The New European
Their eventual defeat to Italy in the Euro final at Wembley notwithstanding, Boris Johnson said on Twitter that Gareth Southgate’s squad put in a “fantastic” performance.
Before the England manager lets it go to his head – unlikely, I know, for such a shrewd judge of character – he should be aware of one thing:
That Johnson has, over the past few weeks, also used the word “fantastic” to describe a youngster who sleeps in a tent to raise money for charity; a visit to a green energy provider; a Dutch electric vehicle manufacturer; a group of volunteers and NHS workers he met; a trip to Nissan’s Sunderland factory; the work of the Armed Forces…
I could go on, but it’s like Johnson’s Tweets are computer-generated and the same buzzwords – others he likes are “great” and “brilliant” – recur over and over again.
The PR supremo Mark Borkowski tells me: “Johnson’s style of mass communication suggests he’s following the Donald Trump handbook. That’s the Trump who used the word “beautiful” 35 times over the course of 30 days.
“In an age of 280-character-tweets and 15-second soundbites, political leaders seem to be developing dialects of their own,” continues Borkowski. “Who has the time – or column space – for eloquence in a fast-paced news cycle? ‘Fantastic’, ‘huge’, ‘beautiful’ are all part of a new 21st century Morse code, ghastly to some, but readily recognisable and easily legible to most others.
“For such a supposedly great wordsmith, Johnson seems happy to use language that’s thin, insincere and patronising, but, if you believe the polls, it’s working. I suspect it’s like verbal junk food; when times are tough, we lap it up even knowing how little substance it offers.”
Prominent ad campaigns once dictated water-cooler talk and set the cultural agenda. Today, they’d be far too risky to ever be approved
Looking at advertising campaigns on television today, an extraterrestrial from another galaxy would think we are a severe species. Furthermore, this visitor would assume, perhaps correctly, that it was the role of advertising agencies to inform, educate, and impart moral lessons on societies – anything other than sell goods.
This visitor would report back to their extraterrestrial superiors that ad execs on Earth form a sort of priestly class, who give hope to their subjects by presenting us with a fictional representation of a better world to come. An extraterrestrial ad exec may rightly wonder how Earth companies sell anything at all.
The legendary ad executive Trevor Beattie – responsible for the iconic Wonderbra’s “Hello Boys” and French Connection’s “Fcuk” campaigns – put it this way: “Ads that are made today are not commercials, but mood films. There is only one emotion in advertising now – and it is to indicate that brands are virtuous and worthy of your business.”
If woke has conquered adland, then we are all the poorer for it.
“The tone of voice is the same for every brand,” says Beattie. “I try to tell them that other emotions – including humour – are available while stocks last.”
To be sure, adland is struggling. Across industries, advertising budgets are being slashed as marketing execs generate more and more byzantine metrics to demonstrate their value. There are more ways than ever before to identify and target audiences, yet it is increasingly rare for an ad campaign to capture peoples’ imagination.
Even at their most risqué, prominent ad campaigns once dictated water-cooler talk and set the cultural agenda. Beer commercials once engaged and satirised national stereotypes – like Carling’s memorable “sunbeds” spot from 1993. They took risks in terms of sexual norms, like the provocative 1985 Levi’s 501 ad with Nick Kamen. And they went against the grain of cultural taboos, imagining mixed-race and same-sex families like Oliver Toscani’s revolutionary photography for Benetton.
All of these campaigns, forever embedded in the cultural memory, are far too risky for an ad exec ever to approve now.
The celebrated creative Dave Trott explains that brands might be shooting themselves in the foot by focusing too much on targeting audiences based on identity. This approach fractures messaging and hampers efforts to create a distinctive tone of voice for the brand.
“Brands are not focused on people any more, they prefer to communicate issues,” he says. “This means a sad loss of humour.” From Trott’s perspective, the way to forge effective communications is to focus on the core truths that unite people of all races, sexes, classes, ages, religions, or nationalities. “Those categories,” he says “are just superficial differences.”
There is a growing sense among my colleagues that the virtue-signalling that guides advertising decisions is hurting sales. Excessive focus-grouping, the echo chamber created by the industry’s Hackney-hipster homogeneity and awards-crazed processes have detached the creative process from the end result – to produce captivating, witty, humorous, makes-you-think-twice ad campaigns that challenge and stimulate the imagination.
No doubt, there has been much positive change since the freewheeling, devil-may-care attitudes of the Eighties and the risqué campaigns that they produced. Many of these campaigns were laden with misogyny and stereotypes that wouldn’t pass muster today. It was only in 2011 that Yorkie still sold it’s “Not For Girls” chocolate bar, and Mr. Clean encouraged women to “get back to the job that really matters”. One marvels that these campaigns were ever approved, and in today’s gender-, race- and sexuality-diverse workplaces, it’s more than likely they would have been axed long before they could see the light of day.
But brands have not always fared better, in recent days, when there’s too much hand-wringing about causing offence. This has made advertising bland, afraid to engage satirically with society as it exists, and, at worst, blatantly cynical.
Pepsi’s TV campaign, released at the height of the #BlackLivesMatter protests, featured Kendall Jenner reconciling police and protesters over a can of Pepsi. It drew widespread for trivialising the movement and was finally withdrawn. And Gillette, who recently published a short film referencing bullying, the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity, was widely lampooned its opportunism and triteness. Both hurt sales figures.
Young people today know when they are being sold to, and attempts to cash in on social movements have proven tricky territory for brands trying to make themselves relevant by taking a position on divisive subjects.
Part of the cynicism of these campaigns comes from the fact that, in today’s globalised economy, brands project different values in different markets. Advanced algorithms mean there are ways of ensuring that people get the messaging they want to hear. Not many brands’ feverish rainbow-washing throughout Pride month extended to their Russian or Middle Eastern operations.
Consequently, consumers smell a rat. The resultant negativity surrounding attempts to project social values has prompted some in the advertising world to say “go woke, go broke” – that a lack of true backbone in brands will inevitably be sniffed out and dent sales.
Though our cultural attitudes have shifted, the goal of advertising has not. And if woke advertising cannot deliver the sales by every ad exec will be judged, then brands will have to find a new creative mode which allows them provoke, make laugh and shape cultural narratives rather than cynically seize on them.
Advertising can still – and indeed must – provoke and engage audiences with a wide range of emotions if it is to return to its former role of shaping cultural conversations. Companies need to be able to navigate controversial topics with the conviction, lightness, edginess and sarcasm which has always characterised great advertising.
And they can. As Hermeti Balarin, partner at Mother London, put it: “Edgy creativity not only can, but does exist in this age of cancel culture. All that brands need is a complete understanding of who they are, what they represent and what their voice is like. Once a brand fundamentally understands that, they can appear almost anywhere at any time and join any conversation they want. Edgy or not.”
As we come more and more to realise the social consequences of media siloes and echo chambers, I am of the belief that advertising has a role to play in catering to and thereby cultivating a mainstream. It does so by focusing on what American advertising legend Bill Bernbach called “simple, timeless human truths” – gripes and groans, reversals of fortune, the universal ironies that unify us and make us laugh.
This is not just about effective marketing, but also about what role advertising has to play in an increasingly fractious society.
