Daniela Elser: Meghan Markle’s well-meaning birthday video seems unlikely to help women


Meghan Markle celebrates her 40th birthday with Melissa McCarthy. Video / @archewell_hm


Whoever takes care of the public relations of the uber luxury brand Hermes must have a fabulous day. Overnight a new video was posted by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and at the center of many shots is none other than one of the brand’s $ 2,445 covers. It’s exactly the kind of branded exhibit you can’t buy that just any marketer would trade in for a precious body part or their annual Burning Man ticket to grab onto.

Watching the two-minute video, it’s hard, almost impossible, to look away from the so meticulously art-directed and ruthlessly monochrome wonder that’s supposedly the Sussexes’ shared office. (Pretty sweet idea, isn’t it?) There’s the big crystal in order, the perfect roses, and matching platters for him and her. (I told you – awww…)

It is also very heartwarming to see Meghan smile for the first time in what appears to be several lifetimes.

The whole scene stinks of taste and money, two things the Sussexes can shamelessly indulge in, now that they are not expected to fill their house with horse oil paints and be show modest despite their large Coutts bank accounts.

However, where this video goes from charm to eyebrow lift is when we get to the substance of what Meghan was talking about. You see, yesterday was her 40th birthday and to mark the occasion she launched an initiative called “40×40”, which will see 40 celebrities donating 40 minutes of their time to mentor “someone in need”. It is women, Meghan astutely emphasizes, who have “borne the brunt” of job losses during the pandemic.

The video provided an opportunity to spy on Meghan and Harry's offices with a Hermes (and Harry) blanket next to her laptop.  Photo / Archewell
The video provided an opportunity to spy on Meghan and Harry’s offices with a Hermes (and Harry) blanket next to her laptop. Photo / Archewell

“I think mentoring is a way to help women regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength,” she writes on the Archewell website of her and her husband Prince Harry, hoping that his leading group of mentors “will inspire countless other people to give 40 minutes of their time too.”

On paper, it’s a great idea. As the Duchess points out, tens of millions of women around the world are no longer in the workforce as a result of the pandemic. Here, for the umpteenth time, Meghan demonstrates her long-standing commitment to gender equality.

The 40×40 idea is creative, imaginative, and embodies the Sussexes’ thirst to approach their humanitarian work with their own unique twist. (At this point, let’s all agree to politely ignore the embarrassing fact that this sort of thing has already been done. Since 2009, Nelson Mandela Day organizers have asked people to devote 67 minutes – one minute for each year of the award. Nobel – winner’s public service – doing something good for the world).

His heart and crystal collection are clearly in the right place with this project. Where things get risky is when we get down to business.

Meghan’s request for 40 minutes of our time may be really smart, but there is no indication exactly how or what could be achieved in a single session that lasts less time than it takes to watch an episode of Suits.

Meghan encourages 40 women to spend 40 minutes with women in need.  Photo / Archewell
Meghan encourages 40 women to spend 40 minutes with women in need. Photo / Archewell

What this company is going to do, and has already done, is reap huge amounts of wellness PR for the couple, something that has been very, very rare for them since they decided to spend a big time. part of the year to use the royals as their own personal punching bag.

Their repeated denunciations, or at least those of Harry, of The Firm have made the couple polarizing figures and have seen them be rebuffed several times in the press. Meanwhile, public sentiment towards the couple in their homeland has collapsed in negative numbers.

That’s why a good, happy, fun PR is just the ticket, right now. PIP Pip!

But that’s all classic Sussex: well intentioned, done with a lot of heart, and unlikely to make or change anything.

Not only the devil, but the legacy work is in the details.

That is, look past the highly stylized video and posh Archewell website and there just isn’t much. There are three suggested partner organizations highlighted, which are British and American, which does not exactly amount to a model for a “global wave of service”. (Don’t worry, the site gives users the convenient option of uploading out-of-the-box social media images, along with a caption and suggested hashtags.)

There is no indication anywhere that 40×40 will be an annual event. There is only the briefest of brief guidelines on how to be a mentor, find a mentor or even what the dickens should be like when, inspired by Meghan, a mentor for the first time meets their enthusiastic mentee. . (Trading crystals maybe?)

Meghan Markle in her 40th birthday comedy sketch.  Photo / Archewell
Meghan Markle in her 40th birthday comedy sketch. Photo / Archewell

Meghan’s 40×40 is a nice idea until it crashes into a boring, cold reality.

And this is where Harry and Meghan’s version of the good works deviates from what, thanks in large part to Diana, Princess of Wales, has become the royal standard: focusing on creating serious change and more. long term. One of the many things the late princess pioneered was a vision of royal work that was dedicated to selecting a small handful of causes and then sticking to them. This model was intended to affect serious and lasting change and to have royal labor a target, a well-considered effort.

Today, William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are following this example to the letter. In recent years, William has focused on mental health issues, especially in men, and conservation work. Ditto, wife Kate, whose early childhood work saw her, in June of this year, launch the Royal Foundation Center for Early Childhood at the London School of Economics.

Whenever she appears to announce the latest round of work on this topic, it all seems so boring that even the most fearless royal writer is likely to fall asleep. Sure, all of this may be sleepy read, but what Kate is doing is incredible work that will tangibly change the lives of countless British children for years to come.

And that’s the crux of the sticking point here: William and Kate (and the rest of the royals) aren’t focused on short-term wins or shiny headlines or launching things that will guarantee a luminous horizon from 24 to 48 hours. media coverage. Instead, they consolidate their impact by focusing on generation-to-generation projects that will move the dial in a very real way on the causes they have chosen.

Prince William and his wife Kate chat during the final of the Euro 2020 soccer championship. Photo / AP
Prince William and his wife Kate chat during the final of the Euro 2020 soccer championship. Photo / AP

Harry and Meghan don’t. (Or at least, so far not).

Instead, the Sussexes seem to stumble from problem to problem and from new philanthropic idea to new philanthropic idea. Their zeal and enthusiasm for changing the world is all too apparent and absolutely commendable – but there is a certain hyperactive quality to their work.

There doesn’t seem to be a blueprint guiding them past a forgotten whiteboard crammed into a room somewhere in their Montecito mansion with “Change the world” scribbled in marker and surrounded by hearts of love.

Over the past 18 months, they have (and by no means is an exhaustive list): supported the Los Angeles Angel Food Project; launched partnerships with the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, the Center for Humane Technology, the Loveland Foundation which supports mental health and resources for black women and girls, the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry and World Central Kitchen; spoke about mental health several times, including being interviewed for the Teenager Therapy podcast; spoken and written about the need for social media reform; supported the Facebook boycott organized by Stop Hate For Profit; participated in the Girl Up Leadership summit; defended the vote with Gloria Steinem; waded through the US presidential election in a Time100 video; helped out at a driving event for the Baby2Baby charity; given a starting high school address; visited Homeboy Industries, the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration program; did a television series and dubbed an elephant documentary; wrote two editorials; teamed up with Save the Children and visited the LA Preschool Learning Center to help children plant flowers in honor of Diana.

All this wandering from one organization to another seems to be done with dizzying and vertiginous relentlessness. Harry and Meghan are clearly hungry – oh so hungry – to make the world a better place, but if they wanted to just sit still and focus longer than they needed to get caught up in their next big idea.

After all, they have the perfect desktop to do just that, side by side, right now.

The only thing that limits the positive impact they can have on the world is their one-off and scattered approach. If only they could focus on one or two things at a time and not rush every time a brain wave hits.

What if that meant buying more crystals? So be it. Spend big. The world needs this.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of major Australian media titles.

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