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The Spice Girls singer, DJ and activist chats sexism in sport, her Lionesses girl crush, and her exercise motivation hacks.
Melanie C has been an icon since the 90’s, when she became globally famous as part of pop band Spice Girls.
Now, three decades on, she’s carved an impressive solo career, releasing her own music, appearing as a judge on The Voice, DJ-ing and more.
When I meet her on Zoom on a sweltering Monday afternoon – the Monday of the level 4 heatwave, when temperatures reached as high as 40 degrees – she’s wearing her trademark Adidas (albeit shorts, not tracksuit bottoms) and a vest. She looks remarkably well, despite the record-breaking heat.
We’re meeting thanks to Booking.com – Melanie is an ambassador for the brand, who sponsor the Women’s Euros. She’s always been a fitness fan – she didn’t earn the moniker Sporty Spice for nothing – and is passionate about encouraging women of all ages, shapes and sizes to embrace sport as a part of their day-to-day routine.
Keen to hear her thoughts on this year’s Euro’s, her take on exercise motivation, and how she found her first ever Glastonbury? Keep scrolling.
Melanie C: “It’s ridiculous that we’re fighting for women’s sport to be recognised – but it is changing.”
As above, she’s been busy, appearing at Glastonbury last month not only to kick off the festival on Thursday evening with a packed-out DJ set but to make a guest appearance during Stockport-born indie band Blossoms’ set, covering Spice Up Your Life. “I don’t think it could have gone any better – I loved it,” she smiles. “The whole experience from beginning to end was crazy.”
She reflects that, just like the Euro’s, there was a magic in the atmosphere (most mass in-person events have been called off for the last few years again thanks to Covid-19). “We’re getting to the things we’ve missed for so long – it’s such a positive feeling.”
So, has she been watching the Lionesses? Of course she has. “They’re doing so incredibly well,” she shares, but laments that it’s “utterly frustrating” that athletes haven’t had more equal representation before now.
“It’s ridiculous that we’re fighting for women’s sport to be recognised as it should be, but it just takes time,” she shares. “This year, we have such a brilliant team. The coverage is unprecedented, and it’s so wonderful.”
One of the things she’s loved during this tournament, she shares, is the player’s use of social media. While there has been some negative and outdated comments on a recent JustEat ad, there’s been much more coverage than in previous years, with the ten o’clock news being delayed for the first time ever to let this week’s quarter-finals play out. “We’re really getting to know the players as individuals,” Melanie goes on, “They are so fun, professional, and brilliant, and you can really feel the camaraderie.”
So, why did she partner with Booking.com again? Largely because she loves football – she’s clearly an advocate for women in sport – but also because, in this tournament, the matches are being held in smaller stadiums and regions. “There’s places on that list I’ve never been to, and it’s shining a light on grassroots places that normally wouldn’t be in the spotlight,” she reflects. “It means that young girls who may not have the opportunity to travel to Wembley or Manchester get the chance to see these incredible women. It’s top level, and I hope it inspires them and shows them the opportunities out there.”
When we discuss the stats – a Booking.com survey found that 84% of England fans’ first footballing heroes were men, compared to 36% whose heroes were women – Melanie reflects that it’s going to be a “continuous battle” before we reach an even playing field and sexism in sport is entirely eliminated. “We’re taking huge strides right now. Maybe that’s why women have always been held back – so they don’t take over,” she laughs, grinning widely.
So, does Melanie play football herself? Short answer: sometimes. “I’m more of a spectator, especially as I get older,” she explains – although she shares that she used to kick about when she was younger, has been a big Liverpool fan her whole life, and trained for a short period with Rockford Women’s squad back in the 90s (which she describes as “really, really fun.”)
Going on to discuss how difficult it can sometimes be for young girls to get into sport, she admits that she’s “always been a little bit jealous of men, who can play football forever if they want too.” For women, she goes on, it can be “quite hard beyond school and during the teenage years”. “We can become conscious of our bodies and start to take less interest in sport,” she explains.
That said, a highlight of the competition so far, for her, has been seeing how inspired her 13-year-old daughter, Scarlet, has been. “She’s into YouTube and Tiktok and make-up, so when she said I would like to go [to the Euro’s final], I was like, that’s different – but amazing.”
What would she say to a woman who doesn’t feel confident enough to exercise? She’d encourage them to move for their mental health as well as their physical. “My own mental health issues are well documented and for me, exercise is a really important part of what keeps me well mentally,” she shares. Intimidated by the gym? Try walking the dog, a class, or even wild swimming. “What’s key is finding what works for you and trying to find that courage to try something new. My next thing to try is a Versa climate class.”
Does she have a favourite player in the tournament? “I’ve got a little bit of a crush on Beth Mead at the moment but they’re all really likeable,” she shares.
England’s next match is on Tuesday 26th July at 8pm. Booking.com are a sponsor of this year’s Euro’s.