The final word goes to Dave Trott: “To understand people,” he says, “we need to understand not what makes them different, but what makes them the same.”
Raheem Sterling is poised to become a global megastar like David Beckham after firing England to Tuesday’s Euros clash with Germany.
Marketing experts say the forward has all the ingredients he needs to build ‘Brand Sterling’ – including son Thiago, who has embarked on a modelling career at the tender age of four.
PR guru Mark Borkowski called Sterling, 26, a “sponsor’s dream”, and told how he could replicate Beckham’s success.
The former England captain and his wife Victoria are now worth £380million. Mr Borkowski said: “This could be Raheem’s moment. He could make millions.”
Sterling is the only England player to so far score in the Euros, striking against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage.
His goals secured first place – and the crunch match with one of our oldest rivals.
The clash has brought back agonising memories of the Euro 96 penalty shootout in which Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate missed the decisive spot-kick.
And pub bosses predict eight million pints will be downed on the day of the match – either in joy or sorrow – despite a 5pm kick-off.
The Germans are weak by their own standards, boosting hopes of a historic Sterling-inspired victory that would only further enhance his appeal to big-name brands.
Mr Borkowski said: “If this is to be the championship that puts to bed the ghost of so many failures and he’s the man popping in the goals, he’s in a totally different world. Money no object. Sponsor’s dream.”
Sterling, who won his third Premier League title with Manchester City last season, earns a reported £300,000 a week – £15.6million a year.
He is the face of shaving brand Gillette and recently got a boot deal with New Balance.
Last month the Sunday Times Rich list estimated his net worth at £38million.
Aside from his commercial success, Sterling is also one of the loudest voices in the fight against racism in football.
And Mr Borkowski also praised the player’s efforts on social media – which have earned him 10.5 million followers on Instagram and Twitter – and his skill at handling negative publicity.
He said: “He’s very authentic, and this narrative around the boy from Brent all adds to the story of the boy made good.
“You could certainly look at Beckham as a baseline, what he was earning at his height, and replicate that sort of money. But you can’t do it alone. This is lawyers, managers, agents, publicists, sponsorship.”
When Becks retired in 2013, aged 38, he was reportedly raking in £33million a year through his salary, sponsorships and business ventures.
The former England captain became a global sensation for both his footballing abilities and his marriage to Posh Spice.
Now he and wife Victoria get help building their brand from their social media-savvy children – including photographer Brooklyn, 22, and 18-year-old model Romeo.
Similarly, Sterling’s four-year-old son Thiago is already adding to the family’s fortunes with a recent shoot for Italian luxury house Fendi.
He also appeared alongside his dad in the latest Gillette advert. Mr Borkowski said: “Make no mistake, it’s all part of the team. It’s all about creating a family legacy and embedding that. Look at the Kardashians.”
Sterling has a second son, Thai-Cruz, with fiancée Paige Milian, 25, and a daughter, Melody Rose, from a previous relationship. And Danny Rogers, a PR expert and author, said he can match the Becks off the pitch.
PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle are unable to raise the money needed for their big projects in the UK due to the Duchess of Sussex’s ambitions being much bigger – which could eventually lead to a race for the White House, a public relations expert and author says.
PR expert Mark Borkowski said both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are unable to raise the funds for their ambitious projects in the UK and have chosen America as to where they will “hitch their wagon” to build their brand. Mark Borkowski explained the couple’s ambitions are far greater than many might realise and may never turn around their negative reputation among certain demographics. The author added the large goals and desire of Meghan Markle may even culminate in a US presidential campaign and said he would “not bet against” such a thing happening.
Speaking on GB News, Mr Borkowski discussed the recent ventures of the Sussexes including the couple purchasing domain names of their daughter Lilibet before they asked the Queen for her approval of the name.
He told the channel: “I don’t think [Harry and Meghan] can ever really recover, particularly to an older audience, a boomer audience, here.
“The question is whether or not the younger audience, the Gen Z’s, people who completely emphasise with their arguments about some mental health issues and diversity.
“It is very much where they’ve hitched their waggon to and we’re going to see a very big competing brand.
“But the UK is not where they’re going to win the type of money they’re going to need, to carry forward their aims and traditions and setup very ambitious partnerships.
“I’ve often said it and people think I’m joking but who would not bet against Meghan Markle of running for president in years to come.”
Rumours of Meghan Markle’s presidency ambition began earlier this year when the Duchess of Sussex was reportedly in conversation with prominent Democrat figures.
A senior Labour Party figure told the Mail on Sunday that they heard Meghan was networking with Democrats to build campaign teams.
Meghan allegedly may only run in 2024 if current US President Joe Biden does not choose to run for a second term.
The rumours began in mid-March but there has been no major development or comment on the reports.
According to the Mirror, Meghan is set to have a “brutal showdown” with Buckingham Palace as the institution launched an independent inquiry into bullying claims against Meghan.
She is expected to demand a breakdown of the claims against her so that she can answer each one.
Meghan has yet to be interviewed by Buckingham Palace of the allegations and has not returned to the UK since her departure in early 2020.
Two royal staff members quit with a third saying their confidence was “undermined”.
The Mirror also reports at least ten former place employees are “lining up” to assist the independent inquiry against Meghan.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in the Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
“Accordingly, our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article.
“Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.”
Prince Harry and Meghan’s daughter Lilibet (Lili) Diana has a name reflecting tradition and emerging trend
With the arrival of Lilibet (Lili) Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, the newest member of the Royal Family has a name that reflects both tradition and an emerging trend.
The daughter of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who was born this month in California, has names with deep family ties — something that is a regular occurrence in the Royal Family.
Diana recalls her grandmother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. But in the case of Lilibet — a nickname for her great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth — there’s also a reflection of a newer trend among the monarch’s great-grandchildren.
“What we’re seeing with the current generation is some instances where the nickname is the formal first name,” said Toronto-based royal historian Carolyn Harris.
Nicknames have always been popular in the Royal Family, in part because so many royal children have had the same name. Queen Victoria, for example, let it be known she wanted her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have her name or that of her husband, Albert, in their monikers.
“Going back to Queen Victoria’s descendants, she had so many granddaughters who were named Victoria that we see nicknames such as Vicky, Toria, Moretta, Ducky,” said Harris.
Harry and Meghan’s daughter is the Queen’s 11th great-grandchild, and the third born in the past few months. A 12th is expected this fall with the arrival of the first child for Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Among the 11 great-grandchildren, those higher in the line of succession — Prince William and Kate’s children George (third in line), Charlotte (fourth) and Louis (fifth) — have more traditional royal names.
But further down the line, things change, with great-grandchildren named Savannah, Isla and Lucas appearing on the family tree. The eldest daughter of Zara (Princess Anne’s daughter) and Mike Tindall has the first name Mia.
“Now, that is an accepted name on its own, but in the 18th century, Mia might have been seen as a nickname for Amelia,” said Harris, author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. “That certainly was a royal name in Georgian times; George the Third’s favourite daughter was named Amelia.”
For Lilibet (Lili) Diana, the announcement of her name two days after her birth sparked considerable reaction on social media. There was much chatter over whether the choice of the nickname was a touching tribute to the Queen or an insensitive decision, particularly given Harry and Meghan’s recent criticisms of the House of Windsor.
