WHEN Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty Spice reunited on the red carpet five years ago, there was one noticeable absentee.
The Spice Girls were premiering their musical — Viva Forever! — and while Melanie B, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie C arrived arm in arm, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham was nowhere to be seen.
Victoria was one of the last guests to arrive, dressed down in a pair of black cropped trousers and a trench coat. Clearly, she couldn’t care less. Without any words, she was sending a message, loud and clear.
Public disagreements with the girls in the past were no secret; she famously hated Geri (“it must be very lonely for her, I think you have to feel sorry for her,” she said after a bitter row over Halliwell’s shock departure from the group) and Melanie B has admitted that “Victoria was one end and I was at the other … it’s like any relationship with her and me. We fight, we argue, we make up … it’s always been like that.”
But this time, it was different. This time, it signalled a shift in power. And it hasn’t been the same since.
Once upon a time Posh Spice was simply the pouty popstar in a PVC catsuit, the Spice Girl who slayed with a simple stare.
Along with Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty, Posh forced the world to spice up their lives and armed with a minidress and a microphone, introduced a generation to Girl Power.
“I was called Posh because I liked the nice restaurants, and the nice clothes, and that was my character. I didn’t smile, even in those days,” she said in the documentary, The Spice Girls Story: Viva Forever!.
“There was this very strong image. And I am very much that person, even now.”
The Spice Girls’ unapologetically brash brand of feminism took the world by storm and blazed the trail for dozens of icons to follow. The Fab Five’s first single Wannabe is still the best-selling debut single by a girl group of all time and combined, they’ve sold 85 million records worldwide.
Victoria Beckham was always considered the least talented member of the Spice Girls. Hers was the voice that lay deep in the background, the one given less solo time. For Victoria, success inside and outside of the Spice Girls never came easy.
“They used to turn it off [microphone] and just let the others sing,” Beckham told Vogue of her time in the Spice Girls.
Critics have also never been far from the 43-year-old fashion designer, model, and singer. The naysayers came from every corner. One minute she was “Porky Posh”. The next, “Skeletal Spice”.
“If Victoria hadn’t had the lucky breaks she had and the people having faith in her to make her what she is, she probably would have been singing and dancing on a cruise liner,” Victoria’s former Principal, Joy Spriggs, told the documentary, Being Victoria Beckham.
“There are lots of girls with more talent, I’m being quite honest here, that are doing less than Victoria is doing.”
Her solo career was equally disappointing — she is the only Spice Girl without a #1 solo single to her name. NME called her self-titled solo album, “a new low in shameless pop slaggery”.
The reviews came at a time when Girl Power was divided, at a time when the world was questioning whether Victoria Beckham should consider a career change and disappear completely. The knife was dug in that much deeper from bandmate, Sporty Spice Melanie C. Why chase a pop career so relentlessly when so encumbered by a lack of talent?
“If I was Victoria, I would enjoy my husband, enjoy my family, enjoy the money that they’ve got and give the music a rest,” she said in a British radio interview in 2004.
“She’s got such a great life — I don’t know why she doesn’t just sit back and enjoy it.”
Not that Victoria cared.
Two decades since Spice Up Your Life, revenge has been served cold — and from the critics to the catwalk, Victoria Beckham is back on top.
“I got the last laugh — and now my mic is well and truly on, finally,” she told Vogue last year.
It’s no secret the success of any Spice Girls reunion now lies in the hands of the one Spice Girl who never seemed to matter: Posh.
Now worth a cool $450 million, Posh Spice’s success is the real lesson in girl power; never underestimate the underdog.
Beckham is riding high from the success of her fashion line; this week she celebrated her ten-year anniversary at New York Fashion Week, after inviting sceptical editors and buyers to a suite in the Waldorf Towers to see her debut collection in 2008.
“Victoria Beckham made her first appearance at New York fashion week a decade ago as a novelty act, but she leaves as a headline one,” writes The Guardian.
And once there was a sniff of success, how quickly the tide turned.
“The magic trick on which the Victoria Beckham brand is based is a sleight of hand. On the one is her relatable persona as a working mother of four, and on the other her aspirational level of polish and glamour. It is a compelling balancing act, and one which has made her a significant player in the luxury industry.”
According to the Telegraph, insiders say Victoria’s business enjoyed significant growth during the first half of 2017, thanks to a collaboration with Target and an Estée Lauder make-up deal.
In December, 2017, Victoria’s fashion business alone was valued at £100m (AU$176m), a far cry from Emma Bunton’s $30 million net worth. Meanwhile lawyers for Melanie B’s estranged ex Stephen Belafonte claim that Scary Spice had “wiped out all her Spice Girls money” — said to be £38m (AU$67 million).
“Victoria Beckham may be dismissed by many as less talented than her superstar footballer husband David Beckham, but behind the big sunglasses lies a cute business brain,” writes The Richest.
“Wag no more, Victoria Beckham is firmly out from under husband David’s shadow. Her fashion collections have won critical acclaim, along with a devoted celebrity following. Stars from Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow to Oprah Winfrey have worn her sharply tailored dresses, which carry four-figure price tags”.
Once the woman the Spice Girls could have done without, Victoria is now the woman the Spice Girls need.
Despite appearing alongside the girls in an Instagram post last week, setting the world alight with rumours of a reunion, she quelled rumours overnight, telling British Vogue: “I’m not going on tour. The girls aren’t going on tour.
“There’s something so strong in the message of what the Spice Girls stood for. What is that in the future? What does that look like? We were just bouncing ideas around. Brainstorming.”
After making a brief comeback in 2012 for the London Olympics and embarking on a World Tour that was cut short earlier than expected, Victoria has continually dismissed suggestions of a reunion. And she continues to play us all.
“It is not happening,” she said in 2017 amid rumours of a 20-year anniversary reunion.
“At some point you’ve got to know when it’s time. I don’t think I’ll be slipping into a PVC catsuit anytime soon.”
Despite hinting most recently at the idea that a reunion is ahead, the beauty for Victoria lies in the tease.
Despite the expectations that she should settle as a WAG and quietly step away from the spotlight and into her role as a dutiful housewife and celebrity mum, she kept working.
Even when her solo album failed and she was dropped from her record company, the same one that shot the Spice Girls to stardom, she kept going.
Even when her attempt to set up a life in Los Angeles and introduce the Beckham brand to the US with her one-hour TV special, Coming to America, failed miserably, she pursued her dream.
Victoria Beckham may be guilty of many things — excessive cosmetic surgery and a bad haircut or three — but despite being one of the world’s most underestimated performers, she has shown us all.
When she relocates her runway show from New York to London no doubt Girl Power will be sitting front row and centre. But while the rest cling on for publicity and a reunion, the one woman we all scoffed is ultimately, the last woman standing.
Now that’s Girl Power.