“They always say, ‘My God, David is so handsome, he’s gorgeous, he’s so good-looking—and she’s so funny.’ Basically that means you’re a pig with a sense of humor.”
So Victoria Beckham lightheartedly mused on her 2007 NBC show Coming to America, and it’s a reliably funny observation she’s shared multiple times—that all of the ogling adoration is reserved for her husband, David Beckham, and people think she’s… “funny.”
While male celebrities often don’t need to show up for the personality fight armed with anything more than a set of abs, David has a perfectly good sense of humor—and Victoria is perfectly stunning. It’s also funny that the Spice Girl who wasn’t exactly known for her personality during the group’s heyday—and was known more for her sour-seeming pout than her big smile—has zig-zagged into being thought of as the funny one in her marriage.
But through all the various chapters in her life, Beckham has had a steady side gig in defying expectations at every turn. She wasn’t even all that “posh”…
Having been taught in stage school that grooming was everything, “‘Posh Spice’ came about because of how I looked,” Beckham remembered in her book That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between. “The bob, the heels, the little black Gucci dress. Except that it wasn’t Gucci. It was Miss Selfridge, and I’ve still got it, though it finally fell to bits from being worn to death.”
In the documentary The Spice Girls Story: Viva Forever!, she explained, “I was called Posh because I liked the nice restaurants, and the nice clothes, and that was my character. I didn’t smile, even in those days. There was this very strong image. And I am very much that person, even now.”
While never known as the biggest talent in the group, Beckham—who despite her dream of the limelight from a young age was interested in fashion from day one—didn’t ultimately mind that sometimes she was left to sing into a dead microphone.
“Being in the Spice Girls was so much fun. I was never the best singer or dancer,” she reflected to Elle UK in 2017. “I learned an enormous amount during that time, though: the staging, the lighting, the costumes—the package excited me.”
Though she attempted it as her group mates did, Beckham quickly realized that a solo career wasn’t for her.
Instead, she turned to modeling and launched her first denim line, VB Rocks, in 2004 with Rock & Republic. Meanwhile, Real Madrid had acquired her husband in 2003, and she and sons Brooklyn Beckham and Romeo Beckham (their only children at the time) moved to Spain.
Of course, as the queen of a sprawling business empire, she’s more posh now than ever before. But there’s nothing in her life that she hasn’t worked overtime for, from her personal fulfillment to the parade of celebrities who wear her label. As Beckham celebrates her 45th birthday Wednesday, she does so as a wife of almost 20 years, a mother of four, a style icon, the founder of an award-winning design house and a member emeritus of one of the most beloved girl groups of all time. And she’s funny.
Not bad for someone who has been regularly treated to stories about how none of it was going to work out.
“People have been making things up about our relationship for 20 years,” Beckham told British Vogue in 2018, “so David and I are pretty used to ignoring the nonsense and just carrying on as normal. But these things have a wider effect on the people around us, and that’s unfair.”
Similarly, she told Vogue Australia, “I have a lot of PR people I just trust to deal with it.” She was being purposely flippant, but in all honesty, Beckham added, “What you do have to take into consideration is the older you get the older your children get, and they go online and see things that are hurtful, especially when it’s personal stuff. It’s frustrating when things get twisted, because people can make you out to be a real arse. And I don’t like it when it detracts from what I’m actually doing.”
Not that she and David haven’t had their share of troubles, some proving bigger headaches than others, since meeting in 1997 in the Manchester United players lounge. But none of it has been worth giving up their life together.
“We both realize that we are stronger together than we are as individuals,” Beckham told British Vogue, which featured her and the kids, and the family dog, Olive, on the cover. “Would either of us be in the position that we are in now had we not met and been together all those years ago? It’s all about the family unit.”
And as a unit… they are mighty.
The Mirror recently reported that David and Victoria Beckham’s combined net worth has reached $1 billion. Again, not too shabby for a couple whose imminent divorce has been predicted countless times.
“We are much stronger—the six of us—than we would be if we were individuals,” Beckham said. “We respect that family bond and that is key.”
It was together (well, minus daughter Harper, who wasn’t born yet) that they made the drastic decision to relocate from England to Los Angeles, in the wake of David being dropped from the national team and a brutal cheating scandal. The L.A. Galaxy signed the midfielder in 2007 and their journey was chronicled in the six-part Victoria Beckham: Coming to America.
The NBC special was a way to re-introduce herself on these shores, apart from the Spice Girls and as the fairly normal human she knew herself to be.
“For so many years, people thought I was this miserable stuck-up bitch who thought she was better than anyone, so when you are not that person, it’s quite disarming,” Beckham told Vogue Australia.
Sharing a glimpse of her private life on social media has helped that cause in recent years, though eventually people just had to accept the fact that not flashing a pearly grin at the paparazzi crowding you at the airport isn’t the same as being arrogant or in a bad mood all the time.
