Meghan Markle has shared a new ‘candid’ shot of herself with Vogue magazine, but it has highlighted a huge problem with her latest moves.
Earlier in June, the Internet had a good time when the Élysée Palace in Paris published a series of photos of French President Emmanuel Macron taken during a phone call with international leaders after the invasion of Ukraine.
Dressed in a hoodie, unshaven, with furrowed brows, they show Macron hard at work, a man so determined to make the world a better place that he had neither the time nor the inclination to waste a precious moment on himself.
Twitter and others got a good laugh at how theatrical, contrived and a bit desperate the mise-en-scène looked, and one would assume that this hoodie went into the president’s closet.
Whatever the hoodie’s fate, these Macron shots really crystallized how caring has become a true social media-ready 21st century performance piece.
So, how to explain the latest published image of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, which bears a certain resemblance to those images of Macron?
This new photo, like that of the Presidents, shows the 40-year-old duchess dressed (barefoot, her usual polished designer look replaced by very homey attire) and, like the images of the Elysee Palace, are done in black and white.
Again, like a Gallic political wunderkind, in this new look, instead of the duchess’s usually perfect hair and makeup, we see her with a hastily swept back ponytail and headband that busy women around the world know all too well.
Then there’s that former Suits the star actually does: holding her iPhone, her famous face, a worried office, a Macbook on her lap.
Like Macron, this picture of Meghan was taken on a charity flight, specifically as she spoke on the phone with feminist icon Gloria Stein and award-winning journalist Jessica Yellin after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Rowe’s v. Wade ruling.
On June 26, the three women discussed the historic and horrifying decision, and on Wednesday the conversation was published for an article about Fashion Web site.
Let’s start with this: go ahead, Megan. God yes! As one of the women with exclusive One Name Club membership, women like Beyoncé, Madonna and Oprah, here we have the Duchess of Sussex using her fame, reach and access to speak out against a decision that is supposed to scare and piss people off. worldwide.
I can’t stress enough on this point – I think that she has added her voice to the growing choir of well-known voices angry, frightened and spurred to action by an archaic Supreme Court ruling does her absolute credit.
And here’s the “but”…
The sticking point for me here is not how Meghan weighs this issue, but how she did it.
According to the opening paragraph of the article, Yellin “called two people she knew could put this seismic event into perspective. The first? Gloria Steinem. Second? Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” before the article moves on to women’s conversation.
It’s an interesting read (which you can do here) and reveals the fact that Meghan and Steinem are working together to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. (Bravo mark two!)
However, while the story offers equal real estate to Yellin, Steinem and the Duchess’s thoughts on Rowe’s decision, the only image that appears in the news is a shot of Meghan, which was conveniently provided to the magazine by the Sussexes’ Archewell charity arm. .
And here is the problem.
To be clear, maybe Fashion only asked Megan for her photo and did not ask the same Yellin or Steinem. Its inclusion can be done exclusively at the request of the editorial board of the journal.
But no matter whose choice it was to include this single photo, her very presence illustrates the fact that Meghan’s care puts her at the center of the action with alarming frequency. The unfortunate consequence is that this could make some of her charity work look dangerously like a PR gimmick.
A portrait of the artist as a young humanitarian, if you will.
In 2019 Megan guest edited british vogue and chose not to appear on the cover because, according to the magazine’s editor, Edward Enniful, she felt it would be Boastful. (Not to mention, the feeling might have ruffled feathers, given that just about every older female royal since the 1950s has appeared on the cover of the fashion bible.)
Compare that to a year later, when Harry and Meghan, now taxpayers from California, took part in Baby2Baby’s charity campaign to distribute school supplies to underprivileged children, which they hired their own photographer and released photos to the press.
Memorial Day 2019 arrived and the Sussexes did the same, deftly bringing their own snapshot with them to record their grim looks for images that were then circulated to the media.
In fact, the duo’s very first sighting on U.S. soil came when paparazzi accidentally caught the couple delivering food for Project Angel Food.
In 2021, it was revealed that Meghan was involved in a paid parental leave campaign (all gold stars!). But has she done so by donating the roughly $200 million she and Harry are said to be pulling for their various content deals? Did she support the campaign of Senator Susan Collins or Senator Shelley Moore Capito in the county?
No, she called the boys themselves, gave up her title, and managed to cheer them up. “I was happy to talk to her,” Collins later told Politico. “But I’m more interested in what the people of Maine tell me about it.”
At the end of May, after 19 children and two teachers were killed by a gunman at a school in the Texas city of Uvalde, Meghan flew in to pay her respects. During the visit, she laid flowers at the memorial, which was surrounded by the press, and visited a blood transfusion center to donate food to volunteers.
The Duchess’s sadness and her desire to support the grieving community is non-negotiable, but what are her methods.
Her arrival there no longer drew attention to this horror (an American media corporation was already camped there and broadcast live and uninterrupted), and she offered no message about gun reform.
Why not just make a large food donation? Or try to negotiate with BetterUp, the coaching and mental health platform for which Harry works as the chief impact officer, to ensure the support of the entire city?
There are so many ways she could make a tangible difference in moments like this, but instead seems to often end up going down a path that puts her at the center of the frame?
In times like these and the debate over paid parental leave, we get pictures of a caring Meghan, not that she is making far more pragmatic and strategic choices, using her money, access, and phone book to the best of her ability, even if that means no. single social media like.
During a conversation with Yellin and Steinem, Meghan said: “Women matter. And that’s one of the reasons I called Gloria right away. Because in all of this, she reminds me that when you have anger, you have to channel that energy into something that matters.”
The unfortunate fact is that sometimes the best way to “make a difference” is not to be the star of the world’s media coverage and get a nice round of applause, with or without a hoodie.
“Together we stand” is the famous protest slogan, not “together we’ll get another Time cover.”
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a range of leading Australian media outlets.