Will she smile for the occasion? Victoria Beckham, erstwhile former Spice Girl turned international fashion superstar, turns 40 today. For anyone who remembers the first breathy incantation of "zig-a-zig-ah," this news might make your knees creak a little too loudly. It is also surprising, as Beckham—or Posh Spice as she was once known—was not the Spice Girl destined for global greatness from the get-go. To pop-watchers she was known as "the one who can't sing" (or doesn't sing). She pouted and she raised her fingers in a victory salute, but her function in the group seemed decorative at best. Geri Halliwell (Ginger) seemed the most driven; Mel B (Scary) lived up to her name by shouting and has had a variable TV career; Mel C (Sporty) emerged with the best voice, and her career has been quietly respectable; and Emma Bunton (Baby) turned up on Absolutely Fabulous and other TV shows.
Beckham's fame left the solely Spice orbit with her marriage to David Beckham, the extremely pretty and metrosexual English footballer—as famed for wearing sarongs as for his free kicks. The couple were pictured on their wedding day sitting on thrones. They occupied a mansion that became known as Beckingham Palace. They enjoyed their wealth and the tabloids would crow about how brash they were. Beckham became queen of a group labeled by the British tabloids as the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) of the footballing teams. A solo singing career went nowhere. She was the subject of a botched kidnapping attempt. She became extremely thin. She went blonde. She came back from blonde. Then she started designing clothes, which people were dismissive about at the beginning—surely this was another celebrity past-time, a cashing in on name. But no, the threads were good. The critics lauded her: The success of Beckham's fashion range has eclipsed her Spice Girls career, and erased that sniping about her non-singing. The couple moved into the celebrity stratosphere after they came to America for David to play for the LA Galaxy and they became friends with A-listers such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Now the Beckhams are gently adored and respected: He models underpants to the delight of all sexualities and genders, she designs beautiful clothes. Their children are growing; the oldest, Brooklyn, is just beginning a modeling career himself. Somehow this family—rich, beautiful, jet-setting—also seems like a normal family, with dedicated, doting parents. She's still very thin, and she still doesn't smile much. But again, that's a purse-lipped masterstroke from someone who knows her brand. Happy Birthday, Posh!