Former Spice Girl, Melanie Brown - known by fans as Mel B - has opened up about her experience of domestic abuse in a powerful, new short film.
Brown has joined with Women’s Aid to create a short film exploring domestic violence through dance and music.
The video sees a woman, played by Brown, fleeing from a large home in the countryside with her face appearing covered in fake bruises and cuts - after she was beaten by her partner during an abusive relationship.
Brown described the video as “brutal and disturbing” but said it was important to highlight the issue.
Who is the former Spice Girl?
Melanie Brown shot to fame in 1996 as one fifth of the British pop group, the Spice Girls, and was known for her love of leopard print.
The 90s ‘girl power’ female icons brought chart-topping hits - like Wannabe - to a wave of young fans, and starred in their own movie, Spice World.
Brown, also known as Scary Spice, later went on to judge the UK X-Factor in 2014.
Brown’s three children are Phoenix whose father is Mel’s ex-husband Jimmy Gulzar, Angel, whose father is actor Eddie Murphy and Madison, whose father is Stephen Belafonte.
Why is Mel B shining a light on domestic abuse?
The 45-year-old said the video, ‘Love Should Not Hurt’, was inspired by her own experiences, as well as the conversations she’s had while being a patron of Women’s Aid and the impact of lockdown on women living with an abusive partner during the global pandemic.
The video portrays the physical violence often experienced in an abusive relationship as Mel’s character is thrown on the floor and repeatedly hit by her partner.
The perpetrator further controls the character by spying on her, isolating her from friends and family, and denying her access to her own money.
In another scene, the pair put on a ‘united front’ as they dance together in public highlighting how people in such awful situations will often put on a brave face.
As they dance in front of friends and family, clips of abuse filter into the scene before the film ends on Mel’s character running through a field wearing a dressing gown with a bloodied face.
As well as composing the music, Fabio d’Andrea directed the short film, with the dance developed by The Greatest Showman choreographer Ashley Wallen.
Every member of the cast and crew working on the video had experience of knowing someone affected by domestic abuse, including one of Fabio’s producers whose assistant, Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, was murdered by her boyfriend two years ago.
What did Mel B say about her own experience of domestic abuse?
Speaking about the short film, Brown said: “I’m so incredibly proud to be part of this project which means so much to me because this is a collaboration of three things that are so important in my life. Music, dance and a way to highlight the ever increasing issue of violence towards women.
“It seems strange to say I am proud of showing something so brutal and disturbing but it is my mission to raise awareness of something so many women go through every day, every week, every month of their lives.
“I have had my own experiences of abusive relationships but as patron of Women’s Aid I have spoken to so many other women, listened to what they have gone through and I know how very real the danger is to so many women out there and I’m not going to stop breaking the silence and the shame around this subject because it’s too much and we have to stand up and do something.
“This performance represents the stories and the experiences of those women I have met, spoken to or heard about.
“My heart breaks for every single woman and child who suffers from some form of domestic abuse. I want this to count for all victims of abuse. I want to help raise awareness, raise money and do anything I can to put a stop to this epidemic.”
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Speaking to Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain on 17 May, Brown was asked about the difficulties of leaving a coercive relationship.
Brown said: “I think you know but you don’t really know how to get out or how to deal with it.
“Especially if there’s children involved you feel responsible that your children have seen or heard things. There’s a lot of shame and ‘I’m saying lift that shame up’.”
Who was Mel B married to?
Brown split from producer ex-husband Stephen Belafonte in 2018 after a decade.
Four years ago Brown was living with Belafonte in Los Angeles.
In 2017, Brown and Belafonte reached a private settlement, hours before a trial relating to the alleged domestic violence was due to start in Los Angeles, The Guardian has reported.
She claimed in her 2018 memoir Brutally Honest that she had suffered abuse – allegations Belafonte has repeatedly denied.
If you are concerned about someone or you need help escaping an abusive relationship, contact Women’s Aid through their live chat, email or call your local helpline.
Women’s Aid is not an emergency service. If you think you might be in danger, call the police immediately on 999.
Additional reporting by PA.