should all wear the same clothes. Well, we didn't
think much of that. I was a sporty child who did loads of athletics and
gymnastics. Then I studied dance. Geri first introduced me to the gym
and now I work out four times a week for two hours at a time and I
surprise myself with how fit I am. It helps me cope with stress. I can
lose myself there. When I'm on the treadmill I feel safe - nobody can
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