“There are those who feel that this is a really sweet gesture and it’s Prince Harry honouring his grandma, who he maintained a personal relationship with even as he and Meghan stepped back from their duties as senior members of the Royal Family,” said Harris.
“But there are others who feel that this is a nickname that is unique to the Queen and that perhaps [Lily or] Elizabeth might have been a better choice.”
Confusion has ensued over to what degree Harry and Meghan consulted the Queen about the use of the family nickname.
“What seems clear is that the Queen and the Royal Family knew about the name before the rest of the world were told, but it is much less clear whether permission to use Lilibet was sought in advance,” wrote ITV royal editor Chris Ship on the network’s website.
Such scrutiny for a royal baby’s name is unusual, although speculation of just what name might be chosen ahead of any royal birth is rampant. Sometimes it’s also names that aren’t chosen that spark considerable interest.
Before Diana and Charles named their first son William in 1982, Oliver was one of the monikers that Diana liked.
“Diana favoured some of the trendier names of her time,” said Harris.
But a name like Oliver would not have been considered suitable for a future British monarch, Harris said, because there would inevitably be the comments about Oliver Cromwell, a controversial figure in 17th-century English history, and the time period of the interregnum, “whereas Charles was looking to royal history, and both William and Harry have these timeless royal names.”
In the case of Lilibet (Lili) Diana, the scrutiny is ramped up because of the intense focus on her parents, particularly following their decision to step back from official royal duties.
Even if Harry and Meghan hadn’t chosen a nickname so closely connected to the Queen, it seems likely the name would have attracted attention.
“I think there would have been scrutiny, there would be a conversation about names, whatever the names would have been,” said British PR expert Mark Borkowski.
And it’s a scrutiny that will likely continue on the child as she grows up.
“That’s the sort of nature of celebrity, the nature of having two of the most famous people in the world as your mother and father,” said Borkowski…
Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to remove two Coca-Cola bottles from view at a press conference, and dent the value of the fizzy drink maker’s sponsorship of the European Championship, has highlighted the risks brands face associating with sports stars made powerful by the social media era.
The Portugal captain, a renowned health fanatic who eschews carbonated drinks and alcohol, underlined his point by holding a bottle of water while saying “agua”, Portuguese and Spanish for water. The water brand in question happened to be owned by Coca-Cola too, but the damage – by a major sports star with 550 million social media followers – was done.
“It’s obviously a big moment for any brand when the world’s most followed footballer on social media does something like that,” says Tim Crow, a sports marketing consultant who advised Coca-Cola on football sponsorship for two decades. “Coke pays tens of millions to be a Uefa sponsor and as part of that there are contractual obligations for federations and teams, including taking part in press conferences with logos and products. But there are always risks.”
Major brands have never been able to control the actions of their star signings. Nike decided, stoically, to stand by Tiger Woods as the golfing prodigy lost sponsors including Gillette and Gatorade after a 2009 sex scandal. However, Ronaldo’s public snub signifies a different kind of threat to the once cosy commercial balance of power between stars and brands, one born of the social media era.
“Ronaldo is right at the top of social media earners,” says PR expert Mark Borkowski. “It is about the rise of the personal brand, the personal channel, it gives so much bloody power. That’s what has allowed Ronaldo to make a point [about a healthy lifestyle].”
Now 36, the world’s most famous footballer has built an empire that has seen him make more than $1bn (£720m) in football salaries, bonuses and commercial activities such as sponsorships. What is crucial is the global platform social media has given him – half a billion followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – which has freed him from following the commercial rules of clubs, tournaments and their sponsors. He is the highest earner on Instagram, commanding $1m per paid post, and with more than $40m in income from the social media platform annually he makes more than his salary at Juventus.
“People are saying this is about athlete activism and there is some truth to that,” says Crow. “Athletes are taking a more activist view, we are seeing that, most recently in press conferences. And we will see it again.”
On Tuesday, the France midfielder Paul Pogba, a practising Muslim, removed a bottle of Euro 2020 sponsor Heineken’s non-alcoholic 0.0 brand from the press conference table when he sat down to speak to the media after his team’s 1-0 win over Germany. Three years ago, he was one of a group of Manchester United stars who boycotted a contractual event for sponsors to protest at the club’s poor travel arrangements that had affected Champions League games.
Crow says the most important example of athlete activism came last month when Naomi Osaka, the No 2-ranked female tennis player, pulled out of the French Open after being fined $15,000 and threatened with expulsion by organisers for saying she would skip contractual media obligations because of the effect on her mental health.
Osaka, who has more than 4 million social media followers, used Twitter to explain her “huge waves of anxiety” and the “outdated rules” governing players and media conferences, and announce she was pulling out of Roland Garros.
“Activism is now on every sponsor’s radar,” says Crow, who believes Ronaldo’s move could mark the beginning of the end of product placement-laden press conferences.
“My view is that for a long time now having sponsors’ products on the table in front of athletes in press conferences looks outdated and inauthentic and it’s time to retire it,” he says. “This incident highlights that fact. Many of my sponsor clients have mentioned this in the past, particularly those targeting younger consumers. It’s not as if sponsors don’t have enough branding throughout tournaments and events anyway.”
Sir Keir Starmer believes he is “turning the party around” as he said Labour needed to stop looking inwards to make inroads to electoral success. But brand and PR guru Mark Borkowski outlined the big problems the Labour leader is facing. He suggested that the timing of the interview indicated to him that his party are “in trouble”.
Speaking to talkRADIO, Mr Borkowski said: “The problem with Keir Starmer is he doesn’t connect to people and he has zero charisma.
“I think he has the personality of a supply teacher, probably a geography supply teacher and this is what the panic is.
“When we looked at Hartlepool and the other recent elections, that is a real indication of no connection.
“People don’t go anywhere near him and television is not his medium that’s a big problem.
“The bottom line is I was surprised to some extent that he was doing the Piers Morgan Life Stories because it’s one of those interviews you give at a very crucial time like running for an election.
“It indicated to me that they’re in trouble with him and they would do anything to get him to be someone the public think he is.”
The Labour leader was presented with the analysis of former prime minister Tony Blair, who said the party needed a “total deconstruction and reconstruction”.
And asked by Morgan whether that was advice he needed to listen to, in a clip released ahead of the full programme on Tuesday, Sir Keir said: “Yes.
“The biggest change we need to make is a Labour Party that stops looking in on itself and looks out to the electorate, to the voters.
“I’m going to go and talk across the country this summer to people who are no longer voting Labour and hear for myself what they have to say and show that reconnection.”
Sir Keir said the three things which would describe a Britain under his leadership would be “pride in our country, dignity… dignity for children growing up, dignity at work, and change”.
And he said already he was proud of his work to rid anti-Semitism from the party.
“We had to make changes, so on things like anti-Semitism, it was really important to me and to the party, I think, to the country that we dealt with anti-Semitism,” he said.
“We’ve begun to do that, taken some really, really important steps. We’re turning the party around.”
In a second clip released ahead of the interview, he spoke about taking time out from his leadership campaign early last year to support his wife Victoria, suggesting it was an example of him putting his family before politics.
