Here's How Much The Spice Girl's Mel C Is Really Worth

In the late 1990s, The Spice Girls were more than a pop band, they were a cultural phenomenon. The British girl group seemingly came out of nowhere and marched straight to the top of the charts clad in platform shoes, Union Jacks, and miniskirts, preaching the gospel of Girl Power to a whole generation. Melanie Chisholm, better known as Melanie C, Mel C, or Sporty Spice, was the group's powerhouse vocalist costumed in a tracksuit.

Over the last 20 years, Melanie C has proven herself to be more than just a Spice Girl, having enjoyed a long and fruitful career of solo projects and side endeavors.

While she isn't the richest Spice Girl (the title of Wealthiest Spice Girl goes to Victoria Beckham a.k.a. Posh Spice who is worth $450 million), Mel C's success as both a Spice Girl and as a solo artist has led to a net worth of $20 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Let's take a closer look at how Sporty Spice has made and kept her millions.

Mel C's early life

Born Melanie Chisholm, Mel C came from a working class family. Her parents divorced when she was 3 years old and she spent the majority of her childhood with her mom, stepdad, and two brothers. In the book, "Real Life, Real Spice: The Official Story" she confessed, "I didn't realize until I was older that all my friends lived in nice areas and I lived literally on the other side of the tracks..." Her half-brother Paul O'Neill also added, "Christmas wasn't great when we were young because we didn't have a lot."

Chisholm loved both dancing and singing from an early age. A portion of what little money the family did possess was spent on Chisholm's clear talents. O'Neill stated, "When our Mel was younger, my mum couldn't pay for her singing and dancing competitions and my child allowance used to be put with hers to help with the costs." Chisholm sacrificed superficial wants for the sake of her love of dancing, saying, "I spent all my money on dancing, which meant that I couldn't have many clothes or toys."

Her mother had sought to be a singer but didn't make it, leading a young Melanie to believe her dream of becoming a pop star was just that: a fantasy. She told The Guardian, "Mum signed a record deal in the 1970s but it didn't work out, so she played the pubs and the clubs through my childhood. I'd sit in the crowd, singing along. But knowing her story made me believe my own dream was unattainable. I'm just so pleased my aspiration to be the next Madonna persisted."

Mel C's rise to fame as Sporty Spice

Chisholm's dream of becoming a pop star started to become a reality in 1994 after she answered an ad in The Stage newspaper calling for "streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated" women who could sing and dance (via BBC). Heart Management was looking to create an all-female pop group and auditioned nearly 400 aspiring singers, eventually selecting only a few promising young women. One of those girls was Mel C, who took her place alongside Mel B, Victoria, and Geri (Emma came along a little later).

In 1996, shortly after the girls' first single "Wannabe" swept the airways, a magazine in London labeled them with their respective epithets based on their personal fashion choices. Chisholm, who often dressed in sporty clothes, appropriately became "Sporty Spice." Their nicknames stuck. "We just embrace them and run with it," she told E!'s Daily Pop.

Though the Spice Girls were short-lived (they were on an official hiatus by 2000) they burned hot and fast, creating a "Spice Girl mania" that has been compared to The Beatles. In the book, "Pop Music: Chart-toppers Throughout History," author Nicole Horning explains, "At that time, the Spice Girls were the most successful British group since The Beatles. In addition, 'they were also the most successful female-pop group, and one of the most successful pop groups ever...'"

Mel C made $29.8 million as a Spice Girl

During Melanie Chisholm's time as a Spice Girl, it is estimated she made a total of £22 million (or $29.8 million), according to The Mail on Sunday. She told EVENT (via The Mail on Sunday), "I made a lot in Spice Girls, but I spent a hell of a lot and had fun spending it."

However, her time as a Spice Girl wasn't all fun and games. She told The Mirror that she also struggled with feelings of guilt about the amount of money she was making, saying, "I come from a working-class background ... I was earning lots of money. I felt guilty and I think I felt maybe I didn't deserve it and I think all of these things made me put an extraordinary amount of pressure on myself to fit and be what in my head was the idea of perfect, so I did deserve all of the things that were happening to me."

