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Mel B claims Simon Cowell ‘banned’ her then-husband from America’s Got Talent set

Singer and anti-domestic abuse campaigner suggests her former boss protected her after noticing she seemed nervous around Stephen Belafonte, whom she divorced in 2017

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 08 March 2024 16:47 GMT
Mel B discusses domestic abuse on Good Morning Britain

Spice Girls star Mel B has claimed that Simon Cowell “banned” her then-husband Stephen Belafonte from the set of America’s Got Talent because he made her “nervous”.

The singer born Melanie Brown, who was known as Scary Spice while performing with the best-selling Nineties girl group, described her work as an anti-domestic abuse campaigner during a panel held in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the charity Women’s Aid.

“Before, it was like ‘all right Scary’, now I get women coming up to me literally in tears telling me their story when I'm in Aldi or Sainsbury's,” Brown said of the reaction to her work as a campaigner.

”Now, it's more of a conversation. It's not really the conversation that you want to be having but I'm so glad that I'm experiencing that and I can talk about it.”

Brown filed for divorce from her former husband, film producer Stephen Belafonte, in March 2017 after allegations of abuse, which he has repeatedly denied.

She received an MBE in 2022 for services to charitable causes and vulnerable women, and became a patron of Women’s Aid in 2018.

During the panel discussion, Brown claimed that her former boss and fellow America’s Got Talent judge Cowell banned her then-husband from the set, as she “acted nervous” when he was there.

“Work was my safest place that I could ever be because I knew that he couldn't get to me at work, because Simon Cowell banned him from being on set because he realised when my then-husband was around I acted nervous or wouldn't be my authentic self,” she said.

Mel B with Simon Cowell at the live show red carpet for ‘America’s Got Talent’ season 13 (Getty Images)

The Independent has contacted Cowell and Belafonte’s representatives for comment.

Brown said she would frequently stay on set for an hour or two after filming America’s Got Talent had finished, as she “did not want to go home”.

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Had there been someone at work she could confide in, she explained, she might have felt as though she was able to speak out sooner. Brown urged HR teams to learn how to spot signs of domestic abuse in order to help their employees.

Former Spice Girl and patron of Women’s Aid, Melanie Brown (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Women often do not report abuse out of fear of not being believed, she said: “I would never have thought to report anything that happened in my 10-year marriage, because number one, I didn't have any proof because I never went to the doctor, I covered up all my bruises.”

Mel B (centre) performing with the Spice Girls (Getty )

Brown has written about her experiences for The Independent, including in a powerful 2023 op-ed inspired by the ITV series Happy Valley.

“Season three is the one that is everything to me,” she wrote of rht show. “I went through a 10-year abusive marriage where, at my lowest, most desperate and isolated, I took to drink and drugs to self-medicate. I wrote about it in my book Brutally Honest, because no one talked about it.

“This coping mechanism may add to the shame, the guilt, the powerlessness, but more than 60 per cent of abused women self-medicate because their lives are hell. So when Mollie Winnard (as Joanna) appeared on screen – glassy eyed and battered, with low-level terror seeping from her pores – this wasn’t a woman I knew, this was a woman I was.”

Brown continued: “Given the opportunity by a concerned Catherine to open up about her abusive husband, Joanna said nothing. She sat in silence, just like I did when a lovely policeman – PC Cunningham – sat at my bedside in 2014 after I took an overdose. He knew something was seriously wrong. He gently asked me questions about my relationship, but could not get me to talk.

“So there I am, nine years later, sitting on my sofa back in Leeds and willing Joanna to talk but knowing that she won’t because life – abuse – is not that simple. It’s not the way things go. Those scenes made my blood run cold because they were so unbelievably real that I wanted to call the writer and creator, Sally Wainwright, to tell her how much this had moved me.”

The national domestic abuse helpline offers support for women on 0808 2000 247, or you can visit the Refuge website. There is a dedicated men’s advice line on 0808 8010 327. Those in the US can call the domestic violence hotline on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via

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