Even at the bottom of a secluded rock quarry 100 kilometers outside Madrid, David and Victoria Beckham, arguably the most famous couple in England, if not the soccer-playing world, remain in character.
It’s a hot May afternoon, and Victoria, clad in a tight red tank top and short shorts, is berating a rather hapless-looking gentleman with a long list of items she needs for her imminent move to Los Angeles, now! Tabloid readers would instantly recognize her petulant expression. Then David appears, sporting only low-slung combat shorts, his Dolce & Gabbana briefs visible below his tanned, rippling, tattooed torso. Extracting a digital camera from his pocket, he begins snapping photos of his wife. “She’s shy, isn’t she?” he says mischievously.
Suddenly, a director yells, “Cut!” and all at once Victoria seems a different person, cracking a broad smile. The aforementioned scene, it turns out, was just that: a scene for the reality show she is doing for NBC. A sizable camera crew from the program has descended upon the quarry to capture the Beckhams posing for photographer Steven Klein, who is taking the photos that appear on these pages. Airing on July 16, the show, Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, is produced by Victoria’s longtime manager, Simon Fuller, and follows the Beckhams as they relocate from Europe to Los Angeles, where David will play for the city’s Major League Soccer team, the Galaxy. Victoria has her own ambitions Stateside: She’s launching a jeans line, a collection of sunglasses and two fragrances. In short, the Beckham brand is poised to invade America. The question on the minds of Posh and Becks-watchers everywhere: Will America care? After all, soccer has never taken root here, and there is no shortage of imported pop superstars, from Kylie Minogue to Robbie Williams, who have failed to achieve their American dreams.
The Beckhams, however, don’t appear to be feeling the pressure. With the cameras down, Victoria is disarmingly funny and self-deprecating as she walks hand in hand through the quarry with her husband. She seems to be bursting with glee about her upcoming move. “What part of Beverly Hills is your new house in?” one of the crew asks, as the pair stop to rest on director’s chairs. “The best,” she replies saucily.
David is clearly a man of fewer words, though when he does open his mouth, he too is funny, even sly. “How did you two meet?” someone asks.
“She stalked me,” he replies as his wife arches her eyebrows. A moment later, in a low tone, he admits, “I fancied her.”
The next day, the two expand somewhat on their relationship in an interview at their large, leafy property just outside Madrid, where David has played for the powerhouse team Real Madrid for the past four years. He seems natural and relaxed, perched on a picnic bench overlooking the pool, but Victoria, sitting beside him, holding his hand, is slightly guarded. “I’m not at all worried about this, by the way,” she quips, before putting her game face on to describe her upcoming move to L.A. as “an exciting challenge.” Almost a decade after their wedding, David tells the story of their first encounter with ardor that still seems fresh. Even before they met, he says, he knew Victoria was the one for him. He recalls watching TV after a match with his Manchester United teammate Gary Neville late in 1996 when a Spice Girls video came on. Spotting Victoria in a catsuit, he was transfixed: “I turned around to Gary and said, ‘That one there, that’s the girl I’m going to marry.'”
Soon after, in February 1997, Victoria attended a game in London with one of her bandmates. Sadly, David blew it in the players’ lounge afterward. “I’m quite shy,” he admits. “I just sort of waved from the other side of the bar.” Even after Fuller approached, introduced himself to Beckham and brought him over to Victoria, he couldn’t work up the nerve to ask her out. “I sort of said hello and then just went back to Manchester,” Beckham recalls. “I was quite upset and gutted.”
Luckily he got another chance. At a game a week later, word spread through the locker room that two of the Spice Girls were in the stadium. “And I’m thinking, Please let it be Posh,” David remembers. It was, and this time he didn’t let her get away, asking her for her phone number, which she jotted down on a plane ticket. He rang her the next day, “very nervous”, and drove down to see her in London that night. The pair married in September 1999, four months after the birth of their first child, Brooklyn. And, says David, he has kept that fateful plane ticket to this day.