Asked whether he was a romantic, Sir Keir said: “I think probably yes.”
Viewers of “The Voice” will see a surprising new commercial this Tuesday.
John Legend — one of the judges on the NBC competition show — will appear in a spot for vacation-rental site Vrbo, along with his wife, Chrissy Teigen, their two young children, and Teigen’s mother Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen.
It should have been a clever piece of cross-promotion. Instead, Teigen is embroiled in a scandal that is casting a dark shadow over her career — not to mention the business deals she shares with Legend and even her mother, who has benefited from Teigen’s fame with a newly released cookbook of her own.
Teigen has been exposed for sending shockingly cruel messages to other women on social media, telling TV personality Courtney Stodden in 2011 to “Go. To sleep. Forever.” and mocking Lindsay Lohan, who has admitted to cutting herself in the past, by tweeting that same year: “Lindsay adds a few more slits to her wrists when she sees Emma Stone.” In 2013, Teigen publicly called “Teen Mom” star Farrah Abraham “a whore.”
The revelation of these long-forgotten messages led to her Cravings cookware line — which Teigen tirelessly promoted to her 13.6 million followers on Twitter and 34.8 million followers on Instagram — being pulled from Macy’s. Although it was previously reported that Target had also dropped Teigen, a rep for the store said: “We made the mutual decision in December to no longer carry the cookware line.” Macy’s has not confirmed if the line is shelved for good.
Teigen is now holed up with her family at their Los Angeles home and a source who knows her told The Post: “She’s so raw and vulnerable … I don’t know if she can come back to social media.”
The Teigen source admitted that the store brands had their hands forced to sever their relationships with the model after being bombarded by customer complaints on social media. “As you can imagine, last week was wild,” the source said. “When people start going after brands, whether warranted or not, it creates a mess for the brands to deal with.”
Page Six reported that Bloomingdale’s was hours away from signing a contract with Teigen to host a promotional event for the store, but pulled the plug on Monday.
Although a source with knowledge of the Vrbo partnership told The Post there were “no issues” and the deal is “moving forward as planned,” branding expert Mark Borkowski isn’t so sure Teigen will be forgiven by her fans or the people who hired her. (Vrbo did not respond to requests for comment.)
“No one tolerates the idea of a bully. Within the business values of many of these brands it causes problems,” Borkowski said. “It’s all about authenticity. If you’re found out not to be what you [claim] to be, that always leads to an Icarus moment and everything comes crashing down. One day you’re hot and the next day you’re canceled due to stupidity, arrogance or ego.
“America is the worst place to be shamed — and the first people to jump ship are agents [who arrange deals], if they don’t see money in you.”
Stodden, who first came into the public eye in 2011 as a 16-year-old wed to 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchinson, brought the scandal to light on May 10 in an interview with the Daily Beast.
“She wouldn’t just publicly tweet about wanting me to take ‘a dirt nap’ but would privately DM me and tell me to kill myself,” said Stodden. “Things like, ‘I can’t wait for you to die.’”
In March Stodden, now 26, also posted a video to Instagram in which 2011 tweets from Teigen were revealed that ranged from “I hate you” to “my Friday fantasy: you. Dirt nap.”
And while Teigen is known for her sparky humor, it didn’t jibe with the image on which she has built her brand — as a loving mom and wife, and a champion of women. The 35-year-old model has made it her deal to be open and honest about everything, from getting sober to the tragic stillbirth of her baby son Jack at 20 weeks into her pregnancy, even publishing a series of raw photos from her hospital room in September 2020.
It’s all helped her build a huge social media following and, it turns out, some of those followers are just as vicious as she has been.
As The Post previously reported, retired military nurse and self-confessed social-media troll Kari Rhyan found herself in a Twitter war with Teigen in 2019 after commenting “You are waaaaaay overrated” to the star — and while that wasn’t so nice in itself, Rhyan was still shocked to be bombarded with messages from Teigen’s followers saying they wished she were dead.
When she read about what Teigen had said to Stodden, Rhyan said, “What has to happen to someone to get them to a place where they’d tell a 16-year-old to kill themselves? I don’t know if mean is just her baseline, or if she went through some tough stuff that got her to that point.”
Meanwhile, former Us Weekly reporter Jon Warech, who was let go from the publication after an online spat with Teigen, said: “Celebrities like Teigen don’t realize the power of their words on social media.
“She and plenty of others don’t think about the person on the other end. They think about the likes or comments and don’t realize there are real people that their words affect. They get mass approval and have zero regard for the damage being done,” Warech said.
Teigen attacked him after a red carpet interview ended up with the headline “Chrissy Teigen: We’re hiring a night nurse for baby.”
When she accused him of trying to make her “look like a poor, uncaring mother and getpeople talking,” Warech told her that he didn’t write the headlines and forwarded her a screenshot of the quotes he had sent to an Us Weekly editor. He was soon given his marching orders.
“I was on a freelance salary, getting paid per event, trying to make rent,” Warech said: “She carried on the next day and probably didn’t remember any of it.”
After Stodden’s revelation, Teigen tweeted: “Not a lot of people are lucky enough to be held accountable for all their past bulls–t in front of the entire world. I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be. I was an insecure, attention seeking troll … I’m so sorry, Courtney … ”
Stodden accepted the apology and forgave Teigen on Instagram, but added: “I have never heard from her or her camp in private. In fact, she blocked me on Twitter.”
“All of me wants to believe this is a sincere apology,” Stodden posted, “but it feels like a public attempt to save her partnerships with Target and other brands who are realizing her ‘wokeness’ is a broken record.”
Teigen’s parents, American electrician, Ron, and Pepper, met in Pepper’s home country of Thailand. They moved to Utah, where Teigen was born, then later to Snohomish, Wash., where they operated a tavern called Porky’s.
As a teen, Teigen began modeling, eventually posing for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and working as a “briefcase girl” — just like Meghan Markle — on the game show “Deal or No Deal.”
She met Legend on the set of his “Stereo” music video in 2007, and they married six years later, then had daughter Luna, now five, and son Miles, who just turned three this week.
Ron and Pepper are now divorced and Pepper lives in style with her daughter and son-in-law. She’s said to often cook dinner for the family, and Pepper’s frequent appearances on Teigen’s Instagram — not to mention on the model’s show, “Chrissy’s Court,” on the short-lived Quibi platform — led to her getting her own cookbook deal and appearances on network morning shows. She even appeared with Teigen on a cover of People’s “Beautiful Issue.”
Teigen and Legend have also built a brand as a beloved family unit, with her making cameos on “The Voice” and the two of them sharing a Christmas special on NBC in 2018. She has co-starred in his music videos and, last year, appeared clad in a towel atop his piano as Legend played a live stream concert to raise funds for charity.
A senior producer within NBC Universal entertainment told The Post that Teigen’s issues would not affect Legend, adding: “NBC loves and supports John. It is a separate relationship. I feel bad for Chrissy — what a mess.”
But Borkowski noted that a scandal like Teigen’s “can create huge issues, even beyond shared deals, as it sucks in the family.”
However, he added, “Anyone has the ability to have a second chance … if they handle it right.”