The Spice Girls were a money making machine

More than just a band, the Spice Girls were also a brand, and an extremely marketable one at that. Their manager at the time, Simon Fuller, negotiated loads of profitable deals and partnerships with other companies who wanted a piece of the girls' popularity. Not only did the Spice Girls have their own hot-selling merch like dolls and school supplies, they also had their own Cadbury's chocolate bars, their own Walker's potato chip flavors, Polaroid cameras, lollipops, perfume, makeup — over 100 products, according to the BBC. They were also paid over $600,000 for an advertising jingle for Channel 5 and appeared in a slew of other TV advertisements.

Robert Dodds, 19 Entertainment president, explained to Music Week, "[Simon Fuller] said that if [the Spice Girls] are as big as we think they are going to be, why can't we link with other brands in exactly the same way as the Olympics works with a number of partners?" According to Music Week, "Such thinking was, for the time, revolutionary ... The Spice Girls themselves were, from the very beginning, marketed as their own particular brand, a move that proved groundbreaking in the pop world."

In 1997, BBC News reported "Analysts say the Spice Girls will earn more than £300 million [roughly $400 million] from their marketing efforts this year with a possible £3 billion [or $4 billion] by the end of the century." While it likely never reached that whopping amount, the branding and marketing of the Spice Girls undoubtedly bolstered the fortunes of all those involved, Chisholm included.

The record-breaking 1998 Spiceworld Tour

The Spice Girls' first concert was in 1997 in Istanbul, Turkey. Pepsi sponsored the live performance and according to the contract, it had to be located in a country where Pepsi outsold Coca Cola (in Turkey, that was the case).

The Spice Girls went on very few tours during their time as a pop sensation, but when they did finally make their way into the live arena, not surprisingly it was a huge success. Their first official Spiceworld tour in 1998 was the highest-grossing tour ever by an all-female band, earning $60 million on the North American leg. During the world tour, they played 97 cities in eight months to over 2 million fans worldwide. This was their only major tour in the '90s, though they have gotten back together a couple of times for reunion tours.

Chisholm, or Melanie C as she is known in her solo projects, has also embarked on several tours as a solo artist. She told NME, "I'm a live artist. I love to get out there. I love to play."

The Spice Girls movie was a monetary gain

In 1997, The Spice Girls starred in their own movie, "Spice World." While the film was a critical failure at the time — it still remains at only 34% on Rotten Tomatoes — it was a box-office success and broke the record for highest weekend debut during Super Bowl weekend ever. The film had a small budget of only $5.5 million but earned that back and then some (majorly some) grossing over $100 million worldwide.

Writer of the flick, Kim Fuller, aimed to create a "surreal" and "weird" comedy (via Vice). But the critics didn't exactly get it. In Victoria Beckham's autobiography (via BBC) she wrote, "The problem was that some of the toffee-nosed pr***s that write the reviews are so totally up their own bums they couldn't see it was a total spoof from beginning to end ... We set out to make a fun movie, kitsch, camp and a lorra lorra laughs. Frankly, I think we did." 

It took a little longer for Chisholm to see "Spice World" with affectionate eyes. She told The Telegraph: "I went through many years where I couldn't bear to watch it. But my daughter had a birthday party a couple of years ago and she was having a movie and a sleepover, and they wanted to watch 'Spice World.' I sat down with them and I actually really enjoyed it, I laughed out loud. It brought back so many memories ... We were so young, and so much has happened since then. But you know in a way, it is brilliant. It's very tongue-in-cheek, very silly. And the thing ... that I really realized, was there was so much of us in it. It was very, very real."

The film has since maintained a cult following.

Success as a solo artist

With several number one hits, Melanie C has had the most successful solo career of all the Spice Girls. According to American Songwriter, "she is certified as the female artist with the most number one songs in U.K. chart history. For more than 20 years, she has remained one of the best-selling female artists in the world."

She's written or co-written almost all of her own songs, a unique trait in the pop music industry. While all of the Spice Girls had their go at solo careers, Chisholm's first album, "Northern Star," released in 1999, remains the most successful solo endeavor of the gang, selling 4 million copies. Since then, she has released seven additional solo albums, selling over 20 million records in total.

