Melanie C: ‘The tabloids were cruel and heartless’

I had a lot of success with the Spice Girls, but in my 30s there were times when I believed my moment had passed; that I should just go out to pasture. Now in my mid-40s I’ve decided: sod that. I started my career telling women to go out and get what they want, and there I was thinking it was all over.

Mum signed a record deal in the 1970s but it didn’t work out, so she played the pubs and the clubs through my childhood. I’d sit in the crowd, singing along. But knowing her story made me believe my own dream was unattainable. I’m just so pleased my aspiration to be the next Madonna persisted.

Pop bands are a young person’s game. It’s unsustainable to keep up with the constant promoting and touring. It’s a catch-22: I wouldn’t have the stamina for it now, but at that stage in your life you’re not equipped to deal with the pressure.

The lows of being famous were devastatingly hard. I was vulnerable, and the tabloids were cruel and heartless. It pushed me to the point of illness. I was struggling with an eating disorder and suffering from depression. I had everything I’d ever dreamed of, and was desperately unhappy. It’s often forgotten that people in the public eye are human.

You need to get to the point where you’re ready for help – that’s the hardest bit of starting to get better. People around me knew things weren’t right, but I was ashamed and could see no way out, so avoided them. When the time came, it was down to the professionals. Remember this: you deserve a better life. I continue to say it to myself and to others.

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The music industry is behind when it comes to #MeToo, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking back over my own experiences. But we had power in numbers. Nobody would dare with one of us, because you’d have had to deal with all five.

I think I cried today. I’m doing that a lot at the moment. My life right now is constantly overwhelming. Being a mother, having a career, grappling with lockdown. I make music so I can go out and perform, and not knowing how or when I might do that again makes me terrified about the future.

The Spice Girls were a fiery combination. Some personalities – Mel B, Geri – were bigger than others, but as we’ve grown older and become mothers we’ve become more respectful. We got together recently at Geri’s house: no business, just catching up. Conversation turned to what incredible lives we all have. We know that without each other we might never have lived them.

Melanie C’s latest album, Melanie C, is out on 2 October


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