Careers, business deals and, of course, Chrissy’s reputation all hang in the balance.
As the source who knows Teigen said: “Look, it’s not Chrissy’s finest moment. All she can do is try and make amends now.”
The BBC and ITV have been urged to review how Martin Bashir landed his other big interviews after the damning report into how he deceived Diana, Princess of Wales.
Dorothy Byrne, a former head of news at Channel 4, said yesterday that the revelation in Lord Dyson’s finding that Bashir had used “deceitful behaviour” to secure his Panorama interview in 1995 was scandalous.
The family of Michael Jackson has demanded an apology for his ITV interview with Bashir and the ex-wife of the late footballer George Best claimed that Bashir had exploited him.
Bashir left the BBC in 1999 to join ITV before working in the United States. He was rehired in 2016 as the BBC’s religion correspondent before resigning this month citing ill health.
The Duke of Cambridge and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, have accused Bashir of using deceit to prey on her paranoia, which left her without the support of close friends or royal aides.
Bashir, 58, told The Sunday Times that Diana was never unhappy about the content of the interview and that they had remained friends. She visited his wife, Deborah, in hospital after the birth of their third child in 1996.
“I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did,” Bashir said. “Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace, to when it was broadcast, to its contents . . . My family and I loved her.”
He said he was “deeply sorry” to Princes William and Harry but disputes William’s charge that he fuelled her isolation and paranoia.
William, who had condemned Bashir for making “lurid and false claims about the royal family which played on her fears and fuelled paranoia”, refused to be drawn on the issue during an official visit to Edinburgh yesterday.
Byrne told Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “I think that both BBC and ITV need to look at all his scoops. Other people who have been interviewed by Martin Bashir have complained that he lied to them and we know that the BBC wrote a formal letter to ITV about his conduct on several stories.”
There are questions over Bashir’s ITV interviews with Jackson in 2003, in which the singer admitted sharing a bed with children. Mark Borkowski, Jackson’s UK publicist at the time, said that Bashir had used a letter from Diana while seeking access.
Jackson’s nephew Taj, 47, tweeted: “Bashir’s manipulated footage and unethical journalism is one of the main reasons my uncle Michael is not here today. Shame on those who provided cover for Bashir. Shame on those who rewarded him. My family deserves an investigation & apology too.”
The singer’s brother and former bandmate Tito said: “Bashir created a fake narrative about my brother, which becomes crystal clear when you view the outtakes Bashir kept secret. He used Michael’s trust and friendship with Diana to get the interview, manipulated Michael throughout the interview, then deceptively edited the footage.”
Alex Best, 49, told the Daily Mirror that her late ex-husband believed that he had been “manipulated” and “cheated” by Bashir into giving an ITV interview in 2000 while suffering chronic liver damage brought on by alcoholism. “It’s sad that George isn’t here to see Bashir finally exposed for what he is, because he would be delighted to see it,” she said.
Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, wrote to staff on Friday: “I know that we now have significantly stronger processes and governance in place to ensure that an event like this doesn’t happen again. However, we must also learn lessons and keep improving.”
The Prince of Wales has told friends that the BBC should stop showing clips of the 1995 interview, according to The Mail on Sunday. Prince Charles did not follow his sons in publicly denouncing Bashir’s deceit. The paper quotes a friend as saying: “There is time needed to think about this but there is a feeling that the BBC shouldn’t be showing any footage at all from the interview.”
Last night Terry Venables, the former England football manager, accused Bashir of using the “same dubious tactics” against him. He is hoping to clear his name over two Panorama episodes presented by Bashir about his financial dealings in 1993 and 1994.
At the time, he complained that documents featured in the broadcast were “cooked up”. Venables, 78, said: “The BBC has an absolute duty to make a clean breast of everything, otherwise how else can we believe their word ever again?”
A former publicist for Michael Jackson has said he refused to allow Martin Bashir access to the star, adding he felt the journalist had an agenda.
It comes following a turbulent week for Bashir, after the Dyson Report found that he faked financial records to secure an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for the BBC.
He later went on to work for ITV, with the broadcaster commissioning a now-infamous interview with Jackson in 2003, where the singer admitted he shared his bed with children.
Mark Borkowski, Jackson’s UK publicist at the time, told Sky News that he met Bashir when he was trying to secure access with his client.
“He said ‘look what I did with Diana, it became a great event and she’s very pleased’ and at this point he brought out a letter… it was certainly signed by Diana and I read it and it was a fulsome praise of him and the interview.
“And it was a thank you letter to him and it was pretty dog-eared… that didn’t persuade me and I kept him at arms-length and we had a second meeting and he pushed me into what I was going to say.”
However, Mr Borkowski said his overall opinion was that Jackson should not let Bashir carry out an interview.
“I just felt he was clearly someone who’s working off an agenda to create another cultural moment. Nothing dissuaded me from that.”
He added that the decision to eventually offer Bashir access to Jackson was made by someone else, and claims that the interview changed the course of events for the singer.
On Friday, former head of ITN (which provides news programming to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) Stewart Purvis told Sky News that despite his previous controversies, Bashir continued to be employed by the likes of the BBC and ITV because of his ability to secure big interviews.
He said: “Broadcasters like people who deliver big stories, big exclusives. Will they look the other way, as Prince William said, about what the BBC bosses did in the case of the interview?
“Sometimes they probably used to do that. Would they do it nowadays? I’m not so sure.”
Jobs appear to be like buses for Prince Harry. Wait a lifetime for an opening and two come along at the same time.
The former Royal’s first foray into the corporate world has seen him take up the role of chief impact officer at Silicon Valley coaching firm BetterUp, while also sitting alongside Rupert Murdoch’s daughter-in-law on a commission aiming to fight “misinformation”.
Neither role appears to have required the 36-year-old former Army captain to submit a CV or go through the usual vetting processes as he adds mental health coach and anti-fake news campaigner to his résumé.
Yet in keeping with a new breed of “celebrity responsibility”, which has increasingly seen the rich and famous flex their corporate muscles for the greater good, the highly prominent positions look set to propel the cash-strapped Prince to ever more lucrative heights, as LA’s most sought-after recruit.
Just as when Jennifer Aniston became the ‘chief creative officer’ of a natural supplement range or when David Beckham backed a cannabinoid skincare company, these mutually beneficial ‘ethical’ tie-ups can be worth their weight in publicity gold. And not just for the company that gets their endorsement.
As showbiz agent Jonathan Shalit puts it: “Like corporate responsibility – this is celebrity responsibility. There’s been a shift in people’s mindsets. Two, three years ago the mindset was: ‘What’s in it for me, how can I get paid a shedload of dosh, how can I maximise my income?’ Now people desire to give back and give back support to the community.”
While pointing out that Harry is “above celebrity,” he adds: “Many celebrities are very responsible in trying to use the strength of their platform to help others.”
The announcement of both roles last week certainly played into the idea that this was more than just a money spinner for the Montecito-based ex pat – although there is no doubt all sides are set to benefit financially.
While BetterUp may be carrying out noble work in its offer of “personalised coaching, content and care designed to transform lives and careers” – it all comes at a price.
