Melanie Chisholm (known as Mel-C/Sporty Spice) of the hit ‘90s girl group Spice Girls has opened up about the sexual assault she endured at the hands of a massage therapist in Istanbul, Turkey prior to the group’s first live performance in 1997. The singer wrote about her sexual assault in her new memoir, The Sporty One: My Life As A Spice Girl.
“Everything was leading towards the pinnacle of everything I’d ever wanted to do and ever wanted to be,” Chisholm shares in the newest episode of the How to Fail With Elizabeth Day podcast. She goes on to say she “buried” it at the time because she needed to focus on the Spice Girls’ performance.
“So here we were, the eve of the first ever Spice Girls show, so I treat myself to a massage in the hotel,” Chisholm continues. “And what happened to me, I kind of buried immediately, because there was other things to focus on. You know, I didn’t want to make a fuss, but also I didn’t have time to deal with it. And because I didn’t deal with it at the time, I realize that I allowed that to be buried for years and years and years.”
The story was not originally intended for the book, but after a telling dream, she made the decision to include the assault.
“When I was writing the book, it came to me in a dream, or I kind of woke up and it was in my mind. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t even thought about having that in the book,’” Chisholm says. “Then, of course, I had to think, ‘Well, do I want to? Do I want to reveal this?’ And I just thought, ‘Actually, I think it’s really important for me to say it and to finally deal with it and process it.”
In the interview with novelist Day, she describes the incident as a “mild version” of sexual assault, but nonetheless, it’s something that made her feel “violated” and “vulnerable.”
“I felt embarrassed, you know, and then I felt unsure, ‘Have I got this right, what’s going on?’” Chisholm says. “I was in an environment where you take your clothes off with this professional person. So there were so many thoughts and feelings, and I just thought, you know what, I do want to talk about it, because it has affected me.”
She goes on to share the inner doubt she felt following the assault and the forces in her life which encouraged her to share her story.
“Everybody knows better than me. What if I’m wrong? I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to be stupid,” Chisholm says of her thoughts at the time. “As I’ve searched my soul, as I’ve got older and tried to overcome so many things in that … trust your instinct. There’s only one person on this planet who knows what is best for you, and that’s you. Who knows what is right for you? Even if it wasn’t that person’s intention, it made you feel that way. And you have to let them know.”