When will it end? When will we get bored? When will we finally learn to celebrate Meghan Markle and the work she does, and give her credit where it is due? Yet again, this past week HRH Duchess of Sussex has made headlines with the release of the ever-anticipated September issue of British Vogue. This year she has guest edited the edition with Edward Enninful, current editor of the publication. Last month, scandal surrounded her choice to protect her child and friends’ privacy in not releasing the names of Archie’s godparents; this month, her call for kindness and positivity has gathered ample criticism. This scrutiny of Meghan, the charitable and kind work she does and the decisions she makes about her family are becoming old and dull news. Yes, she is female, yes, she is of mixed heritage and yes, her former career was as an actress but like it or not she is now a member of the British Royal Family. In guest editing the September issue of Vogue she has used her platform to deliver what is ultimately a message of, as Bryony Gordon wrote in her column for The Telegraph, “be kind, help people less fortunate than you, try and do the right thing, and by the way: you’re lovely just as you are”.
Let’s highlight all the positives of Meghan guest editing this issue of Vogue, starting with her commendable intentions going into this process: a genuine desire to present fashion as a “kinder, greater and more impactful place” as she writes in her opening letter; to champion a handful of superwomen who are doing wonderful work; and to diversify and change up the standard stereotypes of Vogue magazine. Vogue, typically, is known for its covers of gorgeous, primarily white, women who have got to where they are largely because of how they look. Meghan, in enlisting fifteen women from all over the world who work towards fantastic causes such as mental health campaigning and climate change activism, is presenting a very different image from that of the usual monthly Vogue cover. How can people criticise this – the depiction that beauty comes in many forms and lies in helping others, helping the world and being kind? Fashion is a narrow industry that Meghan is opening up with her ‘Forces for Change’ cover. She is demanding more from the industry, a delving deeper into how it can support wider causes and how beauty can be portrayed in actions and characteristics rather than the superficiality of aesthetics.
Superficiality, or the lack thereof, is something else that should be praised about Meghan’s September issue but has not been. Throughout the issue the focus is very rarely on ‘typical’ beauty and whilst the various photos of the women throughout the magazine are works of art, the content of the magazine has a much deeper focuson them as people and the work they do. In her opening letter, Meghan explains how she wanted the issue to make people feel better in a world where we are told to look better. The issue looks at inner beauty, wellness and environmental fashion. There is discussion of meditation and exercise and there are designers featured throughout for their sustainable and ethical fashion brands. Meghan goes above and beyond the average Vogue issue to bring a different outlook: love yourselves, love others and love the world. She decided not to feature herself on the cover, but to showcase women who deserve to have the spotlight on them: Greta Thunberg, fighting climate change; Sinead Burke, a disabled-rights activist; Adut Akech, supporting refugees; and more. She has included some well-known faces and shone the light on under-heard women who we should all know more about. Meghan has shown herself to be exemplary in powerfully bringing a new dimension to the fashion industry and presenting her ‘Forces for Change’. It is so important for society to remember to focus on the work Meghan has produced rather than her herself, after all most of us have never met her and as such are not in a position to judge. Like her or not, approach her work with an unbiased view and celebrate that she uses her platform as a well-known individual to pursue and highlight good causes.
Camilla Tominey, writer for The Telegraph questions whether Meghan “was conscious of the bias she showed” in picking only women as her ‘Forces for Change’, “only five” of whom were white. This illustrates the consistent scrutiny Meghan has faced from the media and public since rumours began of her relationship with Prince Harry. Time and time again, whatever Meghan does she combats discrimination directed at who she is, rather than what she has done. A select group of white men have had airtime for far too long as forces for change and Meghan, through her fifteen choices, is diversifying this and bringing to the fore a refreshing group of talented and powerful people.
Much of the outrage at her guest edit surrounded the fact she is a member of the Royal Family, with arguments alluding to the supposed fact that Royals don’t guest edit magazines. A simple Google search will reveal that Kate Middleton has helped to edit The Huffington Post UK, Prince Charles has guest edited an equally glossy and luxurious magazine, Country Life and Prince Harry dabbled with editing the ‘Today’ programme on BBC’s Radio 4. Meghan is clearly within her rights to engage in journalism and publication as a method of spreading her message.
I urge you to indulge in all the pages of the September issue, absorb its thought-provoking content and take something away from it.
– Imogen Williams
All other images are original.