Meghan Markle turned 40

On Wednesday, August 4, The Duchess of Sussex, formerly Meghan Markle, celebrated her 40th birthday. The senior British Royal Family accounts posted the traditional happy birthday messages to Meghan:

In California, Meghan’s birthday was marked by the duchess and her and Prince Harry’s charity/company hybrid, Archewell, creating a campaign called 40×40. Here is the idea of the campaign: to celebrate Meghan’s 40th birthday, Meghan was challenging 40 of her friends, as well as regular folks like you and me, to volunteer 40 minutes of mentorship to a woman who has lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 40×40 campaign was accidentally leaked by Editor in Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful, who showed the following on his Instagram in the early hours (early for non-Brits) of Wednesday morning:

The formal launch of the campaign was done via a Reels video on American actress Melissa McCarthy’s Instagram page:

The Archewell website has a write-up and steps to follow to become a mentor to someone. On the surface it’s a pretty neat idea. I don’t know how impactful these mentorship pledges will actually be, but I truly hope that people get something out of them. I could argue that Archewell is mostly branded toward women and that the politics of asking already-overworked women, almost all of whom are already underpaid due to gender inequality, some of whom are parents, to give 40 minutes of unpaid labour during a pandemic/when the school year is about to start is asking quite a lot. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will change the world. Maybe I’m just cynical.

In the video with Melissa McCarthy, we got a glimpse into Harry and Meghan’s house, especially Meghan’s work table/desk:

I wrote on Twitter that this setup struck me as nuts, mentioning:

  • The dozens of copies of Meghan’s children’s book, The Bench, on the table both holding up and sitting in front of Meghan’s laptop;
  • The Hermes blanket, which retails for $1550 USD, laying on the chair beside Meghan (I originally didn’t see that there was a chair there and thought it was on top of the table);
  • The tea and biscuits, which seems to poke a little fun at the UK/the British Royal Family that Harry and Meghan were so eager to leave;
  • The extremely casual ribbed tank top and cashmere cardigan, paired with a pair of $1500 USD suede Manolo Blahnik heels, and the thought that anyone would choose to wear stilettos in their home, paired with such an informal outfit.

I got a lot of flack for this Tweet from the Sussex squad (Hi, Sussex squad! Thanks for reading!). The criticism seemed to fit into a few separate buckets:

Stay mad/you’re a broke bitch/go get a life!

Duly noted.

Queen Elizabeth sits in front of a gold piano during her Christmas broadcasts, which are filmed in a PALACE, you hypocrite!

Yes, Queen Elizabeth does own a gold piano, and yes, she has sat in front of it during previous Christmas broadcasts (though not in the last few years). The piano was purchased by Queen Victoria. I don’t condone the gold piano, lol. And I obviously don’t agree with the colonial, racist past of the British Royal Family. I talk about this at length in this episode of the Royal Analysis podcast. I think we’re at a point with the BRF where we need to stop putting our heads in the sand re: how the BRF acquired its wealth and all of those palaces/castles/gold pianos, while also acknowledging that today’s BRF does a lot of good in terms of philanthropy and flying the flag for the UK at home and abroad. And also, this isn’t a great argument for Sussex stans to make unless they’re going to acknowledge that Harry and Meghan benefited greatly from Harry’s birth status as a prince and his and her current titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex. If Meghan and Harry wanted to properly cut ties with the privilege of the BRF, why are they so insistent on keeping their titles and making sure their children are in the royal line of succession? I think that there is a whole lot of grey in this situation and acting as if there isn’t is downright disingenuous.

You’re just jealous of a successful Black woman/is she supposed to live in a barn/why do you care what MM does with her money, you racist ghoul?