Even as a solo artist, however, she's never completely separated herself from her Spice Girl identity, telling American Songwriter, that Sporty Spice is "something that's within [her] and has never gone away." Further explaining, she added, "As a solo artist, I think it's really important for me to embrace that. But of course, when we're alone, we're a little bit more introspective, aren't we? So I just feel like it's lovely to have both opportunities, and they're both very much a part of me. It feels quite natural to swing from one to the other."

Mel C owns her own record label

In 2003, Chisholm "parted ways" from her label of eight years, Virgin Records, according to BBC News. Reportedly, the separation came about after her singles "Melt" and "Yeh Yeh Yeh" didn't perform well, peaking at only 27 in the U.K. charts. An official statement from Melanie C's team at the time stated, "Melanie wants to release her own records in future and will not be looking to sign a new deal."

She did just that and created her own label, Red Girl Records. Melanie C is the only artist on the label. It is completely self-funded, which has allowed her to have total financial and creative control over her own music. When discussing the pros and cons of self-releasing music, she told Music Week, "You'd be a fool, even as an independent artist, to not listen to what people say and there are compromises to be made in any industry. But, at the end of the day, you make the decisions and do what you want to do. The difficult aspect is losing the infrastructure of the major label and the financial support."

Television appearances

In addition to her work as a solo musician, Chisholm has appeared on several TV competition shows and game shows on the side.

She was a judge on ITV's "Superstar," a competition series/ talent search for the performer who would portray Jesus in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." The winner would get to go on tour with the show alongside Chisholm, who played Mary Magdalene. She has also appeared on the game show "Bring the Noise" and was a judge on "Asia's Got Talent" for a season.

Chisholm is currently a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars," which is guaranteed to contribute to her yearly earnings. Reportedly the celebrity contestants typically make somewhere between $125,000 and $345,000, depending on how far they make it in the competition. But money wasn't necessarily the reason Chisholm decided to sign up. She thought it sounded fun, saying "'Dancing with the Stars' is something I've always wanted to do ... all the Spice Girls are so excited ... it's a wonderful experience" (via Yahoo! News).

Success on stage

Melanie C has also dipped her toes in acting, specifically in musical theater. She made her stage debut in 2009 in the musical "Blood Brothers" to glowing reviews. One critic, for The Evening Standard, wrote "Mel C delicately captures every changing tone, from teenage joy to adult resignation ... If we already knew she could sing, we might not have guessed she'd prove this adept at acting." She was nominated for a Laurence Olivier award for the role.

While we can't say for sure what Chisholm's salary was for her West End stint, an average West End actor makes at least $700-$1,000 a week, according to WhatsOnStage. As such, it seems likely that Chisholm didn't do it for the money but for the experience and love of it. She explained, "I was a fan of musical theatre growing up and auditioned for lots of shows ... It was a big part of my life but then working in pop music I got away from that. So it's really nice to come back to theatre" (via WalesOnline).

In 2012, she took to the stage again to portray Mary Magdalene in a touring production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," again to critical praise. For this role, she won a WhatsOnStage award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Because this production was a big arena tour, it's probable that the paycheck was higher than her West End debut.

In 2016, Mel C turned down over $2 million

In 2016, when the Spice Girls planned a reunion, Melanie Chisholm was offered £2 million (around $2.7 million) to return to her role as Sporty Spice, but she declined the offer. Why? Because at that particular moment, she had yet to come to terms with the mental health struggles she went through during her time as a Spice Girl.

Chisholm revealed in EVENT Magazine (via The Mail on Sunday), "When the Spice Girls were at their biggest, I couldn't even really look at myself in the mirror because I didn't like what I saw. Depression, eating disorders, obsessive over-exercising, I went through all of it."

Not returning to the Spice Girls in 2016 was a tough decision and the amount of money being offered made the decision even harder. She explained, "I'd like to say the money didn't matter to me. I'm a single mother and I do have financial concerns ... It was a really difficult decision. I didn't take it lightly."