Having spoken about his struggles with grief following the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, Harry said of his appointment to the “unicorn” tech firm: “(I) want us to move away from the idea that you have to feel broken before reaching out for help,” insisting he intends to use the job to “create impact in people’s lives”.
The Duke added: “Being attuned with your mind, and having a support structure around you, are critical to finding your own version of peak performance. What I’ve learned in my own life is the power of transforming pain into purpose.”
He said his goal was to “lift up critical dialogues around mental health, build supportive and compassionate communities, and foster an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations” and he hoped to “help people develop their inner strength, resilience and confidence”.
It might strike the cynical as Californian word salad akin to Aniston’s declaration, upon joining Vital Proteins, that: “Collagen is the glue that holds everything together. I’ve always been an advocate for nourishing your wellness from within.”
Yet as Alexi Robichaux, who co-founded BetterUp in 2013, points out, Harry does bring a unique perspective. “He comes from a very different background,” to other executives, he says, adding: “He’s synonymous with this approach of mental fitness and really investing in yourself. It was not a hard internal sale. He will obviously have the whole organisation sprinting to help him.”
Robichaux confirmed Harry was joining the company’s leadership team as an “officer of the corporation”, which suggests it is a paid role, although public relations expert Mark Borkowski thinks it “highly likely” he has been offered equity in the firm, which values itself at $1.73 billion.
“This previously unknown start-up has now got instant recognition,” he says. “I always said that if Harry and Meghan wanted to generate income, they should look to Silicon Valley. Getting eyeballs onto the company like this, with all the competition, is the hardest job in PR – but now the whole world is talking about it. That’s the effect signing up someone like Harry can have.
“If he’s got points in this firm and it goes gangbusters, he could make some serious money.” Borkowski cites the example of shares in Cellular Goods, the synthetic cannabis firm backed by Beckham, shooting up by 310 per cent after it launched on the London Stock Exchange in February following news of the star footballer’s investment.
“This is all about the ongoing narrative, now,” adds Borkowski, referencing the Oprah Winfrey interview in which the Sussexes raised serious concerns about the Royal family’s handling of racism and mental health issues.
“The impact of generating more connections to his brand is an ongoing struggle for him. But by taking that narrative, which is embedded with that interview along with mental health issues, then he can certainly have a credible corporate platform.”
Yet considering some of the discrepancies that have surfaced since the interview aired in the US on March 7, can Harry really be considered a reliable voice when it comes to combating what he has described as the “avalanche of misinformation”?
Critics have been at pains to point out that his appointment to the Aspen Institute’s new Commission on Information Disorder, a six-month project that will examine the “modern-day crisis of faith in key institutions” appears somewhat at odds with the Sussexes’ repeated insistence that they do not look at newspapers, magazines or social media.
Equally awkward is the fact that the Prince will be sitting alongside Kathryn Murdoch, who is married to James Murdoch, the former chairman of News of the World publisher News International, who resigned from his father Rupert Murdoch’s media empire last year.
As with Harry’s decision to appear on CBS, despite the US network once sparking outrage in 2004 for showing a “distasteful” photo of his mother after her fatal Parisian car crash, the move suggests the exiled Murdochs are now considered reformed characters thanks to their new found work on democracy reform and climate change.
As Harry himself put it, information disorder is an issue that demands “a multi-stakeholder response from advocacy voices” including, apparently, the wife of a man who was found by a Parliamentary report in 2012 to have shown “wilful ignorance of the extent of phone hacking” and being “guilty of an astonishing lack of curiosity” over the illegal practice that Harry, William and Kate were all subjected to along with Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and a string of palace aides.
It is not thought Harry is being paid for his work with the think tank, founded in 1949, which will look at everything from last year’s US election to vaccine safety and marginalised communities.
It is his listing on the Aspen Institute’s website, however, which perhaps provides the biggest clue to the sixth-in-line to the throne’s direction of travel as he settles into life in the US.
Referenced by his full title, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, the soon to be father-of-two is described as a “humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate and environmentalist.”
Despite his blood-born Royal status, Shalit believes this repositioning is actually intended to put him on a par with his high-achieving wife. For unlike her husband, who left school with two A-levels before training at Sandhurst Military Academy, it is Meghan – a Northwestern University graduate with a successful acting career under her belt – who is arguably the more employable of the two, on paper at least. As an American, the pregnant mother-of-one also doesn’t carry the burden of Harry’s complicated visa and tax arrangements, amid confusion over whether he is living and working in the US as a “diplomat” or as a person with so-called “special talents”.
“I’ve met Meghan on a number of occasions and she is a hugely astute woman, very bright, incredibly impressive,” says Shalit.
“So for Harry to keep up with his wife, he’s got to find his own name and identity and this is the start. He doesn’t need celebrity. When you’re Royal, you’re the biggest celebrity in the world. But what this does is allow Harry to have relevance.”
When it comes to making an impact, Royal relevance is clearly going to be the jewel in the crown of Harry’s very LA relaunch.
An industry expert has predicted Piers Morgan will return “turbocharged” with a new TV show and more columns after quitting Good Morning Britain.
Piers, 55, sensationally walked away from the show earlier this month after a row over his coverage of Meghan Markle’s inteview with Oprah Winfrey.
He has since insisted the parting was amicable and he’s going into a “temporary hibernation”.
Speculation has been rife over what Piers will do next, and PR expert Mark Borkowski is convinced he’ll come back and be more successful than ever.
In a piece headlined: “The Marmite man will certainly be back”, Mark explained: “People think the juggernaut has been neutered, but quite the opposite. It’s been turbocharged.
“Piers has the confidence of his opinions, and ultimately, he knows that when people tell you to apologise, or you’re out, you have to have the confidence to walk.
“If I were his agent right now (and I’m not), I would be a very happy man.”
Mark went on to add: “Those who think of cancellation as a once-and-for-all sentence-to-lifelong obscurity need only recall the word’s origins in network programming, where there is only one law: he who is cancelled, can find another network…
“The whole thing is a circus and Piers is the ringmaster.”
He posted the piece on Twitter, writing: “Why the #marmite man @piersmorgan will be back. I predict a new network platform, multiple columns, and a following who will remain as faithful as ever…”
It attracted the attention of Piers himself, who replied: “What a generous piece, thanks Mark.”
Prince William wants a robust fightback against his brother’s attack on the Royal Family, according to a royal expert.
The Duke of Cambridge, and the future king, wants the Queen to respond “more robustly” to the fall-out from the Oprah interview. This comes after William said the royals are “very much not a racist family” in his first comments after accusations by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a TV interview.
TalkRADIO host Kevin O’Sullivan told PR agent Mark Borkowski the remarks, made after a visit to an east London primary school, “would have been arranged”.
He said: “I detect from that Prince William there, I think he feels the Palace should be responding more robustly to the charges laid out in the interview.
“Those kind of moments are extremely rare. They are usually organised, I would imagine.”
Later he told Charlie Rae, the former royal editor for The Sun: “I think it indicates that Prince William is in one hell of a mood to fight back against Harry and Meghan’s charges, not just the racism, but against the Royal Family generally and against this country.”
Mr Rae responded: “You could see Prince William’s gritted teeth through that mask he was wearing. He was furious.