Thank you for thinking of interesting things to call me! Meghan and Harry can do whatever they want to with their money. I don’t actually care if they spend $1550 on a blanket. But in terms of strategy and optics, it could be and has been argued (by me and a lot of other people) that showing off tremendous wealth while asking people to donate 40 minutes of their time for free to help a less fortunate person, could be seen as hypocritical. Again, I’m not saying if it’s right or wrong, just like I’m not saying if it’s right or wrong for Will and Kate to do Zoom engagements from Sandringham or Kensington Palace (though they usually keep the backgrounds bare to not distract from the issue related to the engagement). But Harry and Meghan and their Archewell team and their PR team at Sunshine Sachs cannot put together a coherent PR strategy to save their lives, and that’s what is so infuriating/fascinating/fun to write about. To show up in a video celebrating her own birthday, wearing stilettos that cost more than most Americans’ monthly rent, and asking people to donate time to the unfortunate women who have lost their jobs during a worldwide pandemic, is tone-deaf. It just is, the same way that Meghan saying during her interview with Oprah that she thinks the COVID-19 pandemic has given people an idea of what her life inside the royal family was like is. Saying that a pandemic that has killed millions of people demonstrates what life was like for Meghan when she lived in a literal palace is bonkers. It shows a disconnect from the real problems of real people.

As I’ve said many times in the past, it’s the lack of consistent messaging that drives people bonkers about the Sussexes. They don’t want money from the racist institution of the British Royal Family, but they’re angry when Prince Charles cuts off their yearly pocket money from the Duchy of Cornwall. They’re focused on saving the environment, but they have a gigantic house that has a huge environmental impact and choose to fly private. They want to “honour the reign of Queen Elizabeth II” and name their daughter after her, but seem hellbent on bringing down the monarchy and Harry’s individual family members at every chance they get. They send Omid Scobie out to say that they are going to take a months-long parental leave to normalize the concept of time off work for regular people, but then announce a new project or campaign every 1-2 weeks during that leave. Harry wants to be seen as serious, but decides to be shown juggling in the background of the 40×40 video. Just pick a side and stay consistent with it! Become a real housewife and join Cameo! Start a restaurant with Lisa Vanderpump, I truly don’t care! But please stop flip flopping on messaging. It’s the flip-flopping that is driving people nuts, not the fact that Meghan is a successful Black woman or owns an expensive blanket.

Thanks for reading. And thank you specifically to Yankee Doodle on Twitter for your generous support!

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4 thoughts on “Meghan Markle turned 40

  1. I think this initiative is interesting mostly because it seems to be the blueprint for what they are going to do going forward. Done on a family event/milestone, involves celebrities, kinda seems tone-deaf/ego-feeding (I’m mean lol), with its impact not going father than the people directly involved (the people being mentored in this case). I honestly think people still expect them to be doing royal level stuff (think Earthshot or the research centre) but they have neither the reach or the budget for that. But it’s not a bad idea at all and I hope the women were helped.

    And I’ll just say that Meghan seemed to have no problem with the colonial legacy of the royal family until they made clear she couldn’t commercialize the institution for her own gain. She still seems fine with it as long as she can use her titles. Hell, she married the member with the most racist past (save Princess Michael) and seems fine with him using her and her children as shields. Her (former? she’s never called her out if so) best friend is a racist for God’s sake!

