Trigger Warning: This story contains instances of suicidal ideation.
Once upon a time, there was a dominant institutional threesome consisting of white supremacy, colonialism and imperialism…
On Sunday night, a combination of royal watchers and casually indifferent watchers sat down to watch the highly anticipated exclusive interview special, Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special. In the days leading up to the big night, we had been treated to a host of teasers and clips to whet our curious appetite and, at one point, it seemed like the day would never come.
A lot of us wondered, “will it live up to the hype?”
Boy did it do just that...and more. In fact, Twitter is still buzzing as the interview special spanned multiple time zones from America to across-the-pond. On Monday morning, “British Twitter” began trending with all eyes on the British press’ reaction, including a specifically obsessed and unhinged troll dressed in a royal commentator disguise called Piers Morgan.
Here are some highlights from the special:
Because every story needs a “villain” and a “hero” as Meghan pointed out, there were clear polarizing narratives involving Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. In 2018, there were stories claiming that Meghan made Kate cry over bridal party dresses. Turns out, that wasn’t true at all.
“The reverse happened,” Meghan said, firmly.
While Meghan wouldn’t go into detail about what went down between her and Kate that day (noting that because Kate apologized via letter, it wasn’t necessary to divulge), it was clear to Meghan that the palace had no intentions of clearing up the story in her favor. Overall, this story was the beginning of what Meghan described as a “character assassination” and a string of hit pieces against her.
“That’s a loaded piece of toast,” Meghan later quipped, referencing the media circus surrounding her Californian affinity for avocado toast.
In one of the most-talked-about moments of the night (and what likely resulted in the biggest reaction from Oprah), Meghan revealed that senior royal members had “concerns and conversations about how dark [her and Harry’s son Archie’s] skin was going to be when he was born.”
Of course, everyone (including Oprah, who asked on the record a few times) wanted to know who exactly had that conversation with them and most people guessed the “senior royal member” was either Harry’s brother Prince William (second in line to be king) or Harry’s father Prince Charles (next in line to be king).
Of course, this interview special was edited (and was extended from one hour to an hour and a half because of all the hot tea within) so there was more footage left on the editing room floor. In a follow-up interview with CBS This Morning on Monday, Oprah noted that the interview lasted over three hours and shared additional scoop including Harry noting that racism was “a large part” of the reason he and Meghan left the U.K. Oprah also revealed that while Harry wouldn’t name the person who had that colorist conversation about their son Archie, he did tell her who it wasn’t: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
The moment felt all too-familiar for interracial couples who typically hear snide comments from white grandparents or other white family members concerning whether the baby will be more “fair skin” or “too dark.” The interview also spawned a larger conversation around colorism within the Black community, Meghan’s own specific privilege due to her lighter skin (which some have speculated may have played into her naivety concerning the royal family’s promises to protect her), and the glaring fact that both Meghan and Harry decided not to overtly use the words “racism” or “Black”—opting for the safer “of color” in the latter case.
Meghan further pointed out that the colorist conversations happened “in tandem” with discussions on Archie not receiving a royal title as well as not being provided security, a significantly loaded decision given the heightened threat placed on Meghan and Harry due to the scope of attention placed upon them. Harry later revealed that in the process of the couple stepping down from their senior roles, his own security and finances were stripped from him.
“It was all happening because I was breathing,” Meghan noted. And therein lies the meat and the bones, everybody.
“I know first hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimize us, to break us down and demonize us,” Serena Williams, who is a friend of the couple, wrote via her social media page. “We must recognize our obligation to decry the malicious unfounded gossip and tabloid journalism. The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimization are devastating, isolating and all too often lethal.”
It was also interesting to witness the conversations surrounding the family’s symbiotic relationship with tabloids as well as individual royal family members feeling “trapped” by “The Firm,” especially when you think about the family’s history of colonizing and oppressing the very countries within their Commonwealth. Yes, if the core establishment of an institution is steeped in white supremacy, those “values’’ of ownership and control will trickle down to anyone who has less power—even if it’s within their own family. Not many of us can relate to the wealth or power of any member of the royal family, including Meghan, but what is relatable to Black folks is the sobering reminder that assimilating into a white power structure is futile because you will never be fully welcomed. It was never meant for us.
In a very vulnerable moment reminiscent of the time she said “I’m not OK” during her interview with ITV, Meghan revealed that the media’s targeting of her and the surrounding pressures within the royal family made her feel as if she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.” When Oprah followed up for clarification, Meghan did confirm that her thoughts of suicide were “very real,” which scared her to the point where she thought she couldn’t be “left alone.”
Meghan also provided context to drive home the weight of these feelings combined with her royal duties, revealing that she had an extremely difficult conversation with Harry prior to their scheduled appearance at Albert Hall in 2019. Meghan recalled that the two had to put on their smiling faces (noting that she secretly sobbed while the lights were down) and that when she looked back at pictures, she could see the “white of [she and Harry’s] knuckles” as they gripped each other’s hands in support.
When Harry sat down with the two ladies, the couple immediately revealed that their second child would be a baby girl, whose birth date is expected for this summer. Harry noted how thrilled he was to have a boy and a girl and the couple confirmed that the family is complete.
One of the best pieces of advice I received when I started working in digital media (within the entertainment beat, specifically) and found myself interviewing some of the most elite in Hollywood was essentially “a great interview doesn’t live in the question, it lives in the follow-up question.”
Additionally, Oprah is the queen of the “circle back.” The veteran media mogul has a way of making her interviewees feel comfortable enough to trust her with her conversational style and soothing voice and that tactic is apparent even in the way she returns to a question that she knows her interviewee is uncomfortable with answering—or outright tries to avoid by dodging.
Despite the news about it prior (including here at The Root!), this special surprised a bunch of watchers who didn’t realize that Harry and Meghan temporarily stayed at Tyler Perry’s home while they were transitioning into their newly-found American life.
Overall, Meghan and Harry say they have finally come to some sort of peace and happiness with their lives with Meghan noting that what they ended up with is “greater than any fairy tale you’ve ever read,” because they were able to write their own story.
It’s clear that this one interview will cause a ripple effect across the monarchy, the media and the world watching. This is far from over…
...and the mess will live happily ever after. I guess!
You can watch (or rewatch, since there is so much to unpack in this hour-and-a-half) Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special at cbs.com.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).