“I disagree with you that it was staged. I think William took the opportunity to make those very valid comments.”
In his remarks, William also said he had not yet spoken to his brother but would do so.
Buckingham Palace issued a response to the interview earlier this week following crisis meetings involving senior royals.
The statement read: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning.
“While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.
“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
However, it appears that William wants a stronger response to the explosive interview.
Following the fall-out from the Oprah interview, both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s popularity have fallen to their lowest ever level of support.
The British public appears to have reacted negatively to the couple’s interview, with Prince Harry’s popularity plunging 15 points after the broadcast, according to a new YouGov survey.
Meghan’s popularity has also sunk by 13 points in the last 10 days, figures from the poll show.
In contrast, Prince William and Kate Middleton remain very popular, with about three-quarters of Britons giving them favourable reviews.
The Queen remains the most popular royal figure, with 80 percent backing her.
Racism, mental health, family strife, echoes of the untimely passing of Princess Diana… these themes have reverberated loudly since Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. But what have the revelations done to reputations?
Following the sparse reactionary statement from the royal family and the abrupt departure of Piers Morgan, The Drum asks PR professionals and a pre-eminent royal family expert to define what impact the interview has had on the key players.
Interestingly, perceptions vary in the US and in the UK. However, experts on both sides of the pond agree that the royal family came away as the biggest losers.
The US verdict
Diane Clehane is a US-based royals expert who regularly appears on CNN and writes for the digital lifestyles magazine Best Life.
Clehane’s view on Meghan…
The interview was a game-changer in terms of her image. Meghan has always been more popular here in the US, among women especially. Hearing her talk about the racism she experienced and then, the bigger thing, hearing her talk about considering suicide as a pregnant woman – you could hear a collective gasp across the country. No one knew she was dealing with that. There are a tremendous number of people who now feel sympathy for her, which has changed their perception from being indifferent.
The mere fact that she talked about wanting to end her own life was a huge revelation. No one who covered this expected it to be so serious and to delve so deeply into these personal issues. There are a lot more people who empathize and sympathize with her now. She’s a lot more relatable because people had a fairy tale view of her life. People idealize the royals, but she very much disabused us of the notion that she was living this easy life. This gave people pause. Her image is more favorable than it was prior to doing this interview. Ranking: Favorable
Clehane’s view on Harry…
People here in the States have always embraced Harry and took him and William into their hearts after the death of Diana. Yes, they are grown men with their own lives and families, but they will always be Diana’s sons to Americans.
Harry and Meghan are now American celebrities. As we saw when Princess Diana was divorced from Prince Charles and was considering moving to the US, Americans don’t care if they lost their titles. Whatever they do, they will be one of the hottest brands around. People will want to do business with them. They got the Oprah Winfrey blessing. 17 million people watched them. They received an endorsement from Netflix, Spotify, all the areas that are trending. They aren’t going to launch a line of clothing now. They are aiming higher. They are looking more at the President Obama post-presidential brand.
Based on the disclosures Harry made Sunday night about the shocking things that happened behind the palace walls and within his own family, people can relate to that. We all have issues with our families. They have both have shown us, very clearly, that things were not what they appeared to be by a mile – that’s very relatable. They have helped their brand whatever it turns out to be. Ranking: Very favorable
Clehane’s view on the royal family…
They have a very big PR disaster on their hands. In the US, there were always questions relating back to the death of Diana. She was clearly the most popular royal here and around the globe. The royal family is on the receiving end of a lot of skepticism from people who don’t understand the system. They were the big losers. Meghan chose her words carefully about going to the institution to say she needed help with her mental health. If you parse the language very carefully, the institution is the family, and the family is the institution. They came out looking very bad.
The royal family obviously felt the heat as they never felt it before because they issued a statement. Never complain and never explain was a model that’s worked for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t work any more when you’ve got two members of the royal family spilling the tea. They have to respond to that. I don’t think the statement does much. It raises significant questions. Once you open the box, that’s it. People will be digging in. They are in uncharted territory. Ranking: Very unfavorable
Aaron Kwittken is chairman of KWT, chief exec of PRophet and author of last week’s popular post Three PR lessons from Harry, prince of publicity.
Kwittken’s view on Meghan…
Meghan came across as highly credible and relatable. I found it interesting that she was the one to go first in the series and raise the more sensitive issues around mental health and racism, while Harry was then on hand to corroborate and add additional depth and credibility to the discussion.
Personally, I am appalled that people on both sides of the pond, notables and ordinary people alike, continue to question Meghan’s integrity or falsely discount her story just because she’s privileged and has means. That’s not OK. I’d like to see Meghan use her new-found voice to serve as inspiration for anyone who feels trapped, discriminated against or is suffering from mental health issues, regardless of status.
While Meghan knew full well what she was getting into when agreeing to sit down with Oprah, I do feel like Oprah’s interviewing superpowers helped to uncover what it’s really like to be a royal, and it’s not so great after all. Ranking: Very favorable
Kwittken’s view on Harry…
I give Harry a lot of credit for ’showing up’ to this interview and being honest with the press and public. He brilliantly warmed us up with the James Cordon bit earlier in the week, which felt like a fun appetizer leaving you hungry for more. It’s a little unfair to compare Harry’s favorability to Meghan’s when he’s held the beloved underdog crown for so long. His demeanor has always been more Diana than Charles and he wore his emotions in the Oprah interview. It’s important to remember that Harry did not volunteer to be a royal. He was born into a social construct that was in part responsible for the tragic death of his mom. He made it clear that he did not want history to repeat itself with his family and, for that alone, I give him major kudos. Ranking: Very favorable
Kwittken’s view on the royal family…
Sadly, I don’t think that any of the big reveals about the family or the firm were at all shocking or surprising. It also took them nearly 48 hours to respond and I’m sure there was great debate behind closed doors about what to say if anything at all, knowing too that silence equals complicity. I found their response to be terse, corporate, vapid, passive-aggressive and flat out irresponsible. And in this age, you don’t get to work out serious issues like these privately when the public pays for your ’service’.
I don’t think most Americans (very small polling on my part) support the crown and have long felt that the monarchy was antiquated and out of touch. I am an eternal optimist and hopeful that this is not just a moment for the royal family, but instead a movement towards creating systemic and sustainable changes – especially when it comes to addressing racism, mental health and individual freedoms.
Frankly, it’s a caste system that may have just been castrated by Oprah. Ranking: Unfavorable
The UK verdict
Jane Wilson is a communications consultant and former chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
Wilson’s view on Meghan…
If you were already on ’Team Meghan’, then you are likely still a supporter. Equally, if you watched with a view that Meghan is a selfish schemer who turned poor Harry’s head, then you likely still hold that view. And if (like me) you couldn’t care less before, then you probably still don’t. My point is that whatever they said in the interview (and for full transparency, I didn’t watch the whole thing) was never likely to change minds in the UK. However, it’s what happened after that may have the most enduring impact on Meghan’s reputation.
