Celebrity feature, Like magazine, June/July 2015. Click to enlarge. Read below.
THE DREAM TEAM
As David Beckham turns 40 and Victoria turns fashion mogul, Carolyn Moore looks at the rise of the Insta-stars and the unstoppable force that is Brand Beckham.
Instagram is many things to many people. From fishing for compliments with ‘no makeup selfies’, to the food snaps that let everyone know you eat out at least three times a week, Instagram has allowed people to curate their lives for the consumption of friends and strangers alike, and present the best side of themselves to the world.
While head-in-the-toilet-bowl morning after selfies are few and far between, Insta-addicts will never miss an opportunity to snap a glass of Prosecco, a designer shopping bag, a boarding card, or a VIP wrist band. “My life is exciting, stylish and glamorous!” is what you want your Instagram to scream, and since most people’s lives generally aren’t, it’s no wonder that celebrities are stepping up to fill that Insta-void by using the photo sharing app to give us mere mortals a glimpse into their genuinely fabulous lives.
For celebrities, social media can be a tricky terrain. Some acknowledge that they have to have a presence, and many TV personalities are contractually obliged to maintain Twitter accounts to promote their shows, while others swear they will never succumb to the temptation. George Clooney, the archetypal movie star, has sworn off social media, knowing that, at his level, it’s better to maintain some Old Hollywood-style mystique. Some celebrities hire people to manage their social media presence, a move that can read as cold and cynical to fans, while others just leap in and hope for the best.
Get it wrong and you risk slipping several rungs back down the celebrity ladder. One little ill-considered Twitter tantrum can see a celebrity lose their fans, their credibility, their attractiveness or their work prospects in the time it takes to hammer out 140 characters, and in the sad case of one time teen star Amanda Bynes, Twitter gave the world a window into a mental breakdown from which her career may never recover.
Get it right, however, and social media can show the world a side to you that they never knew existed. It’s no surprise that with its endless stream of selfies and anodyne commentary about how she looks, who did her hair, or what she’s wearing, Kim Kardashian’s Instagram is just a two dimensional reflection of the dull narcissism we’ve come to expect from her (though that hasn’t stopped her amassing in excess of 35 million followers).
But for the actress January Jones, who many assumed was as cold, humourless and aloof as her Mad Men character Betty Draper, her witty and hilariously self-deprecating Instagram has won her countless new fans and arguably made her less likely to be typecast as an icy blonde. She could even have Instagram to thank for her latest role in the US comedy The Last Man on Earth.
And as of May 2nd, there’s a new celebrity Instagrammer in town. Having amassed almost seven million followers in the few weeks since he posted his first #wokeuplikethis selfie on the day of his 40th birthday (aren’t you supposed to GET gifts on your birthday, rather than give them?), David Beckham has been working his Instagram like a pro. Using his feed to reach into the hearts, minds and ovaries of his adoring public, we’ve been treated to suave selfies, witty one-liners, and most adorably of all, snapshots of a doting dad.
His 50 million Facebook fans might argue that he’s an established social media star, but there’s no doubt that he’s now joining the ranks of those savvy celebrities who know how to mix business with pleasure. While a Facebook page is great for maintaining a professional presence, Instagram brings the personal touch, and no one has brought the two together more effectively than his wife of almost 16 years, Victoria.
It was her growing fashion empire that brought her to social media five years ago, but only a fraction of her five million Instagram or eight million Twitter followers will ever buy anything from her über-high end luxury label. The rest stick around for the laughs – and there are plenty – and the glimpse they get into her impossibly perfect life. Like January Jones, Victoria has harnessed the power of social media and used it show people that far from being, in her words, the “miserable cow” that people expect her to be because she never smiles, she actually possesses a sharp wit and a gift for one liners that few could have imagined.
But crucially, she’s also using social media to show us her level of involvement in the day to day running of her business. From her early Victoria Beckham collections, where she resisted the urge the splash the cash on big budget fashion shows, preferring instead to host intimate “presentations” where she personally talked the world’s most influential fashion insiders through every stitch and seam, Victoria has been intent on proving that she is more than just the face of her brand. As her Instagram posts illustrate, she’s the heart, soul and a substantial portion of the brains behind the operation too.
Harking back to those early presentations, she still opts to connect with buyers and customers on a personal level. She makes, and of course documents on Instagram, regular appearances at luxury department stores all over the world, particularly in the rapidly growing Asian market. She has always been open about the fact that she and her former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller invested a finite amount of money in the fledgling label, and that it had to grow and survive without being buoyed by her personal fortune.
And it has, and while her significant name recognition has no doubt helped it along the way, for the luxury market in which she was trying to carve a niche, the Beckham brand could have been more of a hindrance than a help. Back in 2008, when she first announced she would design a collection of dresses and show them at New York Fashion Week, fashion editors had their sharpened pencils and tongues at the ready. But to everyone’s surprise, most were forced to admit that her first collection was “beautiful, desirable and classy” – words not necessarily associated with Victoria’s fashion sense prior to that.
When pressed to talk about the business she is as fluent and knowledgeable about figures and growth strategy as she is about tailoring techniques, and the steady growth of the brand recently won her the title of UK Entrepreneur of the Year from the respected business magazine, Management Today. Its editor wrote of her “What Mrs. Beckham has created is a company that is both real and wildly successful. Her numbers are impressive, and I, for one, rather warmed to her admission that ‘first time around I felt famous, but now I feel successful’.”
It’s an endearing sentiment, and that her evolution from Posh to powerhouse has played out on social media for fans to follow has made her transition from flashy WAG to fashion royalty all the more compelling. Equally endearing is the part David has played in supporting his wife’s ambitions. Effectively retired, but for endorsements and the odd multi-million pound underwear campaign, through social media David gives a snapshot of a life of luxury and leisure, but one in which being a hands-on dad is his most important job.
We’ve seen him undergoing several makeovers at the hands of little Harper – “Someone is trying to make daddy feel pretty today” – as well as teaching her to ride a bike – “Look at my big girl. No stabilisers!” – and hanging out with eldest son Brooklyn, who he recently admitted he accompanied on his first date because Victoria said “That’s the only way I’m going to let him go”. Having both grown up in close-knit families, the pair have always been hands-on parents, with David never shy of being openly affectionate with his three boys.
They rely heavily on their extended families for support with the hectic schedules that have made them their estimated €500 million fortune, and the sense of “one big, happy family” is ever present on their social media output. Whether it’s a video of David teasing Brooklyn that he has more Facebook followers, or the whole family turning out in Team Romeo t-shirts to cheer their middle boy on in the London mini-marathon, you get a genuine sense that, of all their numerous achievements, it’s their kids the Beckhams are most proud of.
From the time they got engaged, David and Victoria have always been stronger together, and for all the times the tabloids have declared them “in crisis”, no one believes they will ever split. When Brand Beckham was born, two really did become one, and sixteen years and four children later, the appetite for anything Beckham shows no sign of abating. Now, their kids are bringing the appeal of their brand to a generation too young to remember the Spice Girls or care about Man United’s Class of ’92.
For Brooklyn, with his 3 million Instagram followers, Romeo, who already has a modelling contract with Burberry, Cruz and little Harper, one thing is certain. There’s never been a better time to be a Beckham.