Take a dashing, wildly popular British sports star who wears diamond earrings and headbands, then add a beautiful pop singer who has a penchant for designer clothes, and you have created an English obsession.
Meet the Beckhams — 29-year-old Victoria, better known as Posh Spice of the '90s pop phenomenon the Spice Girls, and David, at 27, already a soccer legend with world famous Manchester United.
They're rich and glamorous, a match made in tabloid heaven. As Victoria Newton of The Sun, one of Britain's most popular tabloids, put it, "It was like a dream come true." Newton said, "They're now our royalty. Once Princess Diana died we didn't have anybody else to put on the front pages every day."
Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief of Us magazine, describes the pair as the J. Lo and Ben Affleck of the British world.
The couple's new multimillion-dollar estate in London, dubbed Beckingham Palace, is worthy of their status. They're enjoying the glow of life on the front pages, but Britain's most glamorous couple has learned some tough lessons about life in the spotlight.
"I think it … it's very, very difficult, because obviously everything they say isn't always going to be positive," Victoria tells 20/20's Deborah Roberts. David agreed, saying, "It's sometimes hard to cope with. But, you know, we've got used to it now. We understand that it's part and parcel of, you know, us being famous."
Indeed, fame on this grand scale is what Victoria dreamed of growing up in suburban London as a timid, awkward teenager yearning for stardom. "I wanted to be one of the kids from Fame. I just wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a dancer. Then I wanted to be a singer," she said.
Her dream was fulfilled nine years ago when she answered an ad to audition for an all-girl singing group, which would become the sensation of the decade called the Spice Girls. They struck gold with their first single and later went on to sell 40 million records.
Love and Lust at First Sight
Victoria was called Posh Spice, the cool, glamorous one. Though critics questioned whether she could sing, her striking presence would catch the eye of a certain soccer player who spotted her in one of the group's videos.
"I remember saying, 'I like that one in the short skirt and the bob. I've got to meet her,' " he recalls. And as formidable as he may be on the soccer field, David says he was intimidated by Victoria's glamorous world. "I'm a quiet shy person, and to be in that sort of circle, it's very intimidating," he said.
He describes their early romance as a bit of both love and lust at first sight.
The soccer player and the hot singer began dating secretly, dodging the paparazzi — but soon took their relationship public, generating mega-celebrity wattage.
Football Heaven and Hell
David's new ritzy lifestyle was a long way from the East London working-class neighborhood where he grew up sharing his father's obsession with a sport known across the pond as football.
By the tender age of 16 he was recruited by Manchester United, now England's most successful team, and he quickly turned heads with his wild haircuts and astounding winning kick known as the Beckham bend — sort of like baseball's curve ball. It's even the topic of a hit British film, Bend It Like Beckham.
David wasn't always soccer's darling. As a brash 22-year-old he got an early lesson about the ups and downs of fame. In 1998, during a crucial playoff game for the World Cup, Beckham kicked an opponent and was ejected from the game. England lost.
"I got blamed for, you know, knocking the country out of the World Cup," he said.
And the backlash got nasty. David said, "It got to the extent where I had to have police outside the house."
His talent could have taken the couple away from England — but David wanted to stay and work his way back. A process crowned in last year's World Cup semi-finals, when David scored the winning goal against Greece.
He said he got through the hard times with the support of Victoria, who quickly became his soul mate. A year after their first date, Victoria was pregnant.
Four months after the birth of their son, Brooklyn Herbert, Posh and Becks — as the tabloids call them — tied the knot in a lavish, million-dollar ceremony. A British magazine paid them $1.5 million just to publish their wedding photos.
‘I Was Very Obsessed’
The photos that were published soon after the wedding prompted concern about Victoria. People began to notice she was getting dangerously thin.
"I was even worried at one point," David said, "We went out to dinner one night, and we got pictured. … and the headline was 'Skeletal Spice.' "
Victoria said she never suffered from anorexia nervosa or from bulimia, but said, "I was very obsessed. I mean I could tell you the fat and calorie content in absolutely anything."
She said thinks it was part of the trappings of fame that prompted her fixation on food and her weight. "You pick up magazines and you see how you are meant to look when you're a famous person."
She said she doesn't think people ever completely shake off these sorts of feelings, but says she's eating very sensibly now.
But concerns over weight and the sting of gossip headlines were dwarfed by later threats to their family. In 1999 they received a disturbing letter threatening to kidnap Victoria and baby Brooklyn.
"I remember I just felt cold, I felt numb all over. I was absolutely petrified," Victoria said.
The Beckhams increased their security and went on with a carefree life until last November, when they got the biggest scare of their lives. British police informed them of another, this time more organized plot by an alleged crime ring to kidnap Victoria, Brooklyn and her second son, then-2-month-old Romeo. Five men have been charged in the plot, and they are headed for trial.
"This time it was a lot more serious, we were led to believe. It really was horrendous. … I was being driven around in bulletproof cars, I wasn't allowed to go out of the house. We had police sitting outside the house, 24 hours a day," Victoria said.
Now, the family cannot leave the house without bodyguards.
Cautious, But Undaunted
They are more cautious now, but the two seem undaunted as they settle into the role as Britain's new royal family. In spite of the death threats, kidnapping plots, and sometimes vicious press, their fame is worth it, they say.
"I have always dreamed of playing for Manchester United and being famous and being a famous footballer, and Victoria's … always dreamt of being famous. I don't think you realize what comes with that. But, you have to adapt to that."
David said their way of dealing with these stresses is by "being honest and being very family-oriented and living our dreams."
Despite all they've accomplished — and they are not yet 30 — the Beckhams remain as driven as ever. He wants to be the best soccer player in the world. She wants a successful solo singing career. With their track record thus far, it wouldn't be a surprise if each achieved their dream.