The Secret Life of … Mel B

Special to the Times

She may have lost out to race-car driver Helio Castroneves on “Dancing with the Stars,” but Melanie Brown (a.k.a. Scary Spice, Mel B) is determined to make a go of a post- Spice Girls career. She’ll co-emcee the 2008 Miss Universe pageant with Jerry Springer next month for NBC. And today, Brown and fellow former pop star Joey Fatone will co-host TLC’s “The Singing Office,” a series in which the pair surprises several unsuspecting offices by rallying the 9-to-5 staffers into competing in a musical throwdown. “There was something about being there with the everyday office crowd that turned out to be a lot of fun. Some of them really wanted to sing, others I had to chase around with a mic,” she says. But make no mistake, “We weren’t out to find the next big pop star, so don’t expect that!”

Brown talked to us about her “secret life,” including the highs and lows of being celebrity, her first big splurge and what movie always breaks her heart.

What movie makes you cry? “Stepmom.” Without a doubt. Whenever it’s on, I have to watch. And it’s always on, isn’t it? I feel like it is. Every time I’m channel-surfing, there it is. And every time, I stop. [The remake of] “The Heartbreak Kid” too, but it’s more like crying from laughter. It actually hurts from my laughing so hard.

If you could change one thing about being a star, what would it be? It’d be nice to not have paparazzi take pictures of you when you don’t know they’re there. I’ve gotten caught in some of the worst positions. But then again, I’ve had guys come up to my face and say “I’m going to take a picture of you” and I can’t stop them. It’s quite creepy.

Do you ever read the tabloids? Well I don’t read them, but sure, I have a quick look at the pictures. [Laughs] I admit it! But if I read the print, it’ll wind me up. Even if it’s nice, you might just be the flavor of the month and then you’ll probably get trashed the next. So I’m always hoping I’m somewhere in between.

Do you wear a disguise when you’re in public? No, I’m very proud of who I am.

What’s the best thing about being a star? You get to cut in line every now and then and you walk into your restaurant and usually get a table. It might be booked for three months out and you can still get in -- that’s the best.

What did you first splurge on once you made big money? I bought myself a Rolex and I bought my mum and dad a big seven-bedroom house in the town where I grew up.

What’s your favorite thing to do alone? I love to get massages and meditate.

What was your first Hollywood job? I was 13 and an aspiring actress and I finally got this gig as an extra in this British series called “Coronation Street.” I was stacking shelves in a store as part of the background. It was my claim to fame for a year or so because everyone watched it. It was huge. And actually, everyone still watches it. My part actually grew as time went on and I actually got to speak once. It was thrilling.

What’s the biggest misconception about you? Probably that I’m scary. I’m not really. I am very opinionated, more so when I was younger. Whatever I thought in my head I used to say out loud. Now, I try to say things a little bit differently, so I’m more, I don’t know, gentle.

Which film or TV character would you most like to play? Sydney Bristow in “Alias.” I’d love to play someone who gets to kick ass every day.

What’s on your TiVo? Apart from " Hannah Montana” and kids programs, hmmm, I like watching nature documentaries. There’s a number of them waiting for me.

What was your favorite subject in high school? Well, I went to a performing arts school and I found that I really loved playing the drums. I ended up doing all my exams in drums alone. I haven’t played seriously in five or six years, but every now and then I’ll let loose. You get to be wild and free when you’re drumming.

If you were given three free hours right now,, what would you do with them? I’d probably take my kids to the park or go on a roller-coaster ride and then have some delicious food cooked by my husband [producer Stephen Belafonte]. He’s a fantastic cook. He makes really good roasted vegetables, wonderful chicken. It’s just delicious.