In December 2014, during the live “X Factor” shows, Mel B tried to take her own life by downing 200 painkillers. She blacked out and woke up covered in bruises.
It echoed a previous attempt on her own life aged 14 when she was growing up in Leeds.
She was replaced for the Saturday semi but bravely appeared for the Sunday live final in a dress which showed off her injuries. At the time she blamed a stomach ulcer.
Here, in an exclusive extract from new autobiography Brutally Honest, Mel explains what really happened over those few dramatic days.
Here I am, 39 years of age, staring in a mirror in the en-suite bathroom of my rented house in Kensington, London, holding an open bottle of aspirin from the stash I’ve stockpiled over the years, putting one pill after another into my mouth.
As each pill goes into my mouth, I ask myself: “Are you sure?” And I take another one. Ten, 20, 50, 100. “Are you sure?”
It’s Thursday night. 11 December 2014. I’ve come back from dinner with my husband Stephen. Tomorrow I’m going to “The X Factor.”
It will be the red-carpet launch for the final weekend. I’ll be wearing a beautiful dress, my hair and make-up will be perfect. But if you want the absolute truth, I don’t care about any of it. My life is a mess and I want out.
One hundred and 20. “Are you sure?” 150. “Are you sure?”
Behind the glitter of fame, I felt emotionally battered, estranged from my family.
I felt ugly and detested by the very man who once promised to love and protect me, my husband and manager Stephen.
A man who after ten years of marriage now had a library of sex tapes that could — as we both well knew — ruin my career and destroy my family.
I wrote frantic, disjointed notes for Phoenix, my eldest daughter, my soulmate — the girl who is little sister, friend and daughter to me.
It was going to be up to her to get my other little girls, Angel and Madison, to Leeds where they could all live with my mum.
In my head, in that moment, it was that simple.
Two hundred. “Now what’s going to happen, Melanie? STOP!” As soon as I’d swallowed that last pill, I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere. “Melanie! What the f— are you doing? Get a grip!”
Suicide was not the answer. I had to make my life count. I had to get to a hospital. I had to get those pills out of my stomach before anything happened.
My head was spinning. All I thought was that I needed to get out of the room but for some reason, the door was jammed.
I can’t clearly remember what happened next but I remember throwing myself at the door, crashing my full weight against it.
Those bruises on my face and shoulder everyone saw at “The X Factor” final three days later — most of them were caused by those moments trapped in that doorway.
I can’t remember the pain but I can still remember the fear, panic and absolute confusion in my head.
Then everything started to go black and I collapsed to my knees. I could feel the life in me starting to drain away.
And then nothing, silence. I lay semi-conscious on the bathroom floor and, with tears streaming down my face, drifting in and out of consciousness, waited to die.
I remember getting to the hospital and calling Simon Cowell. I remember he didn’t sound horrified, just calm, like he knew that’s what I needed from him.
I must have lost consciousness again. When I woke up, I was surrounded by doctors and nurses.
“Mom. What the hell?” Phoenix was standing by my bed. Furious, shaking, full of rage. Of all the memories from all those hours, it is the one that still floors me. “Why, Mum? Why? Why?” It was the saddest moment of my life. All I ever want is for her to know how sorry I am, how lost I was and how I’ll never, ever abandon her again.
Looking at my daughter — distraught, devastated, angry — was the moment I knew the fightback had to start.
The situation with “The X Factor” was quickly sorted because it had to be — the semi-finals were going to be shown live in two days’ time.
Tulisa Contostavlos would cover for me on Saturday night and be on standby for the Sunday final.
Despite all the drugs I was being given, I was wired. The doctors kept telling me that I was in the High Dependency Unit and was seriously ill. I needed to get well.
If you think I was surrounded by friends, relatives, other concerned celebrities and flowers, you would be wrong. Thanks to my relationship with Stephen, I was pretty much on my own apart from my security, my hairdresser and Simon my publicist.
Every one of the Spice Girls tried to contact me. I couldn’t speak to them. I wasn’t ready, and I was too ashamed. My family also managed to track me down, but they were the last people I wanted to see.
I remained trapped behind a wall of guilt, shame and worthlessness. I’d been hit in the past, but bruises fade.
My doctor looked at me as if I was completely crazy when I mentioned in the very early hours of Sunday morning that I would be on “The X Factor” later that day.
“That is not happening, Melanie,” he said.
“I don’t think you realise how serious your condition is. You are in intensive care. There is serious damage to your liver and kidneys.”
As my doctor walked out of the room, I texted my stylist: “Send me pix of all the dresses you’ve got me for the final tonight.”
I had bruises round my eyes, my cheek was swollen, and I had massive dark welts on my arms from the constant stabbing at my weak, narrow veins with the IV drips.
“I’ve got three perfect dresses with sleeves,” said my stylist, nervously eyeing the welts and purple marks on my arms which were clearly showing through thick body foundation. “No,” I said. “I’ve picked the dress already. No sleeves.”
The bruises were still visible as I put on a beautiful, long white silk dress, semi-sheer at the top then hugging every curve of my body.
I would stand proud in this stunning white dress, the marks of my agony all over me. I asked for my hair to be pulled right back from my face. I needed to be seen. I needed all those bruises to be seen.
My message to the world and to my husband was going to be VERY CLEAR. I wanted people out there watching to be my witnesses. I took off my vast, square-cut diamond wedding ring. A ring I’d worn on “The X Factor” a few weeks before to show the world what a solid couple Stephen and I were.
The next hour was a blur of adrenalin and throwing myself into the drama of the show. Simon winked.
Louis covered up whatever shock he was feeling.
I let go of Louis’ hand and lifted my left hand into the air, directly in the centre of the camera focus, knowing the TV audience, the press and, most important of all, Stephen would see my ring-less finger. “F— you big time,” I thought.
As the show played out, I focused entirely on the battle between Ben Haenow and Fleur East.
They were both fabulous, talented and committed. They were both out there singing because they wanted a whole new life to start. I was with them all the way.
I joked with Simon and Louis, and tried not to ignore Cheryl’s looks of concern every time the camera was off us.
“I’m OK. I’m OK.” As ever, on that stage — any stage — I felt fully myself. Untouchable. Melanie Brown. Wonder Woman.
I get off stage, smiling at everyone, happy for Ben (who won), happy for Fleur.
I’m happy I didn’t collapse, happy I’ve done it. I’ve sent my message to Stephen. There’s no going back. I’m going to leave him, get a divorce. I’m going to be free.