A tale of two princesses
The first time the world realised that Meghan Markle and Priyanka Chopra were best friends was when the Indian superstar, resplendent in a Vivienne Westwood lilac couture outfit, turned up at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, to attend the Royal Wedding. As Meghan and Prince Harry said their ‘I dos’, Priyanka was among those smiling mistily at the newly-weds. And later in the evening, when it was party time at Frogmore House, Priyanka (now rocking a spectacular sequined Dior gown) was among those dancing the night away.
Frankly, nobody should have been too surprised at this. When you consider the personal histories of both women, their friendship seems somewhat inevitable. Both of them are women of colour who have built up their careers with sheer grit and fortitude in industries in which they had no godfathers.
In Priyanka’s case, she arrived in Bollywood as a rank outsider – the Miss World title notwithstanding – and slowly but steadily made her mark until she was one of the top actresses of her generation. And then, at the zenith of her career in the Hindi film industry, she took an enormous gamble and signed on to play the lead in the ABC show, Quantico. This brought her global fame and made her a bonafide star in the US as well – a feat that no Indian actress before her had achieved.
Meghan Markle had it even tougher as she tried to break through in Hollywood. She began with blink-and-you-miss-her appearances in such shows as 90210 and stood in as a ‘suitcase girl’ in Deal or No Deal. Then followed a few forgettable bit roles in movies before she finally landed the role that made her famous, Rachel Zane in the legal drama, Suits. As a biracial actress, she was always hard to slot, so the role of Rachel, who had a black father, was tailor-made for her – and, in turn, it made her reputation.
So, there was a certain inevitability to these two women, who had so much in common, becoming friends when they found themselves moving in the same social circles as they shot their respective shows in Toronto.
But now, alas, there appears to be another unfortunate, but inescapable parallel, that has developed between the two besties: their treatment in the media.
As women of colour trying to make their way in a world that is powered by white privilege both Priyanka and Meghan have had to deal with implicit – and sometimes downright explicit – racism in their media coverage. But while they were actresses going about their business, this was still at a reasonable level. But ever since they walked down the aisle with the princes of their dreams (and in Meghan’s case, an actual Prince), the racism, sexism, and plain old misogyny had got out of control.
In Priyanka’s case, this was best exemplified by a venomous article in New York Magazine’s The Cut that described her as a ‘global scam artist’ who had tricked dear deluded Nick Jonas into marrying her. The poor guy, the article read, had just wanted a fling with a glamorous star but was now staring at a ‘life sentence’ after being dragged into a ‘fraudulent relationship against his will’. After an international outcry, the article was taken down, but not before its sexist, racist and downright misogynistic tropes had gone viral.
Meghan Markle had had to face the same sort of toxic coverage ever since she married Prince Harry, but in her case, you have to magnify it to the power of a thousand. The British tabloids seem to have made it their life’s mission to destroy the reputation of the newly-minted Duchess of Sussex, spawning a hundred different negative stories about her every day.
Meghan was so ‘difficult’ at a bridesmaid dress fitting for Princess Charlotte that she made Kate (who had just given birth to Prince Louis and was feeling particularly emotional) cry. Meghan wakes up at 5am every morning and bombards her staff with mails and calls. Meghan made the life of her personal assistant such hell that the poor woman was often reduced to tears and quit after six months. Meghan demanded an emerald tiara and got very stroppy when it was denied to her. Meghan drove a wedge between Harry and his brother William (or was it between Harry and Kate? – who can keep up with this stuff?).
The themes of the coverage are quite consistent. How did these two women of colour, these two upstarts, these rank outsiders, get so far ahead? Who did they ‘scam’ to get where they are? Why don’t they know their place? What gives them the right to stage ‘royal’ weddings, as if they were Princesses in their own right?
Well, you know what? That’s exactly what these women are: Princesses.
No, not the kind who are born in royal palaces to kings and queens. Not the kind who arrive in the world with a golden spoon in their mouth, and have everything handed to them on a platter. And certainly not the kind who have never done a day of work in their lives, gliding aimlessly through their gilded world.
Priyanka and Meghan are Princesses of a different order. They are women who have conquered the world with their own grit, courage, determination, and yes, talent. They have earned the right to wear that crown – or at the very least, that tiara – that proclaims their Princess status through their own efforts. And long may they reign over their detractors!
Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004.
Spectator appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, December 16, 2018
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