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Mel C and Sink the Pink interview: ‘Hearing from LGBTQ Spice Girls fans often moves me to tears’

Sporty Spice opens up about her affinity with the community as she embarks on a global Pride tour with drag collective Sink the Pink.

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude

If you thought a stadium reunion tour was all the Spice Girls were going to give the gays this year, then WRONG.

No sooner had the group’s remarkable run of comeback shows come a close last month, Melanie C was jetting off for a full-blown global Pride tour with London queer drag collective Sink the Pink (STP).

With jaw-dropping drag moves and Mel’s remarkable 20-year backcatalogue of hits filling their inspiring rainbow set, together Sporty and STP are spreading the Spice love around the globe in the name of LGBTQ equality, with stops in São Paulo, WorldPride in New York and Madrid already ticked off and with more dates in Bristol, Brighon, Margate and Dublin to follow over the next few weeks.

As the UK-leg of the tour gets underway, we caught up with Mel and Sink the Pink director Glyn Fussell to find out more about how the show’s going down with gays around the world, what Pride means to them, and which her fellow Spices Sporty would like to drag up as mosts…

This a such a perfectly fierce collaboration to celebrate Pride this year: how did it come about?

Glyn: Well, Melanie performed at STP a few years ago and we became friends after. We did a few projects like my festival Mighty Hoopla, each time making the set a little more bold and LGBTQ-focused. With every show the audience got more wild for it so we just decided to create a show, a love letter, to all Melanie’s and and STP’s LGBTQ fans.

What can fans expect from the show?

G: It’s a high-energy, hit-packed, camp extravaganza of a show – and of course with costumes to die for! Melanie is doing two covers of HUGE LGBTQ hits, and neither you’d expect. Plus some Spice hits and a new BANGER that she has written inspired by STP. Yes, really! The show is pretty intense, there’s a LOT of choreography. I worked with my long time Sink The Pinker Jono Kitchens on which queens fit his choreo best.

Mel, of your extensive back catalogue, which track is the one that really fires up the crowds at Pride – and why do you think that is?

Mel: Of course all Spice Girls songs go down a storm, but from my solo work ‘I Turn To You’, always gets an incredible response. Hex Hector remixed the song, which became the single and a huge club hit. It’s a banger! I think the song resonates with people lyrically and the LGBT community just grabbed hold of that track and it became huge within the community. I’ve also been playing an as-yet unreleased song called ‘High Heels’. It’s super catchy and the response to it has been amazing.

Mel, there were plenty of Pride flags on display in the crowd during the Spice Girls’ recent stadium dates, and the group made sure to include LGBTQ acceptance in your set videos. How aware were you all of your importance to young LGBTQ fans during the peak of Spice-mania in the ‘90s?

M: Spice-mania was a crazy whirlwind, I hardly had time to consider anything! It was only after, as some of those young people started to grow up a bit and make their voices heard, that I realised what an incredible impact we’d had. When I hear the stories of how we inspired and helped people through the most difficult times of their lives, I feel deeply proud. Talking to fans directly and hearing of how we gave them the strength – basically through our attitude – often moves me to tears.

Why do you think so many LGBTQ people connect with the Spice Girls so much?

M: I truly think it was our attitude. Our message was ‘Be yourself and don’t give a shit about it!’ When you are a young LGBTQ person, trying to find your way in a very different world than the one we live in now, this is a really powerful message. We didn’t just say it, we actually lived it. We genuinely didn’t give a shit and that was inspiring, allowing people to properly connect to us. There was nothing fake, no lip-service, and we were basically on top of the world.

What does Pride mean to each of you?

G: The people that marched before me and that fought for my rights today are why Pride is STILL the most important day as an LGBTQ person worldwide. Until worldwide equality is reached I have to carry that baton and make my voice heard for all those that don’t yet have that right.

M: I love performing at Prides because it allows me to give something back to the LGBTQ community. Over the years, understanding how much Spice Girls has impacted people, actually made me learn an awful lot about myself. Knowing that people have been so inspired by me and my fellow Spices has given me a lot of strength. I would like to think that I have been helped by the people we inspired, as much as we helped them. As well as that, there’s always a fantastic party!

You’ve just played in São Paulo, Brazil, where LGBTQ people are currently being vilified by the new president, Jair Bolsonaro. What was the atmosphere like during the show, and how important is it that artists support international Pride events like this and continue to be politically-engaged?

G: I have never ever felt that energy, Sao Paulo proved for me that when we stand together as minorities we have the chance to be the majority! It was the most defiant, positive, powerful pride I have ever been part of! STP represent the unrepresented. We celebrate the differences in people. We seem to really resonate in places where the right to be different is being taken away.

M: São Paulo was amazing and something truly special. I was told by countless people in the Brazilian LGBTQ community and beyond, how important it was that we were there. What it meant to the LGBTQ community in Brazil was that the world was watching them and they have not been forgotten. It highlighted their plight under the new president and gave them strength. Me being the first international artist to headline SP Parada meant we managed to bring the world’s attention to them, which is incredible and something I’m very proud of.

Are you managing to get involved in the Pride celebrations away from your actual set?

G: I know that myself and the queens are going to a LOT! We just want to soak up the scene in each city and understand what Pride means to them.

M: In Sao Paulo I spent two hours after the performance enjoying the crowds from the float. It was unforgettable: Loads of love from everyone and seeing people having such a fantastic time was special. I hope I can do it again one day!

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What does a night backstage with Sink the Pink and Mel C look like?

G: It’s actually very calm! I am probably the most excitable. There is a lot in this show so I am sure as the run goes on we will relax into it and get a little looser – but for now I am sad to report we are not so crazy!

M: [laughs] Glyn! You are a bit excitable! Unfortunately I’m pretty boring really! We are so busy over the summer and my main priority is looking after my voice and keeping in tip top shape. As soon as there’s a gap on the horizon we are going to properly let our hair down and I can’t wait!

Finally, questions for both of you: If you had to drag up as a Spice Girl other than Sporty, who would it be and why?

G: That is one for you Melanie… I’m team Sporty for life!

M: That’s a hard one! I don’t know whether I can answer that out of pure loyalty to all my fellow Spices. I suppose the easiest would be Victoria as she’s left a gap in the market, but to be honest I couldn’t commit to anyone!

Mel C and Sink the Pink perform at Bristol Pridethis Saturday 13 July. For the full list of European Pride and tour dates click here.