Brand it like Beckham
In an exclusive interview with LIFE, Victoria Beckham talks to our reporter about how she prioritises the school run over looking immaculate, the pressure of the social-media illusion of perfection and how David sees the real-life VB
Victoria Beckham jokes that she was far too young when she started wearing make-up. The Spice Girl turned fashion designer, turned cosmetics queen, remembers how, when she was on her way to school, her mother would sometimes say, "You look a little peaky", get out her lipstick, and rub it on to Victoria's cheeks.
When recalling her very first piece of make-up, Victoria laughs and says, "Oh my goodness, it would have been a lipstick called Twilight Teaser.
"It sounds as awful as it was," she adds, "but I was young, and I thought it was the best thing ever. Oh, and there was a blue mascara, but everyone had one of those, right?"
When I get home from interviewing Victoria Beckham, during her recent visit to Dublin to launch the second collection of her cosmetics line in Brown Thomas, I google Twilight Teaser. It was a pinky-purple shade, with a hefty dose of lilac frosting; the kind of colour that really suits no one and has a wonderfully yellowing effect on the teeth. It's a classic early 1980s piece of kit, from a time when our expectations were rather lower, and even Victoria Beckham made missteps.
Obviously, there's something charming about imagining Victoria getting it wrong - even for those of us who remember the early days of the Spice Girls and, later, her double double-leather look with David, or, worse, their double double-denim outing. Latterly, though, she's the woman who hasn't put a fashion foot wrong for at least a decade, who never looks bad, even in a post-gym paparazzi shot.
"Everything is good at the time," Victoria says with a smile. "Do I look back and cringe? Of course I do. Most people do. But I look back, and I don't so much cringe as it makes me smile, because it's what's made me who I am now. I look back at the Spice Girl days and some of the make-up I used to wear, and I think, my goodness, that was a bold choice, shall we say?"
You think you can get away with anything when you're young, though, I say. And, I add, you kind of can get away with anything when you're young.
"You can!" Victoria exclaims.
"But it was fun," she says. "It was the 90s. I was in a pop group, and that's what you do when you're a pop star. And you learn along the way, and you find what works, and you experiment, and you shouldn't be afraid to. Then, hopefully, by the time you get to 43, you've figured out what works and doesn't. You become more accepting of yourself and what looks good, and how to look after yourself."
Almost in awe
She looks lovely when I meet her, in an outfit that is well photographed during her day-long visit. Kitted out from her own clothes collection, she wears a bright-red dress that verges on orange, and is made of diaphanous fabric with a tiered skirt and has an apparently demure shirt-like top to it. It's beautiful, but the cut-out piece at the back, which reveals Victoria's tanned back when she turns, is the detail that really sets it apart. That and the navy boots, also from her own label. Black would have been too harsh with the dress, but who would think of navy? Well, Victoria Beckham would.
Victoria talks about her make-up range, Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder, with an enthusiasm to match a mother with her firstborn. She's in love, she's engaged and she's almost in awe.
Victoria is in Dublin to introduce her second launch of cosmetics in collaboration with Estee Lauder. The first collection - which featured her desert-island nude lipstick and Morning Aura Illuminating Creme, a skin product that gives an unparalleled 'no make-up make-up' glow - was a massive bestseller.
The first 10-piece collection concentrated on a dewy-skinned, radiating-health appearance, and her make-up 'heroes', while this second launch has a broader focus. The 18 new pieces work as standalones, but are also grouped into city looks - London, Paris, Miami, New York, and Victoria's second home, LA. She adds to her lip offering with a very wearable Burnished Rose (Miami) and a gothic Black Cassis (Paris), while adding, among other things, a luxurious Highlighter and a Smudgy Matte Eyeliner that is a halfway house between liquid and pencil, with its fabulous sponge-tip applicator.
Victoria talks a lot about "the perfect" when she's discussing the make-up, and you can see that this is how she operates. She likes to achieve the best, from head to toe and all through her life, like an unbreakable thread.
"I put everything into this. This isn't just me putting my name on something. This is me saying, 'This is perfect lipstick, the perfect powder'," Victoria says.
"Anything I do, I give 100pc; otherwise, what's the point? And this has been a real passion project for me. I mean, I went to the factory, I put on the lab coat, I mixed up the lip gloss. I met with the factory owner, I created the mood boards and colour palettes and the range plan. I worked very closely with Sarah Creal from Estee Lauder, but this is a very honest collection that I have been all over, every single thing.
