Sometimes writing about the royal family can lead the intrepid writer to some strange places, like spending the morning hours Googling four-star hotels in Indianapolis, USA.
But then again, who would have thought that a once-senior member of the royal family, daughter-in-law of King Charles III and bona fide duchess to boot, would ever end up on the stage of an Indiana hotel ballroom as some middle-of-the-road accountant with a bad PowerPoint?
But there on November 29. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will be at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, where she will host a Power of Women event for the Women’s Foundation of Central Indiana. (The U.S. Water and Sewer Distributors will be holding their meeting a week early at the JW Marriott, if you’re interested.)
Now, the Women’s Foundation of Central Indiana has quite a pedigree with former first lady Michelle Obama speaking at their event in 2018, but here’s the problem.
When FLOTUS took the stage, the Women’s Foundation event was held in an indoor arena with a sold-out crowd of 13,000. I Megan? The largest conference room capacity at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown is 2,500 people.
Obviously, the expectations of what kind of audience Meghan will attract are not at all on the same ballpark, or even indoor arena, as Michelle’s.
Unfortunately, as the old cliché goes, numbers don’t lie, and it’s been quite a rough week for Meghan on the digital front.
First, there’s the Indianapolis news, which brings with it some not-so-flattering comparisons to Michelle’s pulling power, and second, there’s the video that was released Diversity last week for her appearance on the front cover of the Hollywood Bible.
It’s a four-and-a-half-minute long episode in which Megan talks about making “hard bolognese sauce”, her love of Scrabble and helping women in the industry, very similar to what was filmed for the previous Diversity cover star Ana de Armas.
But the numbers … oh boy.
(Look away if you happen to be drinking tea from Harry’n’Meghan’s official wedding china mug.)
At the time of writing, Megan’s video has 2,600 likes and is down 18,000, according to figures from the Return YouTube Dislikes extension. De Armas, on the other hand, has 7,300 likes and 311 dislikes.
Like reverse Sally Field, the Internet doesn’t like her; they really don’t like her.
I don’t know exactly where or when it happened, but at some point between the gates of Frogmore Cottage and the doors of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Ballroom, Megxit’s great dream seemed to crumble.
In those heady days of early 2020, publish the great windsor divorceit seemed almost certain that Meghan would rise from the ashes of her royal career like a phoenix in Proenza Schouler and ascend to the greatest heights.
She would be Mother Teresa, Diana, Princess of Wales and Beyoncé all rolled into one, changing lives and creating her own brand of 21st century activism.
But more than 1,000 days after Megcit, the reality of Megan’s Montecito is sadly far from that scenario.
Unfortunately, the brand of feminism that the former Costumes the star reliably rolled out largely performative.
Take last week, when she showed up at an internal Spotify event wearing a T-shirt that read “Women. life. Freedom,” is the cry of incredibly brave women who are currently protesting in Iran.
(The demonstrations were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by authorities for allegedly breaking the rules on wearing a headscarf. At least 222 people died, according to the BBC.)
Now let me stop here and point out that Kate, the Princess of Wales and the Royal Family as a whole have done nothing or said anything about what is happening in Iran to seriously discredit them.
While the issue is technically political, if Buckingham Palace isn’t concerned about upsetting some bearded mullahs whose beliefs about women date back to the 7th century, it’s reprehensible that they haven’t spoken out.
At least Meghan made some kind of gesture. But it’s just – in many ways an empty gesture.
What’s happening in Iran is exactly the kind of political moment where I’d like to see Megan take the initiative: to come out, offer passionate public support using the biggest media megaphone she can find, and then get a big check to support, say , Iranian American Women’s Foundation or Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
If she really wanted to shake things up a bit, she could rally, say, Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian to follow suit. Something along these lines would be a perfect match between the 41-year-old’s global celebrity and her values.
Political moment, meet Meghan.
And instead? She was wearing a T-shirt. Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi can sleep easy tonight.
Again, at least she did something, but she could have done so much more.
The same criticism can be made of her approach to overturning abortion protections when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which involved Fashion Q&A with Gloria Steinem, and then…um…never mention the fact that over 20 million women now lack safe access to abortion in the US.
These are key moments that could become turning points for tens of millions of women; moments that just want someone with the resources, contact list and media savvy of someone like the Duchess of Sussex to step up and lead the way.
Maybe, just maybe, Meghan has been working on some kind of world-shaking, history-making plan all this time, but there’s been no sign of it until now.
If the princess hoped that her Archetypes podcast series in which she explored a number of gender “archetypes” (cough, that’s stereotypes) with celebrities including Serena Williams, Mariah Carey, Constance Wu, and Paris Hilton.
But if Spotify, which pays her and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, between $32 million and $4.8 million for their exclusive talents, thought they were going to get a fair shot, then I have some very bad news.
Overall, the series may end up in fourth place in the US, but only at “bimbo” episode from last week of all seven episodes of Archetypes released so far, it even makes the top 100 series list.
Somehow, despite a podcast team of 28 people, significant resources, and the one time I had Michelle Obama’s number (she interviewed her for her Powers of Change issue Fashion in 2019) Meghan has largely failed to get her act together as a feminist.
Not only that, but she has become a deeply polarizing figure as Diversity The video numbers make it very clear who now only makes news when they talk about themselves, not for their humanitarian work, and who, no matter what, still can’t draw crowds like Michelle Obama.
As the former White House resident herself once said, “Success is not about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
Daniela Elzer is a writer and royal commentator with over 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media outlets.
Originally published as Sad numbers that show Meghan Markle’s unpopularity