She could not only do a mean back-flip, but Sporty Spice Melanie Chisholm also had a voice that sold records. And she went on to have the most successful solo career out of all of the Spice Girls - despite admitting to being the shyest of the five.
It was perhaps inevitable that Melanie Jayne Chisholm, born in Widnes, Cheshire, on January 12, 1974, would have a career in showbiz. Mum Joan was a singer with a rock band and as a youngster Mel used to go along to her gigs. "I thought all mums were singers when I was a kid," she recalls. "I was so proud of her. I used to love seeing her on that stage." Mel soon realised she wanted to perform, too, even though she lacked confidence. Naturally sporty, she trained in ballet as well as karate, and initially went down the dance route, getting accepted at The Doreen Bird Dance School in Kent when she was 16.
But what she really wanted to do was sing. An ad in an industry mag looking for members for a new girl band seemed the answer to her prayers. After nearly missing the audition due to a bout of tonsillitis, Melanie - along with Victoria Adams, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie Brown - was picked to form The Spice Girls. Their debut album Spice
went to number one around the globe and Melanie, who became known for performing back-flips across the stage, was soon dubbed Sporty Spice in recognition of her tomboyish image. She was also recognised as the best singer of the five.
The group dominated the pop scene in the late 1990s, becoming one of the most successful girl-bands of all time with record sales hitting more than 55 million worldwide. After nine UK number-one singles and two number-one albums, followed by a third album, Forever
, the girls decided to go their separate ways. Looking back on her time with the group, Melanie says she fell victim to eating disorders in an effort to maintain her public image, and plunged into depression. "I was living off adrenaline and wasn't taking care of myself," she admits.
With the help of her mum she got herself back on track. And her first solo effort - the Bryan Adams duet When You're Gone
- reached the UK top three and became a huge hit across Europe. She followed that up with the album Northern Star
in 1999, which was certified triple platinum in the UK and whose third single Never Be The Same
became her first UK number one as a solo artist. While her second album, Reason
, released in March 2003 was certified gold in the UK the disappointing performance of her double A-side single Melt/ Yeh Yeh Yeh
led to her being dropped by her Virgin Records label.
Undeterred, the following year Mel set up her own record company entitled Red Girl Records named after her beloved Liverpool Football Club and her propensity to blush easily. Self-funded third solo disc Beautiful Intentions
featured the Top Ten single Next Best Superstar
as well as the smash hit First Day Of My Life
, which became one of the best-selling European singles of 2005.
And Mel has found happiness not just in her own musical direction but also in love. After high-profile relationships with Robbie Williams and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Keidis, Melanie - who prefers to keep her private life out of the limelight - has settled into a low-key, long-term relationship with property developer Thomas Starr.
A reunion of the Spice Girls thrust the Merseysider back into the spotlight in 2007. Initially she had resisted the idea of getting back with her former band-mates as her solo career was going strong and she felt it might be difficult to recreate their "magical time" together. Eventually, however, she gave in, saying: "I wouldn't want to be a spoilsport."
On February 22, 2009 Melanie joined the rest of her former band-mates once again, but this time into motherhood, as she and Thomas welcomed their first child - a "beautiful little girl" named Scarlet Starr.