Victoria Beckham is a self-made woman who has used glamour and star power to propel her to amazing heights. Like Coco Chanel and Estèe Lauder before her, she set her sights on how she wanted her life to be, worked hard, and with steely determination, has crafted an empire that will likely be handed down for generations.
While many people have dismissed this former Spice Girl as superficial and a flash-in-the-pan, the reality is that she’s one smart cookie who, from the looks of things, has the career, marriage, and family that most of us only dream about.
Here are 5 things you can learn from her in leaving YOUR stamp on the world.
1. Make a Plan
When she was 6, Victoria saw the film Fame (1980) and decided she wanted a musical career. So she started taking dancing and singing lessons and prepped herself for fame. At 17, she entered the Laine Theatre Arts College to study dance and modeling. She also joined a local band. Eighteen months later, she answered an ad in an industry magazine that led her to the Spice Girls. The all-girls group released their first single in 1996 – when Victoria was 22 – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their careers – and it shows. Want a great, amazing, life? Then plan for it! It’s not too late. If you want something more than what you have now, determine what’s needed to get from Point A to Point B. Then, make a plan. Things get so much easier – and much more fun – once you set goals, accomplish them, and then move on to the next thing.
2. Get Tough
Victoria’s father was an electrical engineer who created a very profitable electrical wholesale company. When she was a child, her dad drove her to school in a Rolls Royce. But Victoria’s classmates weren’t impressed – they were jealous. She was frequently bullied and made to feel like an outsider. Some kids even threw rocks at her. She had very few friends until she was an adult. Now, she has a lot.
No matter how hard you work, there will always be people who begrudge you your success. They’ll say that you don’t deserve it, that you “got lucky,” that you “know people,” or whatever. Understand that it really has nothing to do with you. YOUR success makes THEM feel inadequate, so they take it out on you. Don’t let them. You don’t like everyone you meet; why would you assume everyone is going to like you? You can’t. So just stay away from naysayers and go find positive friends instead.
3. Turn Lemons Into Lemonade
Victoria had bad acne as a teen and weighed 30 pounds more than she does now. Both became fodder for her enemies. She began experimenting with makeup to hide her bad skin, and lost weight after winning the Spice Girls audition. Today, she’s one of the most photographed women in the world, and her figure – at age 39, after 4 kids – is ridiculously svelte.
She was wealthy, chunky, and had bad skin. Can you imagine the school yard taunts? Most people would have retreated to the safety of their family business and given up on making their own mark. Victoria refused. Instead, with steely resolve, she transformed herself from an object of ridicule into a woman admired by millions.
4. Change Course, If Necessary
The Spice Girls became popular in the late 1990’s and went on the sell 55 million albums world-wide. But by 2000, they were “done.” The world had lost interest. Victoria pursued a solo career for a few years in which she scored four UK Top 10 singles. But then she, too, was pretty much “done” with music. She dabbled in television and books in the early 2000’s before finding her niche in fashion. After modeling for and designing limited editions for other houses, she launched her own brand in 2008. By 2011, she did $95 Million in sales. In 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK (along with Queen Elizabeth II and J.K. Rowling).
While the other former Spice Girls are floundering about, pining about “the good old days,” Victoria is making way more in fashion than she ever did as a singer. She turned her reputation as stylish “Posh” – a lover of fine things – into an empire that will allow her to live well for the rest of her life. Few other former girl band members can say the same.
5. Put Family First
Victoria met soccer star David Beckham at a charity soccer match in 1997. They married in 1999, and have four children together. While they were both very successful when they met, she allowed his career to take precedence as her pop career faded and their family grew. She followed him from Manchester, to Madrid, to Los Angeles, and has managed to keep their family life both private and normal in spite of all the attention they get. From the looks of things, they still seem very much in love and devoted to their children.
Celebrity marriages come and go as fast as singing and soccer careers. But somehow, these two have managed to keep it together. They may be friends with movie stars and attend royal weddings, but in the end, they’re just a hard-working couple trying to be good parents. They seem to be doing a great job.
