11 Surprising Things About Meghan Markle's History-Making New Gig
Everything you need to know about the duchess guest editing British Vogue.
Meghan Markle has redefined what it means to be royal from the very first day she joined the family. From her tradition-bending wedding to her role in creating the distinct Sussex Royal brand on Instagram, the Duchess of Sussex hasn't been shy about doing things her way.
Her latest project as guest editor of the September issue of British Vogue has seemingly brought all her strengths to the fore and resulted in a media frenzy surrounding the fashion bible. On the magazine's website, editor-in-chief Edward Enninful offered his insight on what it was like to work with the duchess. "To have the country's most influential beacon of change guest edit British Vogue at this time has been an honour, a pleasure, and a wonderful surprise," he wrote.
The duchess and Enninful hand-picked 15 influential female advocates, actresses, activists, and politicians for the issue, which bears the theme "Forces for Change." It's filled with interviews along with striking (and largely un-retouched) images by famed fashion lensman Peter Lindbergh. British Vogue also released a video showing Markle behind the camera as some of the photoshoots took place.
The women included are Adwoa Aboah, who earlier this year sat on a panel with Meghan for the Queen's Commonwealth Trust where they discussed gender inequality; Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern; actress and LGBTQIA+ advocate Laverne Cox; actress and activist Jane Fonda; actress and women's rights advocate Salma Hayek Pinault; model and maternal health advocate Christie Turlington Burns; and former first lady Michelle Obama.
"This has been a dream project for the duchess," one royal insider told me. "She has clearly brought a fresh perspective to her royal role and this is very much a departure from anything that's ever been done by any member of the family."
The issue won't hit stands until later this week (the official on sale date in the U.K. is Friday, August 2)—and it will be some time later before you can get it in the states. But while you wait, here's everything you need to know about what is sure to be an instant collector's item.
Meghan is the first-ever guest editor for British Vogue's famed September issue.
The duchess is making history in the fashion world as the first person in the magazine's 103-year history to guest edit the all-important September issue, the magazine's biggest annually.
While Meghan is the first royal editor, the magazine has had a longstanding relationship with the House of Windsor. Kate Middleton appeared on the magazine's cover to celebrate its centennial in 2016, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were featured in last year's September issue, and Princess Diana appeared on the cover four times (the final running after her death in 1997).
She lobbied for the job.
Meghan revealed in the pages of the issue that she actively sought out the guest editing gig, which should come as no surprise to her fans. In her former life, she was actively engaged with her 3 million followers on social media and had her own successful blog, The Tig. The blog was a curated mix of photos of Meghan in full foodie mode, traveling to her favorite destinations and, of course, showcasing her laid-back California style. The Tig also featured lots of serious editorials and interviews—all written by the duchess.
Calling it "the little engine that could," Meghan successfully cultivated the site, which became known for its fashion, food, and beauty editorials; interviews with influential women; and essays Meghan wrote often touching on issues of female empowerment. She shuttered The Tig in the months leading up to her wedding with a poignant final note to her readers reminding them, "You, my sweet friend, you are enough."
The issue was a "labor of love" for the very pregnant duchess.
Meghan began working on the Vogue September issue in January, when she was about five months pregnant with her first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. "She was very committed to the work and wanted to make sure everything was just right," one royal insider told me. "She took it very seriously and the editors were all very impressed."
She does not appear on the cover.
The former actress who was never featured on the cover of a magazine during her years in Hollywood (but appeared in the pages of some titles, including Women's Health and Best Health), declined the opportunity to grace the cover of the British fashion bible.
"In the end, she felt that it would be in some ways a 'boastful' thing to do for this particular project," Enninful explained on the magazine's website. "She wanted, instead, to focus on the women she admires."
The cover is a collage in black and white (Meghan's favorite type of photography), featuring the issue's 15 leading ladies. A 16th mirrored grid was placed among the images at Meghan's request so as to include the reader in the group and encourage them to be their own force for change.
The issue is surprisingly political.
While the royal rule of thumb has always been to remain above the political fray, Enninful revealed that the duchess wanted to use the September issue as a platform to explore the issues she cares about most. "As you will see from her selections throughout this magazine, she is also willing to wade into more complex and nuanced areas, whether they concern female empowerment, mental health, race, or privilege," said Enninful.
Meghan interviewed Michelle Obama for the issue.
In the introduction to her Michelle Obama interview, which the magazine released on Monday, Meghan wrote about her choice for the back page Q&A feature. "My first thought was that it needed to be someone kind, inspirational, motivating, funny, with gravitas and as much depth as levity," she explained. "My second thought: it needed to be Michelle Obama."
So, as the duchess recounted, over a lunch of chicken tacos and her "ever-burgeoning bump," she asked the former first lady if she'd help with "this secret project."
Meghan emailed Obama questions and revealed that the answers she got in return left her "somewhat speechless." She wrote: "A few 'simple questions' (which she could have answered with a sentence or two) were returned to me as a thoughtful, reflective and beautifully curated narrative–a gentle reminder not of how but of why she has become such a globally respected public figure."
The duchess concluded she would have done the interview differently if she knew the former first lady was going to be so open. "I would have called her and included the banter on these pages—the laughs and sighs and ping-pong of dialogue as I chimed in," she explained. "But to re-engineer that now would rob Michelle's words of their authenticity, which, for me, is at the crux of what makes this piece special."
There's one very important woman missing from the issue's pages.
There was some grumbling in the British press—most notably in The Daily Mail—that Queen Elizabeth II should have been included in the issue. But, according to a Palace source, "Her Majesty has never given an interview and never will. It's an absurd criticism. The duchess obviously knew that and had the Queen's full support with the project."
Archie's in the issue—sort of.
In her guest editor's letter, Meghan reflected on someone who dramatically changed her life: her son, who was there for much of the project as the resident baby-on-board.
She wrote, "I was about five months pregnant when this process began, and by the time you hold this issue in your hands, my husband and I will be holding our three-month-old baby boy in ours." She added it's "a very special time for me personally."
Meghan got Prince Harry involved.
The duchess tapped her husband, Prince Harry, to interview anthropologist Jane Goodall for "a very special piece" in the issue, she noted in her letter. It's no surprise Harry lent his full support to the project. Meghan once told a royal fan during a walkabout that the duke "is a feminist, too."
In the issue, Harry reveals how many kids he and Meghan will have.
Harry sat down with Goodall after Archie was born to discuss conservation, animal rights, and climate change, which she told the prince was "terrifying. Especially as you've just had a baby."
"I've always had a connection and a love for nature. I view it differently now, without question," he responded in the interview, which British Vogue posted on Tuesday. "But I've always wanted to try and ensure that, even before having a child and hoping to have children…"
"Not too many," Goodall jumped in, referring to overpopulation, to which Harry replied, "Two, maximum!"
This could be the start of something big for Meghan.
The Daily Mail has reported that Meghan is in talks to write a regular column for both British and American Vogue. (Conde Nast declined to comment at the time.) It sounds far-fetched but the duchess has always been a strong supporter of the fashion industry, so working with the magazines seems like a perfect fit.
Last November, Meghan made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards to present the Designer of the Year award to Givenchy's Clare Waight Keller, who designed her wedding dress. The duchess told the audience, "We have a deep connection to what we wear… sometimes it's very personal and sometimes it's emotional. But for me this connection is rooted in really being able to understand that it's about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women." And for more on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, here are Harry and Meghan's Most Adorable Couple Moments.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
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