Internationally renowned pop star meets the planet's sexiest soccer player. What could go wrong?
When Victoria and David Beckham got together more than two decades ago, they defined "power couple." Posh and Becks had the world at their feet, him almost literally, and their glam quotient quickly exploded past the confines of their native England, making them a full-fledged global thing.
The former Victoria Adams first spied the stud who would become her husband in 1997 while hanging out, as members of the Spice Girls would have no problem doing, in the Manchester United players' lounge.
"While the other football players stand at the bar drinking with their mates, you will see David standing aside with his family. (He's not even in the first team at this stage—you are the famous one.) And he has such a cute smile," Victoria wrote in 2016 in a letter to her 18-year-old self for British Vogue. "You, too, are close to your family, and you will think how similar he feels to you. He's going to ask for your number. (He still has the London-to-Manchester plane ticket on which you wrote it.)"
Beckham joined Manchester United as a 16-year-old trainee in 1991 but when he met his future wife, he was still poised on the brink of being a household name. The Spice Girls had become an overnight sensation after the release of "Wannabe" in 1996, so Posh Spice was indeed the more famous of the two.
"She stalked me," David joked to W in 2007 when asked how they met before acknowledging, "I fancied her."
In fact, he claims he saw a Spice Girls video in 1996, before they met in person, and said to his Man U teammate Gary Neville, "'That one there, that's the girl I'm going to marry.'"
As grown-up Victoria wrote to younger Victoria, "...love at first sight does exist...although you will get a little drunk, so exact details are hazy."
"I'm quite shy. I just waved from the other side of the bar," David recalled, noting that he actually blew it on that particular day by not asking her out.
A week later, Victoria and a fellow Spice Girl attended another game, and he made sure to get her number in the lounge afterward that time. She wrote it down on the aforementioned plane ticket, he called her the next day and drove down to London later that same night to see her.
As it turned out, they had grown up 15 minutes away from each other in working-class families and both of them had planned to be big stars.
They welcomed son Brooklyn Beckham on March 4, 1999, and married on July 4, 1999, at a castle in Ireland. Neville, whom Beckham had revealed his marital intentions to several years prior, served as best man.
The bride and groom wore (two) matching outfits and sat atop his-and-her gold thrones. Victoria said "I do" in Vera Wang and changed into Antonio Berardi for the reception.
"That was pretty bold. Victoria's [party dress] was pretty nice. Mine, I'm like what was I thinking?" Beckham poked fun at himself last year on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. "I look like the guys out of Dumb & Dumber when they went to that party and wore those ridiculous outfits. I even had a top hat in purple. Unbelievable. What was I thinking?"
The following year, with the Spice Girls more or less disbanding after a few wildly successful years, Victoria went solo and released a hit single, "Out of Your Mind." After that...
Her debut album, Victoria Beckham, sold a modest 50,000 copies upon its release in October 2001, and though she planned on releasing a follow-up and continued to have her singles chart, she was one and done. The Spice Girl reunion rumors began the second the group split up, but otherwise the erstwhile Posh Spice focused on fashion and her young family instead, and the Beckhams welcomed son Romeo on Sept. 1, 2002.
At the same time David Beckham's star was rocketing ever higher. He was appointed captain of England's national team in 2000 and had a whole movie, 2002's Bend It Like Beckham, named after his prowess on the soccer pitch. The modeling world wanted a piece of him (usually his abs) as well. Then in the summer of 2003, Man U "sold" Becks to Real Madrid for almost $43 million (by today's euro exchange rate).
And so began the most unfortunate year of the storied Beckham union.
That September Beckham was spotted with a woman—later identified as his assistant Rebecca Loos—at a nightclub in Madrid. The athlete denied the subsequent tabloid reports that his marriage was in trouble.
But eventually the now-defunct News of the World ran a story detailing, via a source identified as a so-called "close family friend," several sexual encounters he and Loos allegedly had after that night at the club and then continued to exchange racy texts. Victoria contacted Loos, warning her to back off, the story claimed.
So, a few months shy of the Beckhams' fifth wedding anniversary, the British tabloids were having their own field day falling all over themselves to cover the increasingly explosive cheating allegations, which blew up after Loos' brother claimed his sister had "confirmed" to him that she'd had an affair with the soccer star in Spain.
