In an interview with the BBCSpice Girl Mel B spoke at length about her experience leaving her ex-husband Stephen Belafonte, who she claims was physically, emotionally and financially abusive back in 2017. She says the experience made her feel “powerless”, and described leaving Los Angeles and moving back to Leeds, England, to live with her mom, Andrea, in her bungalow.


“I wasn’t just emotionally and physically abused,” she said. “There was all the financial abuse, too. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have as much money as I thought I had. So I literally had to eat humble pie, live with my mum.”

Mel said that the entire process was a major adjustment at first, but that ultimately, surrounding herself with her family was “definitely” helpful. 


“Obviously any situation is better than being with your abuser, but when you’ve left that kind of abusive situation, it’s like starting all over again,” she said. “You have to learn to trust people. You have to learn to trust yourself.”

She described feeling like buying her own home wouldn’t be an option for her. But after years of paying legal fees and other payments to Stephen, living at home with her mom allowed her to save up enough money to settle her divorce in December of 2017, nine months after filing.

Mel says that even during the divorce proceedings, she was being abused, although she had to drop the allegations as part of their divorce settlement. Also part of the settlement was a $5,000 monthly child support payment from Mel to Stephen, $15,000 per month in spousal support and her covering his $350,000 in legal fees.

She credits her ability to fulfill her dream of buying her own home to moving back home with her mom. And the move back to Leeds wasn’t just about finances either, as it was there that she got engaged to hairstylist Rory McPhee after dating for three years. 


This isn’t the first time she’s speaking up about her experience being abused, allegedly. She’s appeared on many media outlets, including Loose Women, Good Morning Britain, The View, Entertainment Tonight and The Steve Harvey Show. In 2018, she wrote a memoir entitled Brutally Honest and spoke candidly about her experience being married to Stephen. And in 2021, she appeared in a video supporting Women’s Aid, covered in makeup reflecting the cuts and bruises a battered woman might have. The woman she was depicting was attempting to leave a violent partner.

Stephen has denied the allegations, which is likely why he ensured her claims of being abused by him were dropped as part of their divorce settlement, but his attempts to clear his name didn’t do much in the court of public opinion, especially considering Nicole Contreras, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, Giselle, supported Mel’s claims, saying she, too, experienced behaviour similar to what Mel alleged.


Mel once spoke on a panel and said that being on set for America’s Got Talent was a safe space for her to be and that she’d often stay back for a few hours just to avoid going back home. It was on that set that Simon Cowell proved himself to be an ally to her. 

“Work was my safest place that I could ever be because I knew that he couldn't get to me at work, because Simon Cowell banned him from being on set because he realised when my then-husband was around I acted nervous or wouldn't be my authentic self,” she said.

It’s awful to hear her recount her experience being married to Stephen, and especially to hear about what was going on behind closed doors while she was still in the thick of a very public career. It also serves as a reminder to women that no one is immune to predatory abusers who inflict not just physical pain, but emotional and financial abuse, too. 


Hearing Mel’s experience on the heels of conversations about situations women like Mary J. Blige and Wendy Williams found themselves in, which I wrote about here, that either rendered them broke or heavily in debt, is jarring. It makes you wonder who these people had around them and in their camps that no one could’ve tipped them off to what they were noticing. But it also speaks to the skill, tactics and charm of most abusers.

In Wendy’s case, though there were never allegations of physical abuse, we know that Kevin Hunter really did a number on her with his infidelity and financial demands, which he renewed just this week, appearing in court to enforce spousal support payments, despite her rapidly deteriorating condition, which I wrote about here.

According to several media outlets, Kevin is after the nearly two years of spousal support payments he says he’s owed from Wendy, which he claims have not been made following their divorce, which became official in 2020. 


"This is an emergent matter because I rely on the severance pay for my living expenses and having been without this income for 23 months has affected me greatly," he said in his court filing.

The irony and audacity of this man pursuing money he says is owed to him so that he can take care of the child and woman he had outside of his marriage to Wendy is not lost on me, on anyone really, judging by comment sections on posts sharing the news.

Mel speaking so candidly about her experience with Stephen is part of the emerging pattern we’re seeing with women exposing abusers in Hollywood. Though he’s not even remotely close to being as legendary or iconic as Mel, his career as a film producer still renders him as a “somebody” (somewhat) in Hollywood. Rightfully, his reputation is in tatters after being sued for fraud by artists he once managed. 

Meanwhile, Mel has gone on to become an anti-abuse advocate, secured that home she dreamt of buying and is looking forward to her wedding, expected to take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. I’m thrilled for Mel that her experience hasn’t turned her off of love – and I hope that the third time really is a charm.