Lots of people dream, but only a few actually do what’s necessary to bring those dreams to fruition.
In his book, Glamour: A History, British author Stephen Gundle wrote:
Victoria Beckham moulded herself into an immaculate super-consumer and merchandiser of her own glossy image, positioning herself as an intermediary between designer style and the girl on the street.
[In That Extra Half Inch: Hair, Heels, and Everything In Between] Victoria shared with readers the dreams she had cultivated as a girl and pointed to the inspiration she drew from ‘the fashion icons of the last century: Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, and my image-for-all-seasons, Audrey Hepburn.’ The key to her persona is the classic glamorous one of exclusivity combined with accessibility; through her, millions could imagine themselves leading a glamorous life, mingling with film stars, and married to a top footballer.
When I read that, it occurred to me that Victoria’s glamour – her star power – is the key to her success. She’s not extraordinarily beautiful, she’s not the most talented singer or designer, yet she has an irresistible girl-next-door-makes-good quality that draws people in. Over the years, she’s honed it to an art form.
Joan Crawford once said, “I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.”
Victoria Beckham seems to follow the same style edict – she never looks schlumpy, even for a coffee run – but she still seems like the girl-next-door. You could imagine going to the movies with her or having her over for barbecue. Kind of like Oprah. Regardless of how much fame they have or how much money they make, they still seem totally accessible.
How about you?
What image have you carved for yourself? What role are you playing?
I ask, because so many people are willing to just sit and watch. They’d love to have the career or lifestyle of their favorite celebrity, but they don’t do what’s necessary to get it. Or, they don’t feel they “look the part,” so they don’t bother to try. If they could be ASSURED of success – well then, maybe they’d give it a go.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to put yourself out there first in order to get people to notice. Then you have to see what comes of it.
Victoria Adams in 1992 (right);
Victoria Beckham for Japan’s Harper’s Bazaar, 2009
Often, lots of good things happen.
I know, because parts of Victoria’s story read a lot like my own. As I’ve written before, I also had a less-than-stellar grade school experience. I was taunted every now and again, but mostly, I was just ignored. My metamorphosis occurred in high school. By age 15, I discovered the power of image – which is why I’m so adamant about extolling its virtues to you.
I know what it’s like to be overlooked; it’s like being left behind by the cool kids to push a boulder uphill by myself, and then being yelled at for taking so long. I also know what it’s like to be the center of attention; like having a group of adoring fans carry the boulder for me and ask if there’s anything else they can do to ease my load. Yes – it’s THAT noticeable. Ask anyone who’s undergone a similar change.
Taking more classes and upgrading your skill set is always good. But you know what’s easier? Polishing your image. Becoming a glamour girl. Taking a chapter from Victoria Beckham’s how-to-razzle-dazzle-them history and applying it to your own life. You may not get the same results as Victoria – a 9-figure income, a hot, adoring husband, close-knit, photogenic kids, celebrity and royal friends – but then again, you never know.
Because even if you don’t have those kinds of aspirations, here’s what I know for a fact: it’s easy to become business famous.
If you have a good skill set and a polished image, you’re already well ahead of almost everyone in your field. Just look around your office. It’s all about curb appeal.
Finding a job or a mate is a lot like finding a house: if it doesn’t look good from the outside, we’re probably not going to bother to look on the inside. My classmates certainly didn’t when I was chubby and pimply; neither did Victoria Beckham’s. It was only when both of us upgraded our appearance that others started to look. They’ll do the same for you.
Does that mean that you have to fit into some sort of skinny template in order to warrant attention? No. It means that when you start packaging yourself like the star you are, others will start treating you like one.
That’s the biggest lesson you can learn from Victoria Beckham: be glamorous but accessible, and work your tail off. Then, like her, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of The Industry Darling, a video course that teaches women how to use their image and skill set to become the darlings of their industry. Click here to learn more.