Vibe Check with Mel B

Mel B Opens Up About Her Mental Health Journey and Embracing Her Curls

As a young Black girl, I always admired the women of color in my favorite girl groups. Growing up, I always fought to sing Raven-Symone's parts whenever one of The Cheetah Girls' songs came on. Eventually, I became fixated on Dawn Richard and D. Woods of Danity Kane. As of late, the luminescent Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix and the melodic force known as Normani (formerly of Fifth Harmony) have captured my attention. However, none of these songstresses would be here without Spice Girl Mel B (Melanie Brown) helping to pave the way.

The singer (also known as "Scary Spice")—born to a Black father from Saint Kitts and Nevis and a white mother in England—brought fiery energy, unmatched coolness, and striking beauty looks (i.e., her stunning curls) to the group. Throughout the '90s and '00s, Brown and her groupmates made history, becoming the best-selling female group of all time. Since venturing out on her own, she's continued to enjoy a fruitful music and television career. In terms of the latter, Brown has amassed dozens of credits, appearing on shows like X Factor and America's Got Talent. Her latest project? FOX's Special Forces: World's Toughest Test, an intense boot camp-style reality series. 

Ahead, the singer gets candid about why she decided to join the mentally and physically challenging show, using her platform to make a difference, and the evolution of her beauty routine. Keep scrolling to read everything she had to say.

How did the opportunity to be part of FOX's Special Forces: World's Toughest Test come about?

It's actually a show in England that has been going on for many years. I've watched it, saying to myself, Oh, I'd love to do that show, but not in front of the cameras. Just as a mental test. When I was offered to do the American version of the show, I was like, Let me just think about this and why I would be doing it

I suffered an abusive 10-year marriage, and I'm about six years out of that right now. So I looked at the show and thought, Nearly everything on that show is what I suffered abuse-wise within my marriage. So I said to myself, I wonder if I've come far enough on my healing journey to be able to mentally cope with that if I decide to put myself in that situation?

How did your mental wellness journey affect your decision to join the show?

I thought about it long and hard. I talked to my therapist and asked, "Am I strong enough to go through all the things that happen to you [on the show]?" When you've experienced abuse, as I have, it's a long journey to bring back your old self because you're riddled with self-worthlessness. You've got no confidence—you experience shame, guilt, and PTSD. But, I told myself, This is going to come full circle for me.

I felt grateful to be given this opportunity. Everyone's asking why we did the show, and I have a very valid reason. I'm so proud I did it because we don't talk about abuse enough, and it's everywhere. We all know somebody who's been through it, whether it be yourself, a family member, or a next-door neighbor. The more we talk about it, the more we can take action.

Vibe Check with Mel B

Thank you for sharing. It's not easy to share and own your story.

When you're in the public eye, I always say, "Use your platform to speak about something close to your heart." If you can make a difference doing that, speak up, and that's what I've been doing. I spoke up in 2015 when nobody wanted to publish my book or discuss abuse. Now, in England and worldwide, people are talking about it more. I'm proud of the progression. Once we discuss it even more, we can put tools in place to help people.

Performing requires a lot of mental and physical strength. How did your time as a performer in The Spice Girls prepare you for Special Forces: World's Toughest Test?

Oh, that's totally different. When I'm on stage, I'm there with my four friends. We've known each other since we were 19. We've cried together, fought, and slept in the same bed. Going into this situation, I'm with 15 strangers. The only preparation I did was tell myself: I'm doing this to prove to myself that I'm on my healing journey, and I want to help every survivor know that you can still do things and love yourself. Apart from that, I didn't have any expectations. I just dove in head first, or should I say dove in the water out of the helicopter backward first.

Ahead of joining the show, what did your skincare routine consist of?

I've always tried to look after my skin. When working with makeup artists, they always give me tips. I'm always interested in skincare because it is so important. I started working on my skin right before the show because [we were filming in Jordan]. I wanted to ensure I had a great sun protector and cleanser. Even though we were in the desert, I wanted to stick to a routine because we weren't wearing any makeup on the show. 

I recently started using Augustinus Bader products, and my skin is starting to turn around. But, like with any skin product, you have to use it consistently. I wish my mother would've taught me the importance of [taking care of your skin] at a young age.

Now, let's talk about your signature curls. What products did you use on the show to care for your hair?

My hair's gone through a real process. I wore my natural curls during the Spice Girls because I didn't want to hide or braid my hair. I'm like, I'm a mixed-race girl, and I love my hair. I'm going to take care of it, and nobody's going to try and straighten it. Then, I moved to America and [worked with] a bad hairdresser who messed up my natural hair. I ended up with two inches of brittle, broken hair. When I moved back to England in 2019 for the Spice Girls tour, I had to wear a weave. I had my weave taken out every couple of days and put back in because the Spice Girls show is a two-hour show, so I was sweating a lot.

I just thought, I really want to get my curls back. Then the pandemic hit, and I started nurturing my hair. My dad is from Nevis, and they have about 40 different types of mango there. I started creating a serum using them. I'm still working on it, but it's helped my hair grow back over the last two-and-a-half years. When I did Special Forces: World's Toughest Test, I took a little bit of my product with me and scrunched it in my curls daily.

Vibe Check with Mel B

I also want to talk about your daughter Phoenix, who recently went viral for recreating your iconic photo shoot. How did you feel when you saw the photos? 

She's always going in and out of my wardrobe. I've kept every Spice Girls outfit I've worn, so she's always in there trying on things. So, I wasn't shocked, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm like, "Is that me? Oh my god, no, it's my daughter. She looks good." 

If you could give your kids a piece of wellness advice, what would you tell them?

My advice to my kids is to be kind to themselves and look after themselves. You've got one body, so treat it well.

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