For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to MELANIE C.
Mel C has been a pop star for two decades, first as one fifth of the mould-breaking Spice Girls, and more recently, as a solo artist. Following a reunion tour and an Olympic gig with the other four girls, Mel C has rejected offers to join Emma Bunton, Mel B and Geri Horner for more Spice business, telling HuffPostUK it’s time to be “master of my destiny” - particularly as she’s about to embark on a solo tour with her new album, ‘Version of Me’.
“Being in the band is big pressure, much higher profile than being on my own,” she explains. “It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want to do ‘Strictly’. I don’t want to be on the Daily Mail every day. When you go into that world, it’s asking for it.
“I want to be present for my little girl, I want to be the master of my destiny, I don’t want to report back to three other girls on how long we’re spending in another country.”
Even without any band duties, Mel C has plenty to keep her busy - new album, new tour, and the prospect of more triathlons to build on her sporting prowess of last year. She sat down with HuffPostUk to reflect on the journey so far, and why being the peace-maker in any group is a short-term solution...
I’ve made a lot of big life decisions out on the trail – it’s hypnotic, the rhythm, the breathing, the fresh air. It must be a meditative thing. Driving is another time when that happens.
How do you deal with negativity?
Trying to ignore it. What’s difficult now is that everyone is a critic. With social media, it’s always there. A lot of us are addicted to it. Being in the public eye, you are faced with a lot of negativity. It used to be in the media, the tabloid media mostly. I recently googled myself and it left me feeling despondent, mostly really positive stuff. I’ve had great reviews for my record, and done a few interviews. I couldn’t believe what it said, and it all felt very negative. It’s hard to stay positive. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break, you’re tired, and someone’s horrible to you, it hurts.
You just have to realise that nothing is static, everything keeps moving. Somebody could tell me on a Monday that they hate me and I’m rubbish and I wouldn’t care and I might not care on a Tuesday, so everything moves.
When and where are you at your happiest?
In my bed. The simple times. Work is hectic, and when you get through that door of an evening, spending time with my family, laughing at silly things, hearing what happened at school today. My daughter is nearly eight, so there’s plenty to hear about.
What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mother always said, never do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. I’ve always let that ring in my ears. It’s about following your heart and your instincts. There are going to be times when you make mistakes, maybe don’t make the best decisions, but you have to move on and have faith.
When things haven’t worked out the way I’ve wanted them to, it’s when I haven’t been following my instincts, so now I’d rather just make my own mistake, rather than listen to someone else and still get it wrong.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Finally realising that not speaking your mind, it might be the easiest thing to do at the time, but it doesn’t always serve you well. Being in a band with some very big personalities and being someone who just wants an easy life, I actually am quite laid back. If I don’t like something, I often think, it doesn’t matter. But I think I’ve done that too much and started to feel resentful. I spent so many years just trying to keep the peace and it feels like it built up until it exploded, and then you’re left with no choice but to face it all. But with age and wisdom, I can cope.
I don’t miss having bandmates. There were times in the band that were really tough, we were tough on each other, and we had a lot of responsibility to each other, and when you’re part of something like that, I was very conscious about what I would say, but other people would stay stuff that would reflect on you. When I went solo, it was such a revelation to be in control of my destiny, knowing that it was coming from the horse’s mouth and not having to compromise. When it comes to my work, I’m a bit of a loner, really. And wanting to express myself.
My time with the Spice Girls, we expressed ourselves as a group of people – we did want to change the world, challenge everybody – but as an individual, it’s a bit more complex and I think I did need to express that.
What do you wish you could tell your 13-year-old self?
After the trauma of actually realising a fantasy and childhood ambition of being a pop star, the thing I told everybody I was going to do – it happened and it was a massive head fuck – you don’t think of any of the negative side, but there is one. So that’s quite depressing, the realization of that and coping with it. Questioning yourself, why you wanted that in the first place. When I became a Spice Girl and we hit the heights, I never felt good enough, I felt like I had to be a perfect version of myself to be worthy of what was happening, as opposed to when I was 13. I was really confident, I knew I was good then, and it wasn’t until I met the girls, got into the environment that all the insecurities started to happen. So now, all the benefits have come with age, caring less, being tougher, I just think, never mind what people think, I want to be that 13-year-old girl again. My 13-year-old ambition was innocent and pure.
What three things are at the top of your to-do list?
Work hard with my album, get out there and live. Plus my sporting ambitions – I did three triathlons last year, and got my personal best last summer, so I would like to an Olympic distance triathlon.
What do you think happens when we die?
I have a fairytale version, your soul rises and looks over your loved ones, and protects them. I’ve lost a couple of people in the past year, they were young and fit, so alive, it just makes you realise your mortality, and it becomes about what you leave behind.
When and where have you felt in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I’m a big lover of the sea. I love that feeling of nature, it’s so powerful. I love to swim out quite far. When you’re in the ocean, you’re cradled by nature. I’m not really religious, kind of spiritual, but that is special to me. And you’re not in control.
What quality do you most value in your relationships?
I think honesty is really important, and it’s hard, you have to be honest but kind. The thing which has become more apparent in my relationship now, I’ve never felt the support I do in my current relationship, and I value it. You really owe it to yourself to be with someone that supports a great version of you, not the one that matches them. You meet someone and you think, I haven’t changed, I just have confidence in myself because this person supports me. It was difficult at first because he’s challenging, and I wasn’t used to being challenged, so I found it quite hard at first, but now I understand it comes from a loving place, he’s challenging me to pull my boots up.
What keeps you grounded?
It is probably genetic, something northern. I don’t know why, I just can’t get carried away with myself, and I feel fortunate in that. I can’t think of a diva moment. I wish I could bring it out a bit more. I just couldn’t be any other way.
What was the most recent act of kindness you received?
People in my position, people are kind to them all of the time. I never see the bad side of people. Friends and my partner will say, ‘They’re not lovely, they’re just nice to you.’ There aren’t many times since I became famous that people have been unkind, so I just think everybody’s nice, but I do try to see the good in people anyway. I do have other people in my life who are quite decisive, and a better judge of character than I am.
Melanie’s new single ‘Dear Life’ is out now, from her seventh album ‘Version of Me’. She tours the UK in April, including the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 8 April.