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Victoria Beckham Is a Fucking Legend

A much-deserved cultural moment for the fashion designer, ex-Spice Girl and eternal queen of never smiling.

by Lauren O'Neill
25 September 2018, 8:37am

Screenshot via Vogue

Cast your mind back to the Royal Wedding (I'm sorry, I know it's painful – lots of World Cup and heatwave-induced mistakes since then, the innocent days of late spring). If, instead of going outside and enjoying the May sunshine, you were indoors hugging a cushion, calling Camilla Parker-Bowles a "usurper" – hi, welcome – and involuntarily crying at a declaration of love between two strangers whose wedding you'd helped to crowdfund but weren't actually invited to, you'll remember that there was, at least, one person who made the gross, sycophantic BBC broadcast worthwhile.

Amid a roll call that included Elton John, Oprah and the approximately 1,000 rugby players rah-ing at each other at the year's most expensive event, Victoria Beckham – fashion designer, former Spice Girl, subtly gifted comic – rocked up with her shamefully fit husband on her arm, effortlessly commanding the attention of everyone there. Wearing all navy blue (that is, the closest possible colour to the universally flattering but ultimately funereal black) and a pointless, hilariously chic little fascinator, Victoria scowled her way through the ceremony. Despite her presence being broadcasted to millions on this "day of national celebration", she didn't once arrange the muscles in her face into anything resembling a smile for the cameras. It was amazing.

For over a decade, VB's celebrity image has been based on the fact that she’s so committed to pulling an expression like your mum meeting your dad's new girlfriend in every single situation that she’s actually the funniest person in any room she deigns to enter. She navigates the world in a mood because she wants to, and despite repeated misogynistic criticisms from tabloids and glossies, she’s never changed her approach due to pressure.

Preferring, largely, to remain out of the limelight (mercifully, she’s refused multiple appeals to reform the Spice Girls) she has proved the value of Minding Your Own Business, as the founder of a respected designer label and an icon of British camp, her performative pout resonating with everyone who has ever rolled their eyes after being told to "smile!"

I've been moved to put my thoughts on the great Posh Spice into words firstly because, to be honest, I think about her all the time (it's my fundamental belief that as a society we spend a great deal of time on "LG x" and not nearly enough on "xx VB"). But it seems particularly apt right now, as she celebrates the tenth anniversary of her label Victoria Beckham, because she's been in the press and on social media quite a lot recently. Each time, she has surprised people, mainly by showing that what many saw as genuine haughty grumpiness is actually a carefully crafted shtick, designed both to protect and amuse nobody but herself.

The best example of this came a few weeks ago, when British Vogue shared a mockumentary-style promo for a special Victoria Beckham retrospective shoot. It's presented as a BTS video, showing editor Edward Enninful and his team trying to pull together a tasteful concept based on the smart-but-feminine looks in her collection. They're thwarted, however, by a completely deadpan Victoria ("We are shooting a cover story celebrating the rich and inspiring history of one of the most enduring style icons of all time. Me. Victoria Beckham."), who spends the whole time demanding throwbacks to her Spice Girls days in everything but name, insisting on Posh-esque outfits and a 90s theme. It's essentially The Thick of It if one of the characters was a world-famous popstar-turned-deluded fashion icon, and while that’s a funny concept as it is, VB takes it by the horns, doing her best David Brent, showing no vanity whatsoever, and self-parodying in a luxurious dressing-gown with the aplomb of me tweeting about eating pizza in bed.

A lot of people might have thought that such a lack of vanity was beyond Victoria Beckham, the famously serious, grumpy wife of the much more jovial David. To those people, I'd say: a) you haven't seen her legendary 73 Questions Vogue video; and b) it's kind of no surprise you think like that, considering the ride VB has had in the press.

Since her Spice Girls days, she’s been called moody and mean pretty much consistently by tabloids, gossip websites and magazines. As far as I can see, this is based pretty much entirely on the fact that VB prefers to pout in photos – a kind of "Cheer up, love" catcall writ large across actual newspapers – rather than anything concrete to do with her personality (though interestingly, in recent years, since she started being a little more open about her children and family life on social media, particularly Instagram, the reaction to her has eased up a little – go figure).

It's something she’s been aware of herself for years. Back in 2012, she told ELLE France: "I'm very different than what people write in the tabloids. That's the first thing that people tell me when they meet me. It's true that I appear kind of reserved in photos, but who cares if I smile or not for pictures?"

It seems that now, six years after that interview, Victoria is so over her image in the press, and so secure in the knowledge that it’s not at all who she is, that she’s more than willing to satirise herself. Take the video of her dancing at London Fashion Week, to her own song, wearing gold trousers. If you wanted, you could read it as a conceited extension of her Posh Spice persona, but her sense of humour permeates it.

The pout has become a decidedly camp inside joke, precisely because her public image is a performance, about which she's constantly wryly giggling with those who choose to be in on it with her. She doesn't need tabloid approval because she's firmly established as an enduring figure in her own industry, so why shouldn't she have a laugh?

In her refusal to take her public reception in any way seriously, VB is the self-aware British celebrity icon I wish we had more of. Just don’t fucking ask her to smile.

@hiyalauren