Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown (she was “Scary Spice”) has a come a long way from her pop star days. The mom of two (Phoenix, 11 and Angel, 3) and step-mom of one (Giselle, 6) hosted weight-loss competition Dance Your Ass Off and is the star of her new family-oriented reality show, It’s a Scary World. Babble caught up with Brown to chat about the fail-proof trick she plays on her three-year-old, her favorite exercise (hint: It doesn’t take place in a gym) and why she refuses to let kids totally change her life.
What’s your parenting philosophy?
Do as I say, not as I do.
If you could teach your daughters one life lesson, what would it be?
Always follow your gut instinct, and hopefully the gut instinct is right.
How do you manage a public tantrum?
With my three-year-old, I say, “Okay, I’m just going to leave you there,” and let her think I’ve gone somewhere. Then, I’ll peek around the corner to keep my eye on her, and she’ll stop because she’s not getting any attention from me.
Did you use that same tactic with your older daughter?
No. She gets grounded, or she’ll get her TV taken away from her, or [the entire] weekend – something she enjoys.
What shocked you most about parenting?
My mom was one of seven, so I’ve been surrounded by kids my whole entire life, so nothing really shocks me. If it wasn’t for being part of Spice Girls, I would’ve had kids a lot earlier. I take each day as it comes. I don’t put pressure on myself to be a perfect parent. I love my kids, I adore my kids, and I try as much as possible to set a good example. There [are] definitely a lot of funny things that come along with being a parent, like when my 11-year-old asks about boys and kissing, but I approach it how my mother would’ve approached it, which is being honest. We’re all about being honest in our household and telling the truth, no matter what the consequences are.
Is it difficult to have an eight-year age gap between your daughters?
My 11-year-old is like a mini-mom to my three-year-old; she helps out a lot!
Do the girls get along?
Well, my three-year-old can be a bit of a nightmare. She’s a bit of a screamer. If she doesn’t get her way, she’ll try and attack my older daughter, but that doesn’t go very far.
What’s off-limits in your house?
Weirdest habit: I can’t go to sleep unless I rub my husband’s feet on my feet.
What makes you cringe: Apart from nails down a blackboard, when my kids reveal something I’ve either said or done in front of somebody else.
Guilty pleasure: Thin, crispy pizza.
If you could be any TV or movie parent, who would it be? I just watched The Time Traveler’s Wife; Rachel McAdams is so good – and really hot!
Biggest pregnancy craving: Sunday dinners, which in England is chicken and roast potatoes and lots of gravy and macaroni and cheese and brussels sprouts. I’m making myself hungry!
Favorite vacation spot: Because I’m from London (where it rains), every day is a bit of a vacation for me here in L.A., because there’s sunshine! But for family holidays: Hawaii, Japan and Maldives.
Most embarrassing kid moment: My 11-year-old said, “Mom, do you remember when you picked your nose that one time and you had a really big bugger?” And I’m like, “No, be quiet!”
Soda. But once a week they have their candy day, so they can eat candy and drink a little bit of soda if they want – and they do!
What’s your biggest parenting challenge?
Making sure you give each of your kids the same amount of attention. Between my three-year-old, my six-year-old and my 11-year-old, my eye’s on my three-year-old the most, making sure she’s listening to me and doesn’t fall in the pool. But it’s about splitting your time individually, so each child gets the same amount of attention, which is definitely challenging.
Are you the good cop or bad cop?
Both! I was a single parent with my 11-year-old for six years, so I learned how to do both really quick.
Finish the sentence. Before I had kids, I swore I’d never:
I do what I would do without kids! I don’t believe in completely changing your whole entire life. Of course your life is different, but my husband and I still have date night and I still go out with my girlfriends. Your life does not have to turn into moms-ville boring. Because if you’re not happy, your kids aren’t happy.
Do you have a weekly date night on the calendar?
Definitely. We’re a very modern blended family and we’re relaxed, cool parents. We have certain rules; Phoenix [is] supposed to keep her bedroom tidy and Angel knows that if she gets the toys out, she’s the one who has to put them away. We have [the same] regular household rules that I had growing up.
You hosted the second season of Dance Your Ass Off. Why did you decide to take this gig?
I watched the show last season and fell in love with it. So when it was offered to me, I thought, “Wow, why not? I already love the show. I already know the show.” I think it’s a great concept – dancing and losing weight – and it’s all about health and nutrition. I’m a big workout person myself, [so] I thought, “Yeah, I’d love to do that.” I’ve done a little bit of hosting before. I hosted Miss Universe in Vietnam. I love getting on the microphone – if not singing, then talking.
Did you get to be involved with the contestants on Dance Your Ass Off much?
Yes! I hung out with them at least three times a week because I set their challenges every week. Then, during the actual taping of the live show, we’d hang out all day together. I gave them a lot of support – they’re all such sweet people.
What do you look forward to most with your daughters getting older?
The whole graduation thing and prom night and first date. We don’t really do that stuff in England. We don’t have prom night and we don’t graduate, unless you graduate from college. And my 11-year-old and I are really close, so I’m hoping I’ll be the first one she tells about her first crush or first date!