Confirmed how? Well, she said so.
"Rebecca phoned home early this morning. I am overwhelmed with shock," Loos' brother John Charles told the Daily Mail in April 2004. He continued, "Rebecca was upset when she parted company with David and Victoria last year. She became very down and cried a lot. At times she looked heartbroken. I thought it was because of professional reasons. But now I am beginning to understand there must have been more to it."
At the time, Victoria had reportedly packed up her sons and flown to Switzerland, and David was planning to join her from Madrid immediately.
People speaking for the family said the trip was a long-planned family vacation with her parents and his mother, not a hasty escape from the public eye.
"During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life," David Beckham said in a statement responding to Loos' brother's story. "What appeared this morning is just one further example. The simple truth is that I am very happily married. I have a wonderful wife and two very special kids. There is nothing any third party can do to change these facts."
Later that month, in a joint deal with News Corp-owned Sky Television and News of the World that netted her a reported $600,000 for exclusive rights to serialize her story, Rebecca Loos told her long tale to Sky One's Kay Burley, calling Beckham (via the Daily Mail) a "generous lover" and saying they had been sexting up to just two weeks prior to the whole story getting out.
"I don't expect any sympathy from [Victoria] at all," said Loos, who had been working in sports PR for SFX, the company that managed Beckham, when she was assigned to his staff in Madrid.
"I think it's bad enough for me to do what I have done without me expecting any words of sympathy," Loos continued. "I really hope that they get through it. I think the problems were in their marriage long before I came into the picture. I in no way intended to break up their marriage especially when there are young children involved. I hope they stay together."
Asked about the couple's stated intention to get lawyers involved, Loos replied, "What are they consulting their lawyers for? What can they do? I think they have worked very hard at getting the image they have and I think they will do everything they can to maintain it.
"So whether that involves having happy shots taken or calling their lawyers it's up to them. I am 100 percent sure of what I am talking about, there no doubt in my mind I have no reason to lie—why should I? I am just here to tell you my experience. He knows the truth and I know the truth."
Adding to the couple's mensis horribilis in April 2004, Sarah Marbeck told News of the World she slept with Beckham in Singapore in 2001 back when he was on a tour with Manchester United and then they continued to exchange sexually suggestive texts for two years.
David called the story "absurd and unsubstantiated," while Victoria reportedly told The Sun at the time, "We have been through a lot worse than this, and we're definitely going to get through this."
In May 2004, while training with the English national team in Sardinia, Beckham told BBC Radio 5 Live, "I've made it clear that with two papers the way I and my family have been treated is an absolute disgrace because at the end of the day, I'm a nice person and loving husband and father."
In the meantime, Victoria relocated with Brooklyn and Romeo to Spain, so everyone could be together.
And the Beckhams ultimately did file suit against News of the World, in response to a September 2004 story titled "Posh and Becks on the Rocks." Then the tabloid published claims that a beautician named Danielle Heath also had an affair with the athlete. "We are sick and tired of people trying to make money at the expense of our family," the Beckhams said in a statement. "It's even more distressing when we are expecting our third son. These allegations are completely untrue and it is in the hands of our lawyers."
The couple then amended the complaint in 2005 to include another NOTW story claiming, based on tales from a former nanny, that their marriage was a sham. They also sued the nanny, Abbie Gibson, who had worked for them since 2003, for breach of confidence.
"When you invite someone into your home to look after your children—your most precious possessions—you have to trust them," Beckham said in April 2005. "I can't say much more because there is a legal process...What I will say, though, is that the reason I keep my mind on football is that me and my wife are happy. We are normal people, although people might not think that. Of course, we have arguments like everybody, but, at the end of the day, I know that I love my wife."
The Beckhams collected an undisclosed settlement from News of the World in March 2006 and dropped their suit. (The tabloid shut down in 2011 after it turned out multiple staffers had conspired to hack into private voicemail accounts, including those belonging to celebrities such as Hugh Grant, who gave public testimony in the case, members of the royal family and a teenage murder victim.)
