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!
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!