Entertainment

Mel C’s brother’s thrilling career and how the Spice Girls star saved his life

Stepping away from her role as a singing sensation in arguably the biggest girl band in the world – Mel C is back on our screens with her latest stint on Celebrity Gogglebox.

The Spice Girls superstar is currently starring in the popular Channel 4 show alongside her brother Paul O’Neill, whose life she saved in a life-changing ordeal.

Otherwise known as Sporty Spice, or Melanie Chisholm, she undoubtedly has a glitzy life and glamorous career in front of the camera.

Mel, 48, has found incredible fame but has kept a close relationship with her family – and specifically her brother Paul.

Paul recently returned alongside his sister for the latest season of Gogglebox – where the duo sat upon the famous sofa to judge some of Britain’s most loved television.

It’s safe to say that Paul feels comfortable in the spotlight with his jaw-dropping career as a racing driver.







Mel C and her brother returned to Celebrity Gogglebox’s new series
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He began racing in the MGF cup between 1999-200, shortly after he went to Jim Russell racing school.

In 2001, he entered the production class of the British Touring Car Championship – before stepping into a 15-year career spanning the MGF Cup, BTCC and British GTs.

He famously won the BTCC at his home circuit of Oulton Park, in 2002..

The racing star, who also works alongside Steve Rider and Tim Harvey on ITV, has appeared on Top Gear, ITV’s GT Academy and Channel 5 series Classic Car Rescue.

Paul’s love for racing even meant that he stole an expensive item from his sister Mel – her very own car.

“I was 17-years-old, working in a factory in Warrington and I borrowed my sister’s car,” he said.

“I’d only been driving a few weeks and I had a monumental accident, coming off a wet roundabout in a Mercedes SLK, and I took a lamp-post down.

“It made the front page of the tabloids. I was inexperienced – I didn’t know anything about driving.”







The duo had a close relationship growing up – even if Paul hated the Spice Girl songs
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Mel has opened up about her close bond with her sibling in the past, having revealed a glimpse at their relationship with The Times.

In 2016, she described loving her brother from a very young age – despite some fairly questionable antics.

She said: “I’d be up in my bedroom with my mates and he’d just burst in and do a massive fart,” she said. “Looking back, I feel terrible ’cos I really did used to beat him up.”

“I’d punch him with all my might, but he’d just laugh at me. And fart some more.”

Paul also discussed how his sister’s fame affected his life as he detailed how he grew up hating the early Spice Girls songs.

He revealed that he was often getting taunted for being Sporty Spice’s brother, which led him to leaving school.

He said: “I grew to hate Wannabe. I was at college and all the people I hung around with started taking the p***.

“I wasn’t Paul, I was Sporty Spice’s brother, the one who dressed in trackies and did flying kicks.

“I’d pretend to laugh it off, but it hurt me,” he added. “I couldn’t take any more, so I left.”







Paul had just finished his season as a racing driver
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Mel was celebrating her 30th birthday in Mauritius
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If their relationship wasn’t close enough already – their bond solidified as Mel saved her brother’s life almost 20 years ago.

She spotted that her brother was showing symptoms of Type 1 diabetes during a holiday in Mauritius to celebrate her 30th birthday.

It was shortly after Paul was on soaring heights – who had just turned 25 at the time – had finished his best ever season as a racing driver.

Mel described the 2004 holiday with the Mirror as her brother’s condition began to worsen.

“He was sleeping a lot and losing weight despite downing huge bottles of Coke from the minibar,” she said.

“But it wasn’t until we got home and he started telling me about other symptoms that it all fell into place.”

Paul’s symptoms – feeling thirsty, needing the loo, and his vision blurring – were identical to those suffered by a member of the Spice Girls’ office staff – who had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.







Mel C and Paul are closer than ever
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Mel bought her bro his first racing car
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“He, like my brother, was in his 20s, fit and healthy,” said Mel. “And I had a horrible feeling that that’s what Paul had.

“I said to him, ‘You know what? I think you need to go to the doctors because it sounds like diabetes’.

“You don’t even want to say the word ‘diabetes’ because you know that it means a huge lifestyle change.

“You hope it’s not that – but you know you have to find out.”

Mel was right to worry. When Paul saw his GP, his blood sugar levels were dangerously high – even life-threatening – and he was rushed straight to hospital.

“I’m so grateful to Mel for insisting I go to the doctor. I was on the verge of going into a coma,” says Paul.

“I now know that delaying treatment for type 1 diabetes can cause diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, a potentially life-threatening complication.”

Further tests confirmed Paul had type 1 diabetes. “It was the worst day of my life,” Paul recalled after emergency treatment and tests confirmed the condition.

He described his distress at the impact that the condition would have on his career.







Paul joined Mel on The One Show
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Strict rules meant his racing licence had to be surrendered to the Motor Sports Association and only returned once his blood sugar levels remained stable for six months.

“I’d been told I was going to be the next big thing – winning races and leading championships. Now, it was game over,” he said.

At the time, Mel set Paul on the road to racing success – paying for his licence, buying his first racing car (a £22,000 Rover MGF) and arranging sponsorship.

Boosting her brother’s spirits, the singer revealed her “devastation” for her brother – as doctors explained that his body had stopped producing insulin.

As a result glucose was unable to enter cells in the body to be used as fuel – which explained the tiredness – and built up in the blood.

With no cure available, Paul had to learn how to measure his blood glucose levels at regular intervals and inject himself with insulin.

“The first time I tried to inject myself in my stomach, my hand just wouldn’t push the needle in,” he recalls.

“But after you’ve done it once, you never look back.”

After six months of stability, Paul and the family celebrated the return of his motor racing licence.







The group were known for their own unique fashion choices alongside their chart success
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He enjoyed three more years of competing before becoming a coach and television presenter – and years on from the diagnosis, he is still meticulous about managing his diabetes.

“I still love cycling and also run three or four times a week,” he said. “Exercise is an important part in managing my diabetes.

“I eat little and often and avoid things that I know will send my blood sugars soaring, but I can still have the occasional treat.”

Mel is immensely proud of Paul becoming an ambassador for the charity Diabetes UK.

“He’s a really inspiring character, especially for young people – and he regularly gives talks to families,” she says.

“He wants to get the message out that it doesn’t have to hold you back or stop you doing anything.

“And I’m so proud that he’s turned something so negative into a positive.”

“There are a lot worse things you can have. It can’t be beaten but it can be controlled,” Paul added. “You can still live out your dreams.”

Gogglebox returns to TV on Friday, 17 June at 9PM.

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