Mel B recalls ‘obvious racism’ she experienced during Spice Girls career

Singer said she was asked to leave a designer clothes shop while out with her bandmates

Ellie Harrison
Monday 08 June 2020 09:07
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Mel B has reflected on the “obvious racism” she experienced throughout her career in the Spice Girls, including comments about her hair and being asked to leave a designer clothes shop.

The singer, whose full name is Melanie Brown, was speaking about racism in the context of the global protests against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody last month after a white officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes.

“So much of the racism you feel as a person of colour growing up in a largely white culture is not spoken aloud,” she told the Daily Star.

Brown said when Spice Girls filmed the music video for their hit single “Wannabe”, she was told by a hair stylist they needed to straighten her hair. She refused: “My hair was my identity and yes it was different to all the other girls,” she said, “but that was what the Spice Girls were about – celebrating our differences.”

Brown also recalled being in a high end clothes shop with her bandmates, looking for an outfit for a forthcoming performance in front of Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela.

“There were times when there was obvious racism,” she said. “I was asked to leave a designer clothes shop in Sun City when I was with all the other girls. Of course, all the girls had a go at the assistant because they were so shocked.

"It’s pretty awful to think I wasn’t actually shocked because if you are brown, then there’s always a part of you that expects some confrontation.”

Speaking about how she tried to educate her white bandmates about racism, she said: "I think it's almost impossible for white people to understand what it is to be black or brown. It did bother me. I remember once really thinking how I could make Geri understand.

"I got her to come back to Leeds with me and we went to one of these really old school underground blues and bass clubs that all the black kids in the area went to. It was tiny and really packed and when we were standing there, I said to Geri, 'Look around and tell me what you see,' and she looked round and said, 'Everyone else in here is black except me.'

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"And I said, 'That's what it's like for me nearly every day. I'm always the only brown girl in the room.' That was quite an important moment for me."

Protests against racism have been taking place across America and around the world since Floyd’s death.

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