Emma Bunton: Being a mum puts the spice in my life now
Emma Bunton reflects on how her life has changed since the Spice Girls days and why she supports UNICEF
Former Spice girl Emma Bunton may once have had a team pampering and polishing her as a member of one of the world's most successful girl bands, but nowadays she's no time for fussy fitness regimes.
Eighteen years on from her Baby Spice era, this most down-to-earth of celebrities simply relies on the demands of her busy career and being a mum to two energetic little boys to keep her trim.
"Spend hours in the gym? No way, that would be so boring! Anyway, when I'm not working, I'd rather be with my boys than on a treadmill. They're my priority, and as they're always on the go, I'm either playing football with them or taking them to the park in an attempt to run off some of their energy," says Bunton, who juggles the demands of parenting with co-hosting on an award-winning Heart FM breakfast show with Jamie Theakston, as well as designing her successful clothing range.
Her relaxed approach certainly seems to be working, as she looks glowing, blonde hair tumbling on to her shoulders and glamorously dressed in faux fur, when she arrives to chat about her rock-solid 16-year partnership with musician Jade Jones, why their wedding plans are on hold, her days as a Spice Girl, and the emotional rollercoaster of her charity work.
With Christmas on the horizon, her immediate thoughts naturally are with her family - her two sons, Beau (7) and Tate (3).
"I still feel so lucky to have my sons," she says with heartfelt sincerity. "When I was 25, I was told that as I suffer from endometriosis, I only had a 50/50 chance of having children, which scared me to death. When I fell pregnant the first time, I was ecstatic. It makes family occasions even more special, as I look at my two healthy, happy little boys and remember those years I spent worrying I might never have that dream.
"People say the boys have unusual names and they came about because we wanted simple names that couldn't be shortened. Jade loves fashion and named Beau after Beau Brumell, who was a famous dandy in Regency times, while I chose Tate after one of my favourite Jodie Foster films, Little Man Tate.
"Would I like another baby? Well, my youngest is only three, so he still feels like my little baby at the moment, but maybe in the future, if I was lucky enough to have another, it would be nice. I'm not thinking about it just yet."
She and her fiance, Jade, once a member of boy band Damage, met backstage after a Spice concert. "It truly was love at first sight. I believe in fate and that it was meant to be. I saw him, he looked at me, and as we were going to an after-show party, I just pointed at him and said, 'You are coming with me'. It was very forward and very girl-power looking back on it, but we just had a connection straight away. We completely clicked," she explains. "We have so much in common, with the same attitudes and views on everything, like bringing up the kids. We look after the boys between us because we didn't want a nanny, although our mums help out as well.
"Crucially, we're really good friends and I think keeping a relationship good means talking as much as possible. There's this misconception of me as always sweet and smiley because of my Baby Spice name, but actually I can sometimes be quite fiery. So sometimes, of course, Jade and I have our blow ups, but he's brilliant, such a good daddy and a fantastic cook and musician, plus I still fancy him after all these years, which is pretty good!"
The couple got engaged in 2011, an event she revealed while she was a judge on ITV's Dancing On Ice. "We're very laid-back about naming a day and it's not on the cards currently. Now and again, we talk about getting married, but we're so busy, we never get around to organising it. I'm sure one day we'll do it, and it will probably be just us and the boys while we're away somewhere."
Her appreciation of her own contentment in her family, in part, explains her support for a Pampers and UNICEF campaign in the fight to eradicate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT). She recently visited Madagascar on her first trip to see the work of UNICEF.
"Every mother wants their child to have the best healthy start and I've been so fortunate to give that to my boys, which is why I felt so strongly I wanted to help in this campaign. It really shocked me to learn that, worldwide, around 58,000 mothers and babies die every year simply because they don't have access to a vaccine that could prevent MNT," she says.
"I'm quite an emotional person and, although I did get tearful on occasions on my visit, overall it was so inspiring to go to a health clinic, meet mothers, as well as humbling to see the essential, life-saving work that goes on."
It's a world away from those high-octane days strutting the stage with the Spice Girls and Bunton reveals: "It's hard to remember some of it now because it seems like a lifetime ago, and my only regret is not making notes and taking photos, so I had a personal record of it all. We were all so young when it happened and it was such a whirlwind. From leaving college and meeting the girls, to having our first number one hit was only 18 months, and then we were off travelling the world," she says.
"I had the best time ever and loved every second of it. We girls all have our own lives and families now, but we're still close and whenever we can catch up, we do. After all, there's always going to be a bond between us. We were in this amazing thing together, and we grew up together during that time.
"I'm very content at this stage in my life. I have a wonderful family and love what I do now on radio, so everything's perfect for me at the moment. But I'm always looking forward and open to trying new things. I really believe in the saying, 'You'll regret the things you didn't do rather than the things you did'."
Girl power: What the other four Spice Girls did next ...
- Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, is the most high profile member of the group, thanks, in part, to her marriage to David Beckham. But the mum-of-four has also established a successful career for herself as an award-winning fashion designer.
- Melanie Brown, also called Mel B, was given the nickname Scary Spice because of her in-your-face, loud personality and tongue piercing. Her debut single after the Spice Girls, I Want You Back with Missy Elliott, went to number one. She is currently a judge on the UK X Factor panel.
- Melanie Chisholm, who was nicknamed Sporty Spice, had the most successful solo music career of the band, selling over 12m records. Her first single post-Spice Girls was a duet with Bryan Adams, When You’re Gone.
- Geri Halliwell was called Ginger Spice because of her liveliness, zest and red hair. She launched her solo career and released her album Schizophonic, which spawned three number one singles. Halliwell became a judge on Australia’s Got Talent.