Meanwhile, the Beckhams were busy working on their marriage and carrying on with their lives. Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley were among the guests at a dual christening for Brooklyn and Romeo back home in England in December 2004, and they welcomed their third son, Cruz Beckham, on Feb. 20, 2005, in Madrid.
Yet it soon became apparent that another change of scene would be in order soon, not least because Beckham was dropped by the national team after their World Cup quarterfinal loss in 2006 and he wasn't winning titles with Real Madrid.
So they did what a lot of people would do—they moved. In 2007, the Los Angeles Galaxy—of then-struggling Major League Soccer in the U.S.—wooed Beckham across the pond with a five-year contract worth a reported $250 million (about $32.5 million from the team, plus endorsements and other paydays related to his mega-stardom).
"Another challenge has come up and it is the right time for us to do it," the famous midfielder—who would go on to win the La Liga title with Real Madrid in his final season—said in an interview in January 2007, calling his decision to uproot his family and leave European soccer "extremely difficult."
"David Beckham coming to MLS might be viewed by some as one of the most important moments for soccer in this country and perhaps the history of professional sport," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "David transcends the sport and is a cultural icon. David is clearly one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. People are going to feel really good about David Beckham spending the rest of his career in the U.S."
Victoria capitalized on her end of the deal as well, signing on for NBC's Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, a six-episode show chronicling the family's move to Beverly Hills, Calif., where they settled just a short Range Rover ride away from pals Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
"We were surprised that anybody actually even knew who we were, or the fact that we were coming," Victoria humbly told E! News that August, though by then she was fully aware of just how welcome they were in town. "We think L.A. has got so many really famous people, so we just kind of see ourselves as 'David and Victoria from London.' So, we were completely shocked and overwhelmed, but everybody was so nice. We got to the airport and everyone was saying, 'Welcome to America,' 'welcome home.' You turn up in England and they just tell you to get back on a plane and get out of there...so we're very, very excited."
She said it would only be a matter of time before the paparazzi figured out "we're actually quite boring, we don't do that much. We just hang out at home with our kids and keep ourselves to ourselves." The most recent exciting place she'd led the photographers to was Toys R Us.
Victoria had also told W that she planned to "try and smile more for America," but that hadn't come to pass (and never would).
Asked about her famous propensity for never smiling for the cameras, she told E! that someone had actually gone up to her and asked what was wrong with her teeth. "There's nothing wrong with my teeth!" she insisted (and you could almost hear her smiling over the phone). "I can't help the fact I actually look dead in most paparazzi pictures. I just think there's often so many paparazzi, I'm always sort of 'head down, get in the car and off we go'...I'm just not a big grinner on camera."
She felt that her series would show a side of her that was more reflective of the truth. "I don't take myself too seriously. I have a very dry, British sense of humor and I enjoy to send myself up," she said.
The family's L.A. abode was a 13,000-square-foot villa they bought for a reported $22 million because, as Victoria told W, "we didn't want anything too huge, too fancy, too ostentatious."
"It's a light, happy house, with a great corridor the kids are going to love when they are roller-skating," she added, while David joked that they wouldn't have any live-in staff because "we like to lock the doors at night and wander around naked."
Victoria admitted that the scandal, which wasn't in the too-distant past yet then, had made for "a really tough time" for them, "hard for our entire families. But I realized a lot of people have their price."
Former NOTW reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who was fired in the hacking scandal before the entire paper closed, testified during a 2011 inquiry into press standards, or lack thereof, that Loos was paid a "six-figure sum" for her story—which he spent roughly two months verifying, he added. Loos, who parlayed her 15 minutes into some reality TV appearances and now lives in the Norwegian mountains with her husband and children, said on ITV's Daybreak in 2013 that she didn't regret coming forward but she would have gone about it differently.
"I'm a mother now and married and knowing what I know now I would definitely have gone about things quite differently," Loos said. "I was young and foolish and very reckless. I didn't think things through and acted on impulse a lot. I think I regret the impact on everybody. I think I could have gone about it in a kinder way. I don't regret speaking out but I regret the way I went about it."
