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'There are still days when I don't want to get out of bed, but I decide my life now, which wasn't the case for 10 years... I'm one of the lucky ones, I escaped'

As her explosive memoir is published, Melanie Brown tells Hannah Stephenson that she is still recovering from her decade-long marriage ... and why she isn't looking for love

Staying strong: Melanie Brown
Staying strong: Melanie Brown
Melanie Brown with ex-husband Stephen Belafonte

Always the outspoken member of the Spice Girls, Melanie Brown has once again been thrown into the spotlight amid sensational headlines charting her relationship with her ex-husband, Stephen Belafonte, sexual encounters with both men and women, cocaine and alcohol abuse and attempted suicide.

The latest stories have been sparked by her memoir, Brutally Honest, which has already attracted huge publicity with her claims that Belafonte physically and mentally abused her during their 10-year marriage - claims he strongly denies - and her attempted suicide in 2014, when she downed 200 aspirin tablets.

Today, her clear skin, swept-back short hair and toned figure indicate that she is recovering, having divorced TV producer Belafonte last year, but she says the healing is an ongoing process.

"I've taken my power back and my life back. I get up in the morning and I decide my life now, which was not the case for 10 years," she declares.

Brown and Belafonte, both 43, share custody of their seven-year-old daughter, Madison, and she also has two other daughters, Phoenix (19), from her marriage to Spice Girls backing dancer Jimmy Gulzar, and Angel (11), from her relationship with comedian Eddie Murphy.

Today, she says she still has therapy and has just taken a course in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), a technique used to relieve psychological stress.

"I get lots of flashbacks. A friend of mine came in and gave me a hug the other day and I said, 'Don't touch me', because I was so used to being launched at.

"Because of therapy, because I'm talking about it, because I've written about it so intensely in my book, that in itself is very therapeutic for me."

She's had surgery since the relationship ended with Belafonte, showing me the scar from having Belafonte's name cut from the tattoo down her ribcage, which used to say, "Stephen, till death do us part, you own my heart".

She says: "I wanted to get rid (of it). I never wanted to get the tattoo in the first place, he made me do it. I wanted the scar to be big and ugly as a reminder. I have it (the skin) in a little jar in my house, which my friend still thinks is very strange. I will burn that piece of flesh or bury it when I am ready.

"The skin has healed. I am still healing. I still have a long way to go."

Belafonte, who has previously strongly denied the allegations made against him by Brown, said: "Everything that she said in that book, I can disprove."

He said he did not want to give a quick response, but would be willing to have a more complete conversation when he could present his own evidence.

It was the death of her father in 2017 which was the catalyst for Brown to divorce Belafonte, she says.

"When my dad was on his deathbed, it brought my whole family back together," she says now.

Her fellow Spice Girls have also been hugely supportive since her revelations, she adds.

"I made them all read the book and they were like, 'Why? What happened? Why weren't we there for you?' Emma couldn't stop crying the other day. She said she felt so bad that I went through all that and she didn't even realise. But I was really good at hiding it."

She's certainly not looking for love at the moment and says her experience with Belafonte has made her hesitant about future relationships.

"I'm not dating anybody. I'm quite happy just raising my kids and working and getting my life in order and that's it. I'm not looking for a relationship and I think that's healthy for me, to be in that mindset. I'm not chasing something that's a rebound. I'm still very much in my own healing process. I'm damaged, clearly.

"I feel vulnerable and I'm okay with that. I should feel a mess some days when I just want to break down and cry because what I've been through is horrendous.

"There are days when I don't want to get out of bed, but what I make myself do is have a bit of a cry. I'll meditate and then I'll watch comedy and force myself to laugh. I'm one of the lucky ones - I escaped."

Family therapy has helped, she reflects.

"You have to talk with your kids and communicate. For me, it was really important that Angel has a really healthy relationship with her father, Eddie Murphy. When I left, I was able to reinstall that. She's at Eddie's right now. She's spending good, quality time with him."

Brown, who lives in West Hollywood, still calls Murphy the love of her life.

"I've a large amount of fondness towards him, I always will have. We have a beautiful daughter together. He's now in a very happy relationship, he's on his second baby with his lovely lady and it's nice that me and Eddie can communicate for our daughter's sake.

"I did send the chapter about him to him and he said, 'I didn't know you felt that strongly about me'. It was like two ships that sailed and missed each other. You can't regret what happens to you in your life. I always like to take things, however bad or traumatic, and somehow turn them into a positive and learn from it.

"I'm not embarrassed to say that we had an amazing and beautiful relationship and I was - and still am - madly in love with him and what he showed me in life and showed me that a relationship can be built on trust and respect and love.

"We go to school plays, not together, but we are there. We do chat, but mainly about Angel. I keep it to our daughter out of respect for his relationship."

Brown has a busy year ahead with the Spice Girls tour and has also become a patron of Women's Aid. She recently visited a women's refuge in her home town of Leeds.

"I was asked to be a patron for Women's Aid, which was very validating and self-assuring. Their campaign is about helping women in situations that I've been in and to give them the tools to know it's wrong."

Brutally Honest by Melanie Brown (with Louise Gannon) is published by Quadrille, priced £17.99

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