Updated: Mar 9, 2021
I can’t remember the last time my family actually got together to watch a televised event. Oh wait, yes I can. It was for a royal wedding. We weren’t even living in the UK, but caught up in the magical hysteria of Meg and Harry, we found ourselves seated at the Westfield Cinema watching the live stream of the wedding around the world along with millions all over the globe.
It just looked: like a fairy tale. Not just magical, but a fresh start for the monarchy. A symbol of hope and union and cultures coming together. It left me with the beautiful sentiment that love conquers all.
But as we learned in the 2-hour special that aired with Oprah, looks can be very deceiving. As Meghan said, living in the reality and being judged by the perception of the reality are two different things.
Working in TV publicity for 7 years and working in PR for 15 years, I watched with fascination at how this story unfolded.
I am left with so many thoughts and feelings after this couple bravely sat down and shared their story, their experiences, and their feelings on ‘The Firm’, their family and their future as a family – now alone, forging their own path.
1. Oprah is STILL a darn fine interviewer. Her ability to ask the ‘every day’ questions is still there. She still understands the question and intrigue every person would have if they were to sit down with the former Royals. Everything from security, to dealing with the press, to challenging mental health issues – she is still OPRAH, and as someone who has watched this woman since I was a little girl – it felt good to watch her doing what she does so well. Story-telling. Finding out the truth. Introducing a perspective.
2. The media is a powerful and all-consuming entity. Even the Royals fear it and make decisions around the perception of it. Living in the UK nearly every paper covered the Royals – from their outings to their fashion to their smirks. It was described as a ‘symbiotic' relationship – where both need each other to exist. Working in the media for 12 years, I experienced it first-hand, one bad press article can make or ruin careers. It can destroy relationships and attack confidence. It can sow discord. But it works both ways. As Oprah powerfully demonstrated, once you share your story, on the right platform to the right person – you have taken over the game.
3. The Palace must respond. If the Palace doesn’t properly respond to this interview and the experiences offered – that says it all. That it’s above reproach and correction. That everything the critics have slammed them for all these years is true. It’s outdated, it’s oppressive and has no place in modern culture. I’m a fan of The Crown like everyone else. Living in the UK it was hard not to get swept up by the Royal curiosity and slight obsession and I started to understand and even appreciate the role they place in British culture. I have no doubt their Communications team would have had some very late nights these past weeks in anticipation of this interview and their strategy around it. But if there is no official response to the experience of 2 members of the Royal Family – then the institution is more important than the people it’s there to serve. Not only is that questionable but it’s tragic. Family trumps all.
4. Your authentic story is the most powerful commodity you have. Use it. The timing of this interview was strategic. Props to Oprah’s team for releasing this interview for IWD. They had to be out of certain influences, have time to breathe, find new security, understand the context of (somewhat) the environment they had been in. It seemed like Meghan had been in some kind of odd cult, and Harry had been born into it. But the two of them sharing their story felt like it was them closing a chapter, coming out of a closet and while there were certainly some personal relationships at risk – it seemed they had already lost so much before even turning on the microphone. When fear is the ruling factor of any family or organisation or institution, there can be no progress and no growth.
5. Mental Health does not discriminate. One of the saddest parts and most telling was Meghan being open and vulnerable about having suicidal thoughts at her lowest moment. And Harry even saying he felt embarrassed to discuss her struggles with anyone because ‘you just didn’t have those conversations’. It’s clear the ‘optics’ of mental health still need work. It’s clear from the many responses and some reduce that mental health is still seen as luxurious condition that people of privilege should never admit.
6. The Courage of speaking your truth – when you know there will be haters. When you know people can be cruel. When you know it will potentially damage relationships with people you care about. When it will challenge an institution that has been around for centuries. But the moment that an institution becomes more important then the people it serves and the people who serve it – it’s time to question the very nature and role that organisation plays. History does repeat itself unless we are courageous enough to step out and be empowered to speak your truth. Because truth is freedom.
7. There is always hope. Meghan tells the story of ‘The Little Mermaid’ who gave up her voice so she could meet the Prince she was in love with. But she got her voice back. Maybe, even after great tragedy and family discord, not to mention a public breaking away of the family business – there is hope for something greater. Even Harry acknowledged feeling His Mother’s presence and knowing there is a ‘greater purpose’ to all of this. Sometimes you have to lose everything to get everything you really desire in life. And I still see a beautiful love story. With a couple who has endured much, both individually and as a family – and aren’t just standing, they are 'thriving' as a family now. Hope isn't the absence of dark days, it's the choice to keep walking and believing the light is ahead.
Harry and Meghan, thank you for sharing your moments of vulnerability with us. We look forward to seeing you and your family continue to thrive in the future and live and serve in a way that will bring you peace and joy and fulfilment. We will be waiting, with open arms when, if and how you choose to show up again.
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Rachel Reva is a PR consultant and copywriter and founder of 'Life On Her Terms'. She has recently published her first book called 'Grit, Grace and Hustle: A Faith Gal's Guide to Authentic Success'.