Monday 11 December 2017

The ultimate power couples

From Taylor and Burton to Brangelina, we're enthralled by power pairings, writes Aisling O'Connor

Actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the matching his'n'hers tuxedos.
Actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the matching his'n'hers tuxedos.
David and Victoria Beckham
First lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama
Liz Taylor and Richard Burton
Singer Beyonce and rapper Jay Z perform onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards
Vegan dabblers, Beyonce and Jay-Z. Photo: Getty
Michelle and Barach Obama
Brad and Angelina

Aisling O'Connor

Nothing had a hope of upstaging the arrival of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the BAFTA Awards on Sunday. Not the screaming 'LEO!' chant, not Hollywood ingénue Lupita Nyong'o glowing green in Dior, and not Bradley Cooper's hair – or indeed Oprah's.

If there was any thunder to be stolen on that red carpet, Brangelina bagged it in one fell swoop.

Bedecked in his'n'hers tuxedos, the two effortlessly reminded the world why they are the most famous pair on the planet. Such is the magnitude of this power couple that they are both wearing the trousers.

The phenomenon of the power couple has enraptured the public for generations. But in our celebrity-fixated world, it now seems that famous couples are two a penny. However, the marked difference between the 'average' celeb twosome and a power couple rests upon one key factor – bankability.

Individually Brad and Angelina did very well for themselves, taking home solid fees for their fan-stirring on-screen sex appeal. But the genius casting of Hollywood's hunk-next-door and the ultimate Tinseltown bad girl made for a heady concoction on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith back in 2005. The drama bubbled over into real life as Brad's marriage to America's sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, collapsed and he subsequently shacked up with Angie and her adopted children.

Brad and Angelina

Brad and Angelina

Soon Brad and Ange had fused into 'Brangelina'. Instead of two becoming one, the new moniker acknowledged that the pair were a hot property adding up to more than the sum of its parts.

Hand-picking endorsements such as Angie's 'St John' and Brad's 'Chanel' campaigns, they used their public profiles to smart effect. Angelina's dedication to humanitarian causes earned her a role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, while Brad founded the 'Make It Right Foundation', which financed and constructed homes in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

The air of mystique around the inner workings of this relationship – fuelled by rumours of passionate rows – and their commitment to charity and creative arts has maintained Brangelina as a household name nearly 10 years on.

When they first got together, fans were divided into 'Team Jolie' and 'Team Aniston' but the negativity felt by many toward Angelina has dissipated over the years – especially after her openness concerning her double mastectomy.

Time has not really altered the essence of what makes a power couple – from Marie and Pierre Curie winning the Nobel Prize to Brangelina scoring $14m from People magazine for exclusive picture rights to their twins.

New research shows that we are not marrying up or down, we are mating with same socio-economic class. Perhaps we are taking lead from culture's most influential couples.

One thing is for sure, being in a power couple sounds a lot sexier than two becoming one, then getting swallowed by the couch.

The next generation of wannabe super couples could do worse than model themselves after Brangelina, whose symbiotic greatness is a perfect example of the triumphs and failures of other iconic romantic power pairings.

Pay attention, Kimye.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

The most turbulent love affair of the 20th Century was without a doubt that of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. The sex symbol and 'actor's actor' were hot property each in their own right when they fell in love at first sight on the set of Cleopatra (1963).

The couple had 10 explosive years of marriage, marrying twice before divorcing for good in 1976. In that time their extravagant lifestyle enthralled the public – his intense talent and reputation for hard-partying and her beauty and passionate love-affair with fine jewellery.

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton

Though their relationship was a classic example of a couple who couldn't live with or without each other, this romance was the stuff of legend.

David and Victoria Beckham

What started as a cute, but sort of eye-rolling coupling of a Manchester United footballer and one of the most in-demand pop stars of the time, has become a power couple that weathered the storm of controversy, ridicule and game-changing career opportunity. Who would have thought that shy David Beckham and Posh Spice would become a lifestyle brand with a 'Midas Touch'?

David and Victoria Beckham

David and Victoria Beckham

The key to their success is their ability to transform themselves without losing their identity, not to mention their loving relationship and normal family background. Since they became household names in America, David has become the proud owner of a soccer franchise in Miami, while Victoria has established herself as an acclaimed fashion designer. But the Beckhams have never dropped their united front.

Beyoncé and Jay Z

Allegedly striking up a romance on their collaboration, '03 Bonnie & Clyde', Jay Z (Shaun Carter) and Beyoncé Knowles have managed to turn an intensely hush-hush relationship into a marriage and partnership that made them Forbes' top earning celebrity couple last year with $95m banked in 2013.

The secrecy around their courtship, and media blocked-out wedding attracted the public to what could have just been another celebrity couple. By not directly trading on their status as a couple, the Carters created value in demand.

Beyonce Jay Z.jpg
Singer Beyonce and rapper Jay Z perform onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards

Singer Beyonce and rapper Jay Z perform onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards

Though they do still collaborate musically and in philanthropic work, their fortunes are earned on their individual talents – his chiefly in music and streetwear, hers mainly in music, endorsement and fashion.

Michelle and Barack Obama

Since the beginnings of the Presidential campaign in 2007, Barack and Michelle Obama have refreshed pop culture's interest in the White House.

From the homeliness of their family life within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to his status as the first African-American President of the United States and her prominence as a fashion icon, the Obamas are the ultimate power pairing.

Michelle and Barach Obama

Michelle and Barack Obama

What underlies the aesthetics at hand – their good looks, ethnic profile and Michelle's daring-but-accessible style – is their combined intellect. The Obamas are each doctors of law, graduating from Harvard University. This ain't no political Ken and Barbie.

Despite rumours of trouble in the marriage, the crux of their appeal as a power couple is the confidence that their achievements instil in them, which they carry in everything they do.

How the average Jane and Joe can rise above their station

* Create a symbiotic personal style with smartly co-ordinated outfits so your friends won't be able to resist dressing up as you, not Wills and Kate for Halloween.

* Engineer a lifestyle or career-oriented collaboration – nothing is sexier than a couple working well together.

* Jokingly create a portmanteau (eg Kimye, Tomkat, Bennifer) in the hope that it sticks, or at least endure that you are each individually referred to in the context of the couple ("You know Andrea, from Peter and Andrea?")

* Don't finish each other's sentences – balance your spouse's point with an anecdote.

* Treat your relationship as if it is your own realm, the outside world serves you.

* Exude confidence – it is important that absolutely everyone wants to be one of you, and 'do' the other.

Irish Independent

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