Caity Weaver: Who are these women?
Elizabeth Paton: WAGs is an acronym commonly used to refer to wives and girlfriends of high-profile athletes, particularly soccer players and particularly in Britain. The phrase first hit the headlines in 2006 during the soccer World Cup in Germany, where a group of British WAGs — all frosted hair extensions, vaguely orange limbs and barely there outfits — put on a sideshow of champagne-fueled shopping trips and partying exploits in the historic town of Baden-Baden. Their leader was Victoria Beckham (or Posh Spice, as she was still known), with a loyal clique of lieutenants made up of pop stars, beauticians, fitness instructors and a fresh faced young 20-year-old called Coleen McLoughlin, the teenage sweetheart of the star player Wayne Rooney.
CW: Where do Coleen and Rebekah fall in WAG hierarchy?
EP: Coleen Rooney has grown in celebrity status over the years to reach peak WAG royalty. Between putting up with her husband Wayne’s repeated indiscretions (which have been widely reported in the media) and being a hands-on mum to four boys, Ms. Rooney has also released a fitness DVD, been a style adviser for Littlewoods and even had a magazine column. At times, she was an idol for many a young woman who dreamed of marrying a footballer and living a life of perma-tanned luxury. More recently, however, she has been living a lower-key existence in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., after her husband signed a contract to play for D.C. United.
Ms. Vardy is a more recent addition to the fold. Married to Leicester City player Jamie Vardy, whom she met in 2014 while working as a nightclub promoter and who she married two years later, she came to fame at a time when there was greater recognition of the sexism of the WAG label, both in defining women near exclusively on their appearance and also their partners and husbands. “WAG is a dated term because we’re not defined by what our husbands do. We’re individuals,” Ms. Vardy declared ahead of the soccer World Cup last year. A mother of five, she has appeared on cult British TV shows like “Celebrity Gogglebox” and “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” And every front page and home screen in Britain, since Ms. Rooney’s allegations surfaced Wednesday.
CW: Were they known friends or enemies before this incident?
EP: Certainly not known enemies. Close enough friends to sit next to each other at the occasional soccer game and be on one another’s private Instagram follower lists.
CW: What has been the initial public reaction to this story in England?
EP: At a time when Britain is teetering on the brink of a Brexit-induced crisis and with Boris Johnson supposedly leading from the helm, this war of the WAGs is the story everyone needs. The internet has been breaking here since news of the spat first surfaced; it appears people can’t — or won’t — think of anything else. Ms. Rooney is being heralded as a new national heroine.