Why do some celebrities pretend to have struggling, working-class backgrounds?

Victoria Beckham joins the growing ranks of folks who want to claim a harder life than they've actually had

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published October 6, 2023 4:48PM (EDT)

Victoria Beckham is seen on March 03, 2023 in Paris, France. (Marc Piasecki/GC Images/Getty Images)
Victoria Beckham is seen on March 03, 2023 in Paris, France. (Marc Piasecki/GC Images/Getty Images)

We're living in a world that is rife with inequality, widespread labor issues plaguing the country and a growing gap between the uber, incredibly wealthy and the poor, working-class person. It's also a world in which our biggest celebrities, the most visible people in our society with heaps of wealth, have turned to embellish their backgrounds to sound like they have lived a struggling Cinderella rags-to-riches, humble and traumatic life.

The latest Netflix docuseries about soccer star David Beckham has one such example that's been making the social media rounds. In the clip, Victoria Beckham of Posh Spice Girls fame and Beckham's wife was discussing that she and David have come from incredibly hard-working middle-class backgrounds . . . before he peeks through the door, hilariously interjecting her to "be honest." He pesters her with the question "What car did your dad drive you to school in?” Victoria puts up a bit of a fight, and the couple go back and forth before she admits defeat: "OK, in the ’80s my dad had a Rolls Royce.” 

It's ridiculously ironic that a woman named "Posh Spice," was claiming that she grew up working-class. Who is she fooling? It almost strips the words of their entire meaning and purpose. And let's not forget that that couple is worth an estimated half a billion dollars from their abundant levels of fame and success. Regardless of their seemingly "working-class" backgrounds, it's kind of hard to empathize with people who have world-building amounts of wealth.

Victoria's embellishment is just a symptom of a glaring issue in the industry — rich people's fascination with being self-made. Other celebrities who have also lied about their backgrounds range from Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin's wife, who literally has a whole subreddit dedicated to documenting all her white lies about her background. Baldwin said she was born in Spain but was born and raised in Boston and is bilingual but neither of her parents have Spanish heritage. She's also claimed that she was Latina — even though she is not from a Latin country. Speaking of Latin actresses, "Queen's Gambit" Anya Taylor-Joy is a nepo-baby of elite levels. The British-American-Argentine actress said that she left school in the U.K. at 14 to New York to enroll in a director's program and that she used her savings to support herself. But internet sleuths found that the actress went to a prestigious prep school, Queen’s Gate School, one of the most elite in the county. And Taylor-Joy's grandfather is a British diplomat and her father is a former British-Argentine investment banker. More internet sleuthing will show that the actress also comes from a long line of European aristocrats and lords. 

Another celebrity and musican, Lady Gaga grew up in one of New York City's most expensive neighborhoods, the Upper West Side. In an interview with New York Magazine, she said her some in her family had extreme wealth family "others were on welfare and scholarship, and some were in the middle, which was my family." But the pop star did go to school at an expensive, all-girls Catholic school in her UWS neighborhood, Sacred Heart.

Next up is disgraced actor, Shia LaBeouf. The longtime actor made the film "Honey Boy" an autobiographical tale of his abusive father and how they struggled while he was a Disney Channel childstar. Turns out most of the story behind "Honey Boy" wasn't real. LaBeouf said that he wrote a narrative that was "nonsense," admitting that his dad was troubled but "never was not loving, never was not there." He continued: "I’d done a world press tour about how f***ed he was as a man. Here’s a man who I’ve done vilified on a grand scale. I turned the knob up on certain s**t that wasn’t real. My dad never hit me, never. He spanked me once, one time. And the story that gets painted in ‘Honey Boy’ is this dude is abusing his kid all the time."

All of this to say, celebrities assume there is some sort of gold star sticker they receive when they concoct easily disprovable lies about their supposedly humble and traumatic begins. Maybe we live in an age where people no longer empathize with the idea celebrity because our lives have become significantly more challenging as cost of living shoots up and wages remain the same while theirs just becomes easier as they are afforded access and excess that we can only dream of touching. Maybe the only way they can appeal to us anymore is through fictionalizing a shared experience in marginalization whether that means, lying about their ethnic backgrounds or their parents supporting them at the start of their careers or just straight up fabricating domestic abuse for monetary and artistic gains and praise. It's troubling that celebrities who are almost above all societal and economic constraints because of their power, influence and status are trying to play the Oppression Olypmic games with us normies. It's a game they will never win or shouldn't even be participating in because most of them started their lives with advantages; we aren't even playing on the same field.

It's like the nepo-baby conversation all over again. People like Daisy Ridley, denying her privileged background when her family members were connected to the BBC, or Ben Platt, who completely shut down when he was asked about being included in New York Magazine's nepo-baby profile. Some rich people have so much shame surrounding their privilege when any working-class person would revel in the privilege that celebrities want to pretend they don't have. They want to claim that they've reached the height of their fame because of their own merit not because they have a father who is a film producer. If they actually lived their lies, they'd find no joy in being a struggling, tortured artist always on the come-up. At the end of the day, their need for validation that they are "normal" will never be affirmed as long as they continue to fly on their private jets and sit pretty in their fifth mansion or like Posh Spice, be driven around in an '80s Rolls Royce.



By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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