Mel B

The Spice Girls were loud, independent, feisty and fearless - and perhaps no one personified 'Girl Power' more than irrepressible 'Scary Spice', aka Melanie Brown. A larger-than-life lass from Leeds with a penchant for leopard-print clothes and voluminous hair, Mel bounced her way into the nation's conscience as one fifth of the phenomenally successful girl band.

Born on May 29, 1975, Melanie Janine Brown was always a live-wire.

She grew up in a mixed-race household in Leeds, the daughter of English mother Andrea and former Caribbean island of Nevis resident Martin.

As a youngster, the wannabe pop star frequently skipped school to attend auditions and dance rehearsals. That was before she spotted the now legendary advert in The Stage, of course. "R U 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R U streetwise, ambitious, outgoing and determined?" it read.

As far as Mel was concerned the answer was a resounding yes. And when the Spice Girls were finalised in 1995 she was in the line-up alongside Geri Halliwell, Victoria Adams, Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisholm .

The group enjoyed incredible success and became a pop music phenomenen, before in 1998 - Geri Halliwell's decision to quit marked a turning point for the band. The year was a significant one for Mel personally, too, She married dancer Jimmy Gulzar, and became pregnant with the couple's daughter, Phoenix Chi.

The pair's relationship ran into trouble, however, and a year later they went their separate ways. In 2000 the singer appeared to have found a new love with British actor Max Beesley, with whom she enjoyed a much-hyped romance. But the pair called time on their relationship after two years. On the professional front things were also winding down. While the four remaining Spices continued recording and performing together for a while, in February 2001 they finally announced their split.

Like bandmate Mel C, Melanie enjoyed a degree of solo success following the break-up, snagging the number one spot with Missy Elliot R&B collaboration I Want You Back. The release of her first solo album Hot followed, with the singer soon after relocating to Los Angeles, where she owns an artist's loft and a traditional two-bedroom house in the Hills.

Although she released another album, LA State Of Mind in 2005, Mel's interests were moving on. As she explains in her autobiography Catch A Fire, her enthusiasms are constantly developing. In the same way her passion for dance waned once she"d discovered music, she found she was no longer interested in making more albums when her latest failed to meet expectations.

Looking to new horizons, she ventured into acting, an area she'd already explored before moving to California, having made her small screen debut in Manchester drama Burn It. The multi-talented celeb has also turned her hand to writing, declining Bob Geldof's suggestion to re-form the Spice Girls for Live 8 because she wanted to concentrate on penning her sit-com.

The move Stateside brought Mel a different circle of friends, and the singer admits to enjoying life on the other side of the pond. "I like it. I have a great group of English friends," she says. "Phoenix has a great time. She's at a great school and it's an outdoor life for both of us, very freeing and laid back."

Her new base also brought love, after she bumped into Hollywood comedian Eddie Murphy at a party in Beverly Hills. The two began an intense love affair which generated marriage and happily-ever-after headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Their relationship came to an abrupt halt, however, when six-months-pregnant Mel learnt that her beau had informed a Dutch TV channel they'd split up and was questioning the identity of the baby's father. Mel gave birth to a baby girl, named Angel Iris Murphy Brown, on April 3, 2007.

Despite a high-profile paternity battle with Eddie, it seemed there was still a happy ending in store for Mel on the romance front.

Just two months after giving birth to Angel, long-time friend and film producer Stephen Belafonte proposed. "I took one big, deep breath and said, 'Yes'," she told HELLO! magazine, "as well as going, 'Thank you, God! Don't let me down a third time'." The pair wed in Las Vegas on June 6, 2007.

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