Victoria’s take on their meeting is somewhat different. “I didn’t really know who he was. I was never into football,” she says. What she fell for, she insists, was his family-mindedness, not his skill on the pitch. “He was always with his mom, dad and sister while a lot of the footballers were at the bar getting drunk. I could sense right from the start that David was a gentleman, and very family-oriented, which is important because I’m the same.” (Evidence of this is clear as Brooklyn, eight, and his brother Romeo, four, scamper around, both wearing hip-hop garb of trucker hats, oversize T-shirts and shiny Nikes. The littlest Beckham, Cruz, two, is presumably napping.)
Though it took fame to bring them together, Victoria and David grew up within 15 minutes of each other in London. Both were born into working-class households, and both had big dreams. “At school whenever the teachers asked, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer.’ And they’d say, ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?'” recounts David. “But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.” At 14, he went for it, renting a room in Manchester and enrolling in Manchester United’s training academy.
Victoria was just as determined. “Everything revolved around my dancing and singing lessons,” she remembers, though in retrospect her interest in fashion was also germinating. “I used to customize my school uniforms. I loved clothes, hair and makeup. I’ve always been a real girly girl.”
The pair, of course, were both phenomenally successful in their chosen realms. The Spice Girls remain one of the top-selling female pop groups in history, and David is a sports legend, with a right foot that could open Fort Knox. But it hasn’t all been a walk in the park. The Spice Girls split in 2001, though the band will reunite for an 11-city tour to promote their greatest-hits album later this year. David, 32, has endured his share of disappointments on the field, particularly at the start of last summer’s World Cup, when many of his longtime fans voiced concerns that he was no longer qualified to start for the English national team. All was forgiven after a wicked free kick against Ecuador, with which he became the only Englishman ever to have scored in three successive World Cup finals. Last August, however, manager Steve McClaren dropped Beckham from the team, saying he wanted to go “in a different direction.” But after Beckham’s impressive performances this spring with Real (which won the Spanish title), McClaren reinstated him for a pair of June matches. Still, back in Britain, many fans are seeing his impending move to America as a crass sellout at a time when his powers are fading.
No one can deny that David’s U.S. deal is a sweet one. Brokered by Fuller (executive producer of American Idol), it’s said to be one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of pro sports, with Beckham estimated to be pocketing as much as $250 million over five years. A majority of that, however, is expected to come from commercial endorsements (in the past he has pitched for brands ranging from Pepsi and Vodafone to Brylcreem). Still, to hear David tell it, his main goal is to make Americans fall in love with professional soccer. “I do believe I can take it to another level,” he says. “I wouldn’t have taken up the challenge if I didn’t believe I could have that effect.”
And while David wants to change the American opinion of professional soccer, Victoria, 33, seems determined to change the American opinion of her. “I think people are really going to see me for the first time,” she says. “I think they have this impression that I’m this miserable cow who doesn’t smile. But I’m actually quite the opposite.
“When you’re out there, they’re trying to get pictures up your shirt, down your top,” she continues, in explanation of her tendency to scowl in paparazzi shots. “With all the flashes, it’s as much as you can do to just find your car. I’m going to try and smile more for America.”
As David’s final Madrid games keep him occupied, Victoria has taken the reins in planning the family’s move. “I trust my wife 110 percent,” says David. “When people say, ‘Victoria wears the trousers,’ I’m happy with that.” After house hunting alone, sending David photos from her cell phone, she finally settled on a $22 million mansion in Beverly Hills. “I had quite a lot of things to get my head around,” she says. “What was the nicest area? I was very much like, ‘Okay, the seaside is down there, training is there, school is there, and I think Barneys is over there.’ I kind of did it like that.”
Though the new Casa Beckham is a 13,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, Mediterranean-style villa with the requisite screening room, tennis court and pool, Victoria insists that “we didn’t want anything too huge, too fancy, too ostentatious.” The goal, she says, was “something quite practical for the kids. It’s a light, happy house, with a great corridor the kids are going to love when they are roller-skating.”
David points out that there will be no live-in staff. “We like to lock the doors at night and wander around naked,” he jokes.
