Mel B spoke about some of the racist abuse she’d endure while in the Spice Girls in an emotional open letter.
The singer, who has a white British mother and a Black father from the Caribbean island of Nevis, told OK! Magazine: “Even when I was a world-famous Spice Girl playing a concert for Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, I was asked by a shop assistant in a designer store to get out.”
She added of the 1997 incident, according to the Daily Mail: “The other girls were outraged and started screaming at the assistant. I wasn’t shocked, I was embarrassed.
“I was angry and I was really sad that a lot of people in post-Mandela South Africa were still racist.”
Mel also pointed out how she, her sister Danielle, and her father wouldn’t go into their hometown of Leeds, U.K., on soccer matchdays because it “wasn’t safe if you looked like us.”
The mother of three then said in an interview with the Daily Star: “I remember when we first did the video for ‘Wannabe’ [in 1996] we had a big styling team and one of the first things they said to me was: ‘Ok, so we need to straighten your hair.’
“I refused point-blank because my hair was my identity and yes, it was different to all the other girls, but that was what the Spice Girls were about – celebrating our differences.”
She added of growing up in a predominantly white area, “If you are attacked or if someone calls you a name, you know then how they feel about you.
“But it’s all the other stuff – being told off at school for not being able to tie your hair back with a hairband, walking into meeting after meeting with the Spice Girls and never seeing another brown face – that does affect you.
“White people thought it was nice to say to me, ‘We don’t see your colour, we just see you,’ but that actually just denies my identity. Even though I know it was always well meant, it’s actually quite insulting.”