She’s a Jill of all trades. After selling hundreds of millions of albums with the Spice Girls, Melanie Brown, formerly known as Scary Spice, is now a business mogul. The 40-year-old British singer has written a book, performed on “Dancing with the Stars,” and judged on reality shows like “The X Factor” and “America’s Got Talent,” all while raising three daughters.
She also designed her own line of couture lollipops with crystal-encrusted handles and fruit-flavored heads, like grape, blue raspberry, pink lemonade and piña colada. Those Couture Pops are sold at Sugar Factory American Brasserie stores in cities like Vegas, New York, Chicago and Bahrain. In anticipation of the grand opening of Sugar Factory Lincoln Road, Mel B will visit Miami’s flagship store at the Hotel Victor on Friday, Feb. 5.
Although she manages a chaotic schedule, Mel B exemplifies sugar, spice and everything nice. After chatting with her over the phone while she was home in Los Angeles, we realized our audio file was corrupt and lost the bulk of the interview. While she had many things going on that day, Mel B got back on the phone with us and graciously redid the entire interview.
We chatted with Mel B about South Florida, gender equality and the possibility of a Spice Girls reunion.
Tell us about your line of Couture Pops.
I started working with Steve [Davidovici of Sugar Factory] and all this beautiful, amazing candy five years ago in Vegas. … It was actually me and Kim [Kardashian] who had our own couture lollipops, and we went to Vegas and teamed up with Sugar Factory. It’s like a fun cute thing to do, and they’re embezzled with crystals. You can’t beat a really good, tasty piece of candy.
You’ll be doing a meet and greet at the Sugar Factory at Hotel Victor on Friday with anyone who purchases your Couture Pop. What are your thoughts on South Florida?
Oh my god, I love Florida. The weather, the people, the music, the atmosphere. I’ve traveled all around the world and I always end up going back to Miami.
The last time we saw the Spice Girls perform together was at the London Olympics in 2012. You ladies were in heels, standing on top of moving taxis while singing in front of the world. What was that like?
We wanted to do something extra special, and it wasn’t dangerous. It looked pretty dangerous, but we were actually holding on to handle bars and we just had a lot of fun doing it. We were rehearsing for about a week or two before in a big empty car park under lock-and-key, which was also fun.
Were you scared of falling in your heels?
No, we’ve always danced in heels. We’ve always kind of drawn on the line of kind of dangerous so it was perfect for us.
Since that 2012 performance, you’ve gone on to judge reality shows like “The X Factor” and “America’s Got Talent,” as well as “The Voice Kids” in Australia. What’s it like going from being a star to finding them?
I love being part of that whole process and hopefully making someone’s dreams come true. It’s nice to be a part of it on a mentoring level. … I sit in my front room and I comment and yell at my TV like everyone else does … so [now] I get to have the best seat in the house, literally.
Speaking of seats in the house, you had a magician, Mat Franco, drop your phone in the water where he then made it disappear before finding it in a random seat in the audience [while on “America’s Got Talent”]. Did you know this was going to happen?
No, we’re never told or prepped on anything that’s going to happen. Our responses and our reactions are completely, 100 percent natural and shocking. We’re seeing it for the first time just like you guys are when you watch it on TV, and I had no idea what he was going to do with my phone. The funny thing is I lose my phone once or twice a month, actually two to three times a month, so I was like ‘oh great, now I’m going to have to go get a new phone.’ But then it reappeared.
Did you ever find out what really happened with that trick?
No, a good magician is that good that you end up believing in magic, and they never give away their secret so as far as I’m concerned, that was a really good magic cast and it made me believe in magic all over again.
Mel B, your support of “girl power” is often credited to catapulting the “third-wave feminism” into effect in the mid-90s, which has continued through today. What struggles did you face as a woman in the music industry?
I was lucky enough I didn’t face that many struggles. The biggest struggle that we faced as a group was getting people in the very, very beginning to play our music and listen to what we had to say and letting the audience be the judges rather than some executive of some record company. That was one of the hardest ones. To be honest, I had my four friends who were constantly there supporting each other and making sure that we were all okay. … We were and still are best friends so we got to support each other.
Did you ladies ever fight when writing your own songs or deciding what direction to go?
No, we were pretty in sync like that. And we all took it in terms of writing different verses or took it in terms of singing different parts of the song. It was never really an argument, it was kind of just a natural, organic fit with harmonies, with who was going to start off and finish a song.
What suggestions do you have to promote gender equality not just in the music industry but in all fields?
At the end of the day, I like to live a very honest and open life. I treat everyone with respect no matter who you are, what you are, what color you are, what your sexual preferences are and that’s one thing I stand by.
Pop culture doesn’t have many role models for young girls of color. When you were a Spice girl, did you realize that you were one of the few role models for these young girls? How did you handle that responsibility?
I was just being me and I’ve always been proud of the skin I’m in. I always looked up to Neneh Cherry and Tracy Chapman, so in my eyes, I had great women of color that were in powerful positions singing about powerful feelings and powerful things so I thought I was represented in some way. I didn’t take that much on board, because I was just having fun and singing with my girls spreading the positivity around. … Back then it wasn’t really called role models.
Now we’re starting to see the entertainment industry making changes. Last year we saw the first black prima ballerina [Misty Copeland] and Viola Davis was the first woman of color to win an Emmy for Best Actress. However, we still see lack of diversity in places like the Oscars. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it’s a shame. I think the black community, the black actresses and actors we have out there should be recognized. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be.
What can people do to help change this?
The more that we support minorities, the better things will be. It’s all baby steps, you’re never going to change it over night.
Finally, we have to ask, will there be a Spice Girls reunion any time soon?
There’s talk, but nothing has been set in stone yet, so we’ll see.
Mel B will be at the Sugar Factory at Hotel Victor from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5. The Sugar Factory is at 1144 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. For more, call 305-604-0323 or visit SugarFactory.com.