Mel B was good at sport because she learned to ”run fast” when fleeing racist classmates who used to follow her home and shout insults at her.
The Spice Girls singer – whose mother is white British and father from the Caribbean – admitted she rarely saw other people of colour when growing up in Leeds, North England, and she was a target of abuse from a very young age as a result.
She said: ”I was aware from a very young age that I didn’t see many other people of my colour…
”But it was really when I went to school that I understood the colour of my skin had such an effect on the other kids.
”All of a sudden I was called all these names I didn’t understand like ‘P**i’, ‘Redskin’ and obviously the N-word.
”I used to get chased home by kids shouting these names at me, so I learnt to run fast. When I was older I would always win all the races on sports day and that was because I’d learnt to run fast at such a young age.”
Mel recalled how a stylist ordered her to straighten her hair for the music video for Spice Girls’ debut single ‘Wannabe’ in 1996 but she ”refused point blank”.
She told the Daily Star Online: ”I remember when we first did the video for Wannabe we had a big styling team and one of the first things they said to me was, ‘OK, so we need to straighten your hair’.
”I refused point-blank because my hair was my identity and yes it was different to all the other girls but that was what the Spice Girls were about – celebrating our differences.”
The 45-year-old singer was proud she stood her ground because of how important it was to young fans.
She added: ”And then I’d get really emotional letters from girls, and their mums, saying how incredible it was that they had someone to ‘be’ when they did dances in the playground at school and they were actually daring to wear their hair out and proud rather than scraped back or straightened.
”That was a big deal to me.”
Another incident saw Mel asked to leave a designer clothing store in South Africa when she was out shopping with her bandmates.
She said: ”There were times when there was obvious racism, I was asked to leave a designer clothes shop in Sun City when I was with all the other girls and we were there performing for Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela.
”Of course, all the girls had a go at the assistant because they were so shocked. It’s pretty awful to think I wasn’t actually shocked because if you are brown then there’s always a part of you that expects some confrontation.”
In a bid to make her bandmates understand what she faced on a daily basis, the ‘I Want You Back’ hitmaker – who has daughters Phoenix, 21, Angel, 13, and Madison, eight, from previous relationships – took Geri Horner to a club in Leeds.
She said: ”I think it’s almost impossible for white people to understand what it is to be black or brown. It did bother me. I remember once really thinking how I could make Geri understand.
”I got her to come back to Leeds with me and we went to one of these really old school underground blues and bass clubs that all the black kids in the area went to.
”It was tiny and really packed and when we were standing there, I said to Geri: ‘Look around and tell me what you see’ and she looked round and said: ‘Everyone else in here is black except me.’
”And I said: ‘That’s what it’s like for me nearly every day. I’m always the only brown girl in the room.’ That was quite an important moment for me.”