    (This is not to excuse any of the racist press she received- that is inexcusable of course. Just to point out that Meghan seems to have rather flexible morals when it benefits her)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Her children are royal. Just because some people in the royal family had a problem with their mixed heritage shouldn’t strip them of their birthright. (Should Andrew’s issues impact his daughters’ standing?) Perhaps the royals who questioned Archie’s skin color should give up their titles, instead of the targets of their racist “concern.” Regarding using her title for commercial gain – see Princess Michael and Sarah Ferguson. Why the lack of concern about their publishing books and selling weight loss items and hawking hair straighteners on QVC using their titles?
      As for your hope that people will be helped by Archewell’s initiatives – at least it isn’t publicly-funded. Which is unlike the royals, whose patronages do not benefit materially from the royals’ association with them. Royal photo ops are used as justification for funding the royals – yet these engagements have no measurable impact. Why are you so concerned about a private organization? Is this costing anybody money?
      Regarding the royal with the most racist past – hmmm, I wonder if Harry will discuss his brother’s costume at that colonial fancy dress party??? Curiously, no pictures exist…
      Regarding the indicators of Meghan’s wealth in the video – I would argue that most of the things aren’t unattainable to mere mortals – you too can have a 75 pound cup & most people watched the vid on a $800 phone. Harry & Meghan are really rich! They were before all the deals. Meghan was before she met Harry. Is this a surprise to anyone? It isn’t a secret and no one has explained why Harry and Meghan shouldn’t live in luxury. Other royals engage in charitable endeavors and campaign about the environment (Charles!!!), and their homes and possessions aren’t scrutinized. If you can handle Kate’s expensive jewelry and clothes and the Queen treating Hermes scarves like dishrags – I’m sure you can handle the idea of the Sussexes having a lovely home.
      Honestly, what kind of home did you expect? A shabby 2 bedroom apartment?
      Just admit that you expected Harry and Meghan to go back to the royals cap in hand. It’s clear that won’t happen – even the British tabloids are more interested in the Sussexes than the royals left behind because there are multiple articles about Meghan daily, and we’ve heard her voice for less than 10 minutes in the past 6 months. This whole thing makes me think of the bus boycotts in the 1950s. Black Americans got fed up with discriminatory treatment on buses and decided to boycott. Instead of the whites being happy – hey, you have the whole bus to yourself! – the boycott was met with fierce resistance. You see, along with the negative economic impact of the loss of ridership – the whole point of the discriminatory practices was to have people around to denigrate. It was no fun when the people failed to engage.
      it’s no fun without Harry and Meghan.
      Didn’t their critics say early on that they would be banished to Africa? Didn’t people tell them to leave and earn their own money? Their critics thought that was a threat and it turned out that it wasn’t. Well, they’re gone, and they’re earning their own keep. You just didn’t think they’d be successful at it – because none of the others ever were.
      What will happen is – the papers will write about every single thing the Sussexes do. The Sussexes will make millions of dollars. You won’t see much of their kids at all – only when they feel like it. They’ll do whatever the hell they want. The others – William, Kate, Charles, whoever – will continue to look dowdy and provincial in comparison, and people won’t revere them the way they do the Queen and they’ll have to constantly justify their existence. The world as it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, again I’m behind in reading these posts. First I want to say that I heard the latest podcast and it was great, is good to hear different POV and opinions, looking forward to the next one.

    Going back to the article, I just need to get this off my chest first and say that those Sussex squad fanatics (again, they exhibit the same behaviour as religious fanatics) are the ones that are bitter, and I would have a few more choice words for them but I’m not going to repeat them here, and also thinking more about it, they don’t deserve that we spend much time acknowledging them and their intolerance. I will try to limit my comments only to the points you made and not address their nonesense.

    The first point about the developments on M’s birthday is that it was noticed that the 3 main accounts of the BRF wished M a Happy Birthday on Twitter and Instagram, but while on Twitter the posts were permanent, on Instagram the birthday wishes were only published in the Instagram Stories and disappeared after the usual 24 hours (as it happens in Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc., Stories). For her fans, perhaps it might seem petty, but on the other hand, doesn’t this respect her privacy? After all, the BRF could only use photos of her time as a senior royal, they don’t have recent photos of her in an official capacity nor there is any indication she has authorized them to use recent photos of her for future posts. It could be argued that they’re trying to both honour her wish for privacy and the agreement between all parties that she and H are no longer senior royals.

    The initiative itself and the way it was announced have several issues. We could start by discussing what’s up with this latest trend among H and M’s friend / collaborators, to announce something H and M are about to announce and then delete it because ups!, it wasn’t supposed to be announced yet. This is not the first time I see this and if it keeps happening I’m calling it out, because then for sure these aren’t accidents but totally on purpose to create buzz and attention and in a very fake way. But the main first thing to say about the initiative itself is the way it copied past initiatives by Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I don’t have all the details about how the Nelson Mandela initiative worked except the idea that it had the same cascade effect this initiative wants to have (from what I understand part of the idea here is that some of the 40 women mentored eventually will try to mentor some other 40 women and so on). I do have some more understanding about how this is too similar to Obama’s intiative for his 60th birthday and is sad (on top of all, poor guy has to share the date of his birthday with M). Basically, his birthday party invitations already had a theme of 44 x 60 because he was the USA 44th president who was turning 60, but he also asked guests (and I think the public in general) to donate $5 US dollars to charities. I don’t have all the details but I also think this was supposed to have some trickle down effect too. H and M’s blatant copy of the roadmap the Obama’s followed to make their fortune and build their brand is so obvious now that the UK press had a field day calling them out on it and also pointing out how there is no indication they were invited to Obama’s birthday party (that story is a whole other world of its own). Being unoriginal is not a crime but it does opens you up too much to criticism, specially when you have such a huge public profile.