Back in 2007, Victoria told W, her husband quietly sitting next to her and holding her hand, "David and I got through it together. No one said marriage was going to be easy. Yes, there have been bumps along the road. But the fact is we've come out of everything we've been through stronger and happier. It's even better now than when we were first married. After all these years, we can just come home and have a laugh together."
And as countless people looking to start a new chapter had learned before them, moving to sunny California can indeed help you begin anew. Or perhaps even turn back time.
At the end of 2007 Victoria embarked on a tour with the Spice Girls on behalf of their greatest-hits album, which was greeted with all the fanfare you could imagine. She also dug in her stilettos and started to expand her Britain-born fashion empire, launching her eponymous label in 2008. She won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2011 and in 2017 became the latest high-end designer to collaborate with Target.
David suffered some injuries early on but ultimately thrived with the Galaxy, winning two titles and turning the team's humble stadium in Carson into a real destination.
We had asked in 2007 if more kids were in their future—"I see you with a little girl so you can dress her up," E!'s Michael Yo said at the time—and Victoria said she'd love to have another child, but at that point having three boys was less about parenting and more "about crowd control."
She got her wish a few years later, when daughter Harper Seven Beckham was born on July 10, 2011, and was immediately promoted to princess status.
And the family, famous upon arrival no matter what they thought, only got more famous. America has a tendency to do that to people, especially really good-looking people who combine the glamour of fashion, sports, pop music and underwear modeling under one roof—and who don't mind showing off their lives on Instagram once in awhile.
"I've got my wife. I've got my four kids. I've got parents, grandparents still, and three really good friends. It's all you need," Beckham explained to Men's Health in 2012. "I'd rather have three really good friends than 20 good friends."
Beckham retired in 2013 at 38, playing his last game for Paris Saint-Germain, which hoisted their Ligue 1 trophy that night in a picture-perfect moment.
"I wouldn't have achieved what I have done today without my family," read part of his gracious sign-off on social media. "I'm grateful for my parents' sacrifice, which made me realise my dreams. I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period."
Also in 2013 they moved their home base back to London, although they're frequently jetting back and forth across the Atlantic.
For the last six years Beckham been busy bringing a MLS franchise to Miami, and Inter Miami CF's inaugural season is now scheduled for 2020 with a permanent home stadium to follow within a few years.
Beckham has also launched a line of grooming products called House 99—inspired by 1999, the year he married Victoria, had his first child and won the treble (three titles, including Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League) with Manchester United.
Not surprisingly, the Beckhams, now celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, have had to be a couple of champion multitaskers to get it all done.
"I'm lucky that David is such a hands-on dad," Victoria said during a Q&A at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2017. "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."
In February 2018 Victoria held what would be her last New York Fashion Week show for the year before celebrating her signature brand's 10th anniversary collection at London Fashion Week in September. Her husband, Romeo, Cruz and Harper were right there in the front row next to Anna Wintour.
"I want to celebrate my ten year anniversary at home," she told The Guardian. "I'm nervous, though, because I've never shown in London." She enjoyed being home so much she showed her Fall 2019 collection at the Tate Modern earlier this year as well.
They sold the house in Beverly Hills last October for $33.1 million and since 2016 have called a $45 million spread in London's Holland Park home. It's a convenient four-minute drive to Victoria's Hammersmith headquarters, and they have an $8 million cottage in the Cotswalds to escape to on weekends.
Meanwhile, David Beckham has attributed their enduring partnership and "strong family unit" to a number of factors, including the respective inspiring examples that were set for them.
"We have got strong parents too, and they taught us the right values," he told BBC Radio 4 in 2017. "Of course you make mistakes, and we all know that marriage is difficult at times. It is about working through it. We have come up against tough times. But we know each other better than anyone else knows us. And we talk."
And to all the skeptics who assume it's just better business for the two to stay together, he added, "Do we stay together because it is a brand? Of course not. We stay together because we love each other and because we have four amazing children."
Now that their kids are older, though, it isn't just about the two of them turning the other cheek when the rumors get rough. They have four other hearts and minds to look out for as well.
"People have been making things up about our relationship for 20 years," Victoria told British Vogue last year, "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."
But at the end of the day, she and David "both realize that we are stronger together than we are as individuals. 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."
(Originally published Feb. 13, 2018, at 5 a.m. PT)