Although their litany of projects might suggest otherwise, Victoria says flatly that “we’re not out to be the most famous people in America. We’re not looking at the move as boosting the brand. We’re us and we’ve got our kids. We’re not aware of a lot of the madness going on around us. We kind of keep to ourselves, really.”
But sometimes that madness is impossible to ignore. Three years ago, for instance, English papers exploded with stories of an affair David reportedly had with an assistant at his management firm. When the scandal is raised, Victoria’s eyes shoot a look that could turn a man to stone. But without blinking, she responds forthrightly. “I’m not going to lie. It was a really tough time,” she says. “It was hard for our entire families. But I realized a lot of people have a price.” (A tabloid reportedly paid the other woman $600,000 for her story.) Looking slightly sheepish, David remains silent, but seems to grip Victoria’s hand more tightly.
“David and I got through it together,” Victoria continues. “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.”
These days, she says, they don’t read their press—”We just look at the pictures, to be honest”—but the English papers show no sign of losing interest. Reportedly several London tabs are relocating reporters to Los Angeles just to cover the transplants. Back home in England, after all, readers maintain ravenous appetites for the slightest Beckham tidbit. Even a new hairdo—of which David has had many—is front-page news.
“I never actually think, Okay, next week I’m going to get a mullet,” David says of his ever changing coif. “I just wake up one morning and I’m bored with my hair and shave it off. It’s just something I enjoy.”
A devotion to his tresses is just one of David’s lovable metrosexual qualities. He’s also been photographed sporting sarongs and pink nail polish. Victoria, he says, has taken him to the next sartorial level. “I’ve always had a liking toward clothes, but when I met Victoria, she directed me in the right way,” he explains. “When she tells me something doesn’t look good, I believe her. We have a connection that way.”
His teammates have had some fun with all of this. When he and Victoria recently got matching platinum dye jobs, for instance, they started calling him Marilyn. But, David insists, “it’s always been in jest, a friendly banter.” And he seems more than comfortable with the fact that his softer side—in combination with his hard body—has won him a sizable gay fan base. “I feel it’s an honor,” he says. “It’s nice to be loved.”
As of this fall, the Beckham style will be widely available in America. Victoria’s denim line and collection of sunglasses, both under her dVb label, will be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and other upscale stores. (Intimately Beckham, a fragrance in both men’s and women’s versions, will be in department stores.) For Victoria, an admitted shopaholic, it’s a major triumph to be sold in such retail temples. “Being a Spice Girl opened a lot of doors, but it also shut many because of preconceptions people have about me,” she says. “I’ve had to bang down those doors.”
Victoria insists that, unlike some celebs with namesake labels, she was very much involved, even traveling to the factory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to supervise the production of her jeans. “I’m a real consumer, and I think I know how real women want to look,” she says. She even had her new friend Jennifer Lopez road test a pair to make sure they suited curvier girls.
Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, are just two of the Beckhams’ new Hollywood friends. They’ve also become close with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, though David insists that his family will not be Scientology’s next celebrity converts. “Tom has never even talked to us about it, much less tried to push it on us,” he says. Between their high-profile chums and their sprawling Beverly Hills home, it certainly seems that the Beckhams will fit right in to Los Angeles. In June Victoria even had that quintessential L.A. experience of receiving a traffic ticket. She was pulled over for making an illegal turn and ordered to apply for a California driver’s license. The episode, of course, was happily documented by the reality show’s cameras. “It was all a bit embarrassing,” a member of the show’s crew was reported as saying. “But it will make great material.” Victoria was not exactly shaken by her run-in with the cops. “The policeman was gorgeous,” she coos. “And he loved my shoes.”
Hermès black polyamide and elastane swimsuit. Alexander McQueen boots. On him: DSquared black cotton and nylon pants. Hair by Christiaan; makeup by Stéphane Marais. Set and production design by Joseph Bennett. Production by Gainsbury & Whiting. Photography assistants: Sharif Hamza, Drew Doggett and Sebastian Mader. Fashion assistants: Patrick Mackie and Rebecca Ramsey. Special thanks to Brent at Briese Productions.