Moreover, the Beckhams were warmly welcomed to L.A. (and America in general) and David undeniably helped turn the City of Angels into a soccer town (or at least into a baseball, basketball, football and soccer town). Since retiring from playing in 2013, David has remained one of the sport’s most famous faces and is part owner of Miami’s new pro team, Inter Miami CF.
“David and I both respect that each of us are very, very busy; we are both running big businesses, but we do put the phones down, and sometimes we just talk,” Beckham told Elle UK.
In a Q&A at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2017, she explained how they balance their work schedules with parenting, saying, “I’m lucky that David is such a hands-on dad. He’s so great, and we have so much respect for each other. When I’m traveling, he’s at home. And when he’s traveling, I’m at home, so the children will always be our priorities. We work really well together and we’re very present in the children’s lives and I think that’s very important to have a close relationship with all the kids.”
Having already done denim (jeans remain her favorite item of clothing), sunglasses and fragrance, in 2008 she teamed with her husband and American Idol creator Simon Fuller (who used to manage the Spice Girls and is a partner in Beckham Brand Holdings) to launch her eponymous luxury brand. She showed her first collection—just a line of dresses at first—that fall at New York Fashion Week. All eminently wearable and positively reviewed, the line sold out (only 400 were made) when they hit stores in February 2009.
In fact, the dresses—including her signature form-fitting “sucky-sucky dress”—were so well done, people questioned whether Beckham even deserved the credit, since she was new to the design world and—at the time—could be mistaken for just another celebrity trading on a famous name.
At the time, she had a staff of three. “I didn’t look that far into the future,” Beckham recalled her humble beginnings to Vogue Australia last year. “I knew as a woman what I wanted and I couldn’t find it. There were just three of us; we weren’t developing our own fabrics then, and we had to be sensible. If we added a pocket detail, that put the price up. I was very much just going season to season instead of looking at the bigger picture.”
In 2010 she started designing handbags. In 2011, she won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, four months after giving birth to Harper, and launched the more affordable VVB line. In 2017, the Victoria Beckham brand notched $53.8 million in sales, she did an actually-accessible line for Target, and private equity firm Neo Investment Partners infused the business with almost $40 million, to go toward online and offline retail expansion, a larger headquarters in London and a foray into new product categories.
Wanting to bring it back home, she chose to show her 10th anniversary collection in London last September, rather than New York, and in February she unveiled her Fall 2009 collection at the Tate museum, with her husband, all four kids and her mom and sister in the audience.
“Victoria Beckham is one of the most exciting entrepreneurs I have the pleasure to work with,” Neo CEO David Belhassen said in a statement when their 2017 deal was announced. “She is an inspiration to millions of women around the world and she has built a unique, differentiated luxury brand with a strong identity and very high potential.”
“I started my brand from a small room in Simon Fuller’s office with him and David believing in me and supporting my vision,” Beckham told the New York Times. “I now have an additional partner who is showing that same belief.”
Operating expenses and other moneys spent expanding the business have remained high, so the company has reported losses in most years, but sales keep going up and Beckham, her partners and the fashion world at large (the president of which remains Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour) remain over the moon about her clothes and the brand.
“At the moment the brand is significantly bigger than the business,” she acknowledged to The Guardian in January. “I want them to be the same size. That is 100 percent the plan, to reach as many women as I can.”
Her much talked-about Victoria Beckham x Reebok collaboration, inspired by what the two-hour-a-day workout maven wanted in her athletic wear, finally launched this year, and an “affordable luxury” signature beauty line has been promised for this fall.
“What I’ve accomplished within 10 years is far more than I could have dreamed,” Beckham told Vogue Australia. “I feel like I’ve been doing this a lifetime. I live and breathe this brand seven days a week: I never switch off, I never go on holiday and turn my phone or email off. This is my fifth child.”
Luckily, her gleaming new headquarters in Hammersmith is a four-minute drive from her $45 million home in Holland Park, which the Beckhams renovated and eventually settled into after returning to London in 2013. (They just sold their custom-built Beverly Hills home in October, however, for $33.1 million—$15 million more than they paid for it.) As of October she employed about a hundred people and she remained the luxury brand’s hands-on creative director.
Recalling how she dove right into showing at NYFW, rather than starting smaller, Beckham said, “There was a way in the industry of doing things. I knew there were rules I had to abide by, but I wanted to be entrepreneurial and find different ways of doing things. I was a pop star who turned into a fashion designer and I didn’t want to do things the same way everyone else was doing them. And probably because I was a little naive, I wasn’t scared to take on those challenges in my own way.”
She in no way feels as though the success war has been won, however.
“There have been great moments along the way, winning awards, selling well, but for me, getting success is one thing and maintaining it is something completely different. I’m always head down, focused, on to the next thing,” she said.
But just because she’s got her head down and looks serious, that doesn’t mean Victoria Beckham isn’t smiling on the inside.