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Spice World 2019 tour

Between the years of 2016 and 2019, Chisholm re-evaluated her negative association with her Spice Girl days and hit the road with her former bandmates (sans Victoria Beckham) for the 2019 Spice World Tour.

Still worried she would "[go] back to those emotions" of depression and insecurity she felt when she was a young Sporty Spice, she told the Daily Mail: "I did talk to my therapist a lot about those feelings. I was concerned about having to become 'Sporty Spice' again. Then it just hit me that I am her, but I'm older and happier and I have so much more confidence. Once I realized that, it was a gamechanger. And the reunion tour was magical ... Of all the tours it was, for me, the most special."

Dealing with those personal issues head-on and returning to the band paid off in a big way. The result of saying yes this time: she banked £2,780,556, or approximately $3.8 million.

What charities has Sporty Spice championed?

Melanie Chisholm has an impressive history of philanthropy. According to Look to the Stars, she has supported a wide range of causes including cancer research, conservation, abuse, and bullying. Her moniker "Sporty" was certainly proven accurate when she raced in the London Sprint triathlon in 2011 for Sparks, a charity that specializes in children's medical research. In 2016, she participated in another triathlon for charity, this time for Blood Cancer U.K. (formerly known as Bloodwise).

She has also recorded three singles to benefit Kandu Arts, an organization that helps refugees and "uses films, music, art, and food to help young people experiencing difficulties in their life." The director of the charity, Ed Deedigan, said, "It is fair to say and no exaggeration that without the support of Mel C, many less fortunate people would not have had opportunities to change their lives for the better."

In 2017, she was a contestant on the game show "Tipping Point" to raise money for a brain tumor research charity and became emotional after losing a good portion of the money in a final round, saying, "I've lost a couple of people to brain tumors and I just think this is a very important one to support." She then vowed to "win that money back."

Melanie C's real estate investments

While Melanie Chisholm is fairly private about her personal life, there are a few details that have been revealed about the places she's lived and the real estate she has owned.

In 2004, when she was in a relationship with property developer Tom Starr, Chisholm purchased a country home in Wales for the two of them to live in, according to WalesOnline. The home had "six bedrooms, three reception rooms, four bathrooms and is set 750 feet above sea level" and cost Mel C £850,000 (over $1 million). She had a daughter with Starr before they split in 2012. Though it's unclear if she still holds a stake in the Wales mansion, as of 2020, she lives in her home in the Hampstead neighborhood of London.

She's always had a fondness for the laid-back (but pricey) Hampstead and it's been her London neighborhood of choice for property-purchasing since the early 2000s. In a 2003 interview with the Evening Standard, she said, "When I first moved to London with the Spice Girls, I followed Emma back to Finchley as it's where she comes from. We both always aspired to live in Hampstead and now we do." In 2017, Chisholm reiterated that it is still her neighborhood of choice, telling The Times, "Now I live in Hampstead. I bought a flat there in the late 1990s with my first lump of Spice Girls money."

What's next for Mel C?

Chisholm seemingly has plenty of projects in the works that promise to add to her net worth. She'll likely continue making more solo records in the future. Her latest album released in 2020, self-titled "Melanie C," is a dance-pop record with serious disco vibes and has been met with positive reviews, proving she's still at it with no plans to stop.

There's talk of another Spice Girls tour as well. In September of 2021, Mel B (Scary Spice) revealed on "Steph's Packed Lunch on Friday" (via the Mirror), "We're hoping, especially me – if it has anything to do with me, which it will have because I'm the driving force and will make sure it happens – to tour in 2023." On ITV's "Good Morning Britain" (via CNN), Chisholm reminisced about the 2019 Spice tour, saying, "It was so much better than we ever could have dreamed of. And we'd be absolute fools to not want to do that again."

Her future also includes solo touring. She told CNBC in 2020 that performing live is "what drives [her]," saying, "it's my passion, it's why I make music. Love traveling, love getting out there to see the fans. So that's definitely on my agenda as soon as I can do it safely." And as of now, it does look like she has a 2022 European tour scheduled.