Here’s The Seriously Impressive Way That Mel B Handled Blackface Performers During A 1998 Spice Girls Interview

Mel did not hold back as she told the TV presenter: “You shouldn’t have their faces painted, this is the ‘90s!”

Mel B is being praised for the impressive way that she navigated a difficult moment during a live TV interview in the Netherlands back in 1998.

Closeup of Mel B

Mel and her Spice Girls bandmates were on the show shortly before Christmas, and presenter Paul de Leeuw was excited to introduce the stars to a Dutch Christmas tradition.

The Spice Girls on the red carpet

This included the controversial "zwarte pieten,” which literally translates to “Black Petes,” who are part of the Dutch celebration Sinterklaas Dag (St. Nicholas's Day).

Screenshot of performers in blackface

But Mel was visibly horrified by the fact that the Petes were white people in blackface, and was sure to let the host know that this wasn’t appropriate.

Closeup of Mel B

“I don’t like them!” Mel B and Geri repeated, with Mel going on to tell Paul: “I think they shouldn’t paint their face, you should get proper Black people to do it. You shouldn’t paint their faces, I don’t think it’s very good.”

Closeup of Mel B

But Paul remained defiant, arguing: “No, no, no, but that’s tradition. That’s culture, that’s tradition.” He then joked that one of the Petes was called “Mandela,” which appeared to be a racial reference to Nelson Mandela.

The Spice Girls on the show

The full clip recently resurfaced on TikTok, where Mel has won high praise for the firm way that she tried to educate Paul as she stood her ground during the interview.

VARA / TikTok @medylema / Via

“Mel B well done for speaking out! That's disgusting!” one person commented on the clip. Another echoed: “love Mel B and good on her.”

“Mel B well done for speaking out! That's disgusting!”

And the controversy surrounding zwarte pieten continued into the 2010s, when the concept was updated in some parts of the Netherlands in a bid to distinguish the character from blackface. The most common update is calling the character “roetveegpiet,” which translates to “sooty Pete.”

A person dressed as Sooty Pete

But the host of the show that the Spice Girls appeared on, Paul, is among those to have had a change of heart, with the Dutch star saying in 2014 that the movie 12 Years a Slave had changed his opinion on blackface as he stated that he no longer believes that it has a place in the Netherlands.

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