    Second of all, the way it was officially announced, Melissa McCarthy included. Like you said, there are several tone-deaf / bizarre things in the setup, and it was impossible for them to go unnoticed. In fact everything was analized by the UK media, and is not because is M, Diana and how she looked in the Panorama interview (clothes, hair, makeup, her vocabulary) were analized in 1995 with the same level of detail. The UK media and part of the public took exception to the implication that the UK population conducts all their meetings and social interactions dressed like if they are always attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace (or Ascot) and always with tea time food (as opposed to other types of food or no food to begin with). At least one royal commentator accused M of mocking the Queen as well. I don’t remember if Omid Scobie or someone else came up defending M, I’m pretty sure she did have some people defending her in the media. Personally I don’t think she intended to mock the Queen, but I do think that by inviting a comedian and trying to put a humorous note to the whole thing, they didn’t play it out in a truly funny way, because they consciously or unconscioulsy did play out a stereotype while at the same time trying to promote a charitable initiative that they want it to be taken seriously by the public. Poking fun at a stereotype / through a stereotype may or may not get a pass in a movie or TV show, but doing so while one of the two sides of the interaction belongs to the family that represents the country associated with the stereotype seems bad PR too me. You could almost call it an effort to alienate the people of that country.

    There is a lot to be said about the physical setup as well. It seems M or her decorator are into beige colours, which I understand it’s a trend? It doesn’t appeal to me, to each their own, but I also think if your house decour is already beige / neutral colours, you might want to dress with colours that pop out / complement the stage but also make you more visible? Again, to each their own. But I do think the most disturbing thing about the setup is having a bunch of unsold copies of The Bench displayed there. It’s a weird way to promote her book (using it as anything other than a book) and it doesn’t scream success to me. As for the cost of the items she wears / displays in this video, I agree with the points you made, her supporters can argue that Kate and other royal women wear expensive clothes in several of their public engagements and that the palace rooms where the Queen receives dignataries or records her Christmas messages are luxurious, but the point here is that you have to know when it’s appropiate to wear a luxury bag or shoes and when it isn’t, and it seems that M hasn’t mastered that important detail yet (while Will and Kate are better at it and also, they don’t wear designer clothes for every single public engagement). Also, H and M are trying to portray themselves as relatable, everyday people while the BRF doesn’t try that, and things like the optics of this video put them in evidence and scream they aren’t everyday people.

    A third thing with this video and initiative is that some people have pointed out the initiative itself might have a counterproductive effect to the one it wants to achive. I haven’t read the guidelines in the Archwell website to become a mentor, but I hope there are very well detailed, because one of the concerns I read about (from people who specializes in mentorships) is that unqualified individuals give wrong or discouranging advice to these women that want to / need to re-enter the workforce. Also, another concern is that 40 minutos is simply not enough to do a proper mentorship. So bottom line, the people who knows about this area worried this might end up doing more harm than good. That’s not a good look, and again, it opens H and M up to too much criticism

    On a last note, and going back to the use of humour in the video but also to the optics of it all, H received a lot of flack in the UK for showing up juggling for a few seconds in the bloopers of that video. What people outside the UK might find hard to understand is that for a good chunck of the 20th century and maybe before that, there was and still is a perception in British society about what is dignified behaviour for a prince / a member of the BRF. H juggling outside the window of his wife’s studio is not dignified behaviour in the UK (probably in a couple of countries too). For many, he instead looks like a circus clown / the court jester in his wife’s pretend court. It rankles the UK public. And it also turned out to be kind of fake, because in the video it looked like a spontaneous thing he decided to do to amuse M and Melissa McCarthy while they didn’t know he would do that, but then Melissa McCarthy later goes and reveals it was discussed beforehand, when she says they were discussing ideas or he asked how he could help them, something like that, and at one point H said he could juggle and asked if that would be weird, and Melissa McCarthy told him it wouldn’t be. Of course she told him it would be ok, she’s a comedian! H shouldn’t have to ask if that would be ok, he should have known that wouldn’t be ok under the rules of the royalty / aristocracy world he was born and raised into. Either he’s playing dumb for the sake of Melissa McCarthy but had already decided to do this, or he’s truly daft (a possiblity tbh). If he wanted to do it to rankle his relatives and the UK population, why not just go ahead and do it instead of playing dumb when talking with a comedian? Like almost everything with H and M, their motivations behind their actions are a mistery and this anecdote is no exception.

    Liked by 1 person

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