"I loved it," she says, gleefully. "I'm so girlie. I love fashion, I love make-up, and like I said, I want to empower women. I've learned so much through what I've lived through, and I want to share that with women. But I loved the creative process; the hours and hours at my house in LA; creative meetings where we were still sitting around my dining-room table at one o'clock in the morning. And I love that."
Victoria believes the success of her make-up is proof that she's got it right, that she has hit on what women want. If 'perfect' is the word she applies to the product, however, it's not something she thinks that women should demand of themselves.
"I think there's a lot of pressure on women, which is why I think women should support each other and be kind to themselves and make the most of what they have. So there's nothing wrong with going for a facial, going to the gym, having a massage. Don't feel guilty about that - which is easier said than done, because working mums do feel guilty when they do anything that's not for work or their children. Of course the children should be the priority, but it's a lot of pressure.
"And I think there's a lot of imagery these days that we all look at on social media," she adds of the pressure on women, "that is not always true images, and nothing is ever as perfect as it looks, should we say?"
I wonder if Victoria Beckham feels this pressure herself? She must, obviously - though, from the outside, we perceive it to be easier on her because, unlike the rest of us, she always manages to look amazing. I wonder does she ever feel she can leave the house without any make-up?
"Yeah," she says, "there are mornings that I do that. My priority is my children, and every day I do the school run. Every morning I work out and I'm back in the kitchen by 7.15, ready to get the breakfast going, and then we rush out the door to school.
"So there's not much you can manage if you're running around after three children - because that's what it is now because Brooklyn's gone to New York [to university], but we won't talk about that, because I'll get upset." She adds: "Luckily, the LA look is very natural. It's bronzed, sun-kissed, glossy, and a more youthful, fresh, non-make-up look. And that's really all I have time for in the morning."
If Victoria could apply a quick five products in the morning, what would they be? I ask.
"Morning Aura Illuminating Creme," she answers, "the Skin Perfecting Powder, the Cheek Creme, the Vanille of the Eye Kajal duo pencil on the inside of the eye, and the nude Victoria lip."
No mascara? I ask.
"Not if it's only five [products]," she answers. "I can put on sunglasses."
I laugh. Good answer. And very Victoria Beckham. I imposed the limitations. She made the look her own.
That's what she does, this woman who has made hitting the right note her USP.
She wasn't the greatest singer in the Spice Girls and, when they split up, she wasn't necessarily the one earmarked for becoming the standout soloist. At 43, however, Victoria Beckham isn't just the Spice Girl with the brightest career, but one of the most famous women in the world.
The last time I saw such a flurry of female excitement at meeting a star was when I was in the presence of George Clooney. If he's the definition of male stardom, then it seems that VB - initials are enough at this stage - is doing it for the girls. And, in a funny way, it's gratifying in a girl-power way, to see women this excited about seeing and meeting another woman.
I ask if David Beckham likes her without make-up, with a natural make-up look, or wearing the full red-carpet make-up.
"Don't most men prefer a more natural look?" she laughs. "But do they mean it or are they just saying it? I think, you know, David sees me at home, no make-up, normally in workout clothes, hair up in a knot and running around after the kids, and that's real life."
When she was the mother of only boys - Brooklyn (18), Romeo (15) and Cruz (12) - Victoria Beckham was strict, she says, but it's a slightly different story now Harper (six) has come along. She allows her to play with the make-up, but it's not a repeat of Victoria's childhood, as Harper only wears it in the house.
"Harper can be a little tomboy," Victoria says. "She likes to play football. She dresses comfortably, and that's what's important to me, that the kids are happy. And that she can run around and play, and that she's not in fancy clothes that she can't play in. But we play with make-up at home and she enjoys that, but she would not put it on to go out. She's six. But it is nice bonding thing to do with your daughter."
In the past, Victoria spoke about make-up as armour, and, if you look way back at the Spice Girl who sometimes seemed shy and a bit uncertain, you can see what she might have meant.
Now, older, wiser, arguably more beautiful, and even more successful, she doesn't need a shield. She wears her cosmetics lightly, as she wears her fashion, as she wears her celebrity. "Make-up makes me feel empowered and confident, and I don't think there's anything wrong in saying that," Victoria says. "It brings out the confidence; it makes me feel like the best version of myself. It's how I celebrate being a woman."
And that woman has come a long way from the girl in the Twilight Teaser.
The Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder range is available now from Brown Thomas
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