Mental health charities and 41,000 people complained to Ofcom when Piers Morgan said during Good Morning Britain’s highest-ever rated show that he didn’t believe a word of her claims. Now, no matter where you sit, it would be hard for even the most ardent royalist to justify Morgan’s vitriolic response. Perversely, his actions may, more than the interview itself, have had the unintended consequence of enhancing the duchess’s reputation. Ranking: Neutral
Wilson’s view on Harry…
Harry’s reputation is defined by different rules from Meghan’s. This is in part because of the UK’s bizarre relationship with the royal family. Like Kathy Bates in Misery saying ‘I’m your biggest fan’ before breaking James Caan’s legs so he can’t leave, many people in the UK and its media want to own the thing they love. And any deviation from the unwritten rules results in a metaphorical broken limb. Harry has much on his side. He’s royal by birth, he’s a male (they’re treated differently to royal women), he has served his country on the frontline and he is the son of the much-loved Diana. He also talked to universal themes of being a parent and protector, encouraging the viewer to put themselves in his position. From the reactions I’ve seen online, he seems to have come out of it marginally better. Ranking: Neutral to favorable
Wilson’s view on the royal family…
I am continually baffled by the British public’s obsession with the royal family, but I also recognize that the monarchy has a track record of rolling with the punches of public opinion. They have weathered worse than this, adapted and survived. They are likely to endure, but perhaps this is a Darwinian moment where they evolve into a new, slightly different version, hints of which can be seen in the uncharacteristic statement released on Tuesday. This statement in itself deserves its own poll as a combination of vague denial and ghosting wrapped up in a big fluffy blanket of inconsequential familial concern. Remember though that this is a family where first cousins headed up every side in the First World War… they’ve had bigger public fights than this and certainly, while Elizabeth remains Queen, this is unlikely to do much damage. Ranking: Neutral
Mark Borkowski is one of Britain’s best-known publicists and founder of Borkowski PR.
Borkowski’s view on Meghan…
There is a generational split on Meghan. Many in Gen Z and the younger cohorts find her candor and vulnerability to be a welcome change from the monarchy’s stone-faces. Meghan, unlike the rest of the royals, speaks in terms that resonate with young people. She talks about the issues they care about – racial and gender equality, mental health and overcoming personal trauma. In the UK, some older people criticize her for ‘acting’ in the interview, but they’ve got it all wrong. It’s not as if she’s an actor and the royal family aren’t. She’s simply a better actor, able to convey thoughtfulness, authenticity and caring in a time when the rest of the royals stick to the stiff upper lip. It’s a shame because they could have learned a lot from her about how to speak the language of the next generation.Ranking: Neutral
Borkowski’s view on Harry…
Harry is perceived as a supportive husband and loving grandson, who wants to protect his wife from the unhappy fate that met his mother. Though many in the US want to see him reconciled to William, I don’t think there are many who question his motives for the split. Though some question the timing and the way of going about it, most see his intentions as those of a man keen to distance himself from an institution so anachronistic that it eats alive any who marry into it. It helps Harry that he talks so affectionately about his love for his grandmother, and this resonated with young people I spoke to: why is it so often that generational healing skips a generation? That grandparents understand their grandchildren more than their parents ever can? Ranking: Favorable
Borkowski’s view on the royal family…
The worst-hit has been to the royal family itself. Though they’ve written a classy communique suggesting that they will, like so many cancelled celebrities, listen and learn, the interview has been highly destructive nonetheless. Our survey found that the interview changed people’s opinions of the royal family even more than it did Harry and Meghan. This means that Harry and Meghan’s interview hurt the royal family more than it helped them – about 10% more. With #AbolishTheMonarchy trending, we are about to see how good the royal family’s crisis PR outfit is. Whatever you think of Meghan, everyone felt the heaviness of that interview. It was palpable. And the royal family’s reputation is suffering from the responsibility being placed squarely on their shoulders.
There’s one good thing going for the royal family. As any parent knows, they can curry favour – as their latest letter does – simply by reminding the couple how much they are loved and how sad they are about the situation. This does not imply they’ve learned a single thing from the couple’s critiques. Yet the myth of the ungrateful child is stronger and more loathsome than that of the bad parent. (As Larkin said, ‘they fuck you up, your mum and dad’.) No doubt some young people will wince at the guilt trip in the royal family’s response – we only proclaim unconditional love when it is most conditional. Ranking: Very unfavourable
Prince Harry and Meghan’s TV interview in which they talked of racism, neglect and feuding inside the royal family is the biggest challenge to the British monarchy this century, but supporters say it will survive, at least while Elizabeth is queen.
Meghan and Harry’s accusations underscore just how hard the taxpayer-funded institution, which traces its roots through 1,000 years of British and English history, has found it to adapt to a meritocratic world and intense media scrutiny.
The monarchy, headed by Queen Elizabeth, will try to ride out the turmoil and then quietly reform – as it did in the abdication crisis in 1936 when Edward VIII gave up his throne for American divorcee Wallis Simpson, or in the public anger following the death of Harry’s mother Princess Diana in 1997.
But there may be lasting damage, and with Britain nearing the end of its second Elizabethan age, a looming conflict of generations.
“This is a grim moment, there’s no doubt, for the family,” a former senior royal aide told Reuters.
“It’s very easy in these moments – and we are in a moment – to think dark thoughts about the future of the monarchy. I think it’s pretty secure, but there’s no denying that this is a meaningful blow and a difficult crisis for them to navigate.”
Plotting a path out of the crisis will fall to Elizabeth, 94, her son and heir Prince Charles, 72, and his eldest son Prince William, 38, plus a small group of advisers such as the queen’s private secretary Edward Young, 54, and Charles’ private secretary Clive Alderton, 53.
Ultimately the final decision will rest with Elizabeth – effectively chairman of “the Firm” – with input from Charles and William, though they will also have guidance from advisers and could consult Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Those top three royals gathered at Sandringham, the monarch’s country retreat, in early 2020 to hash out a possible compromise for Harry and Meghan as they stepped back from official duties.
Around 40 hours after the interview aired, Elizabeth issued a statement to say the royals were saddened by the challenging experiences of Harry and Meghan and promised to privately address revelations about a racist remark about their son.
Throughout its history, the monarchy has had to cope with wars, revolution and civil strife. But in the last century, the greatest threat has come from within its own ranks.
The abdication crisis unexpectedly propelled George VI, a shy man who had a stammer, onto the throne in a turn of events which ultimately led to his daughter Elizabeth II, now 94, becoming queen, a role she has held for a record 69 years.
During that time, the greatest existential threat came in the tumult of the 1990s, when the institution struggled to cope with scandals and wrecked marriages, not least that of Charles to the late Diana.
After the death of Diana, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair convinced Charles to persuade the queen to come to London to be seen to address the nation, though there were tensions then between the PM’s team and the Palace’s advisers.
Blair felt the Palace had been slow to respond and parachuted his own PR chief in to help it deal with the crisis.
There are concerns the monarchy is again being pushed to the precipice – this time due to accusations of racism and neglect by Meghan and Harry, the sixth-in-line to the throne and younger brother of future king, William.
“The royal family has faced far greater challenges in its existence and although front pages are fulminating with the hype that this is the greatest crisis that’s hit the royal family, that’s tosh,” Mark Borkowski, one of Britain’s leading public relations experts, told Reuters.
Novelist Hilary Mantel, whose trilogy about the court of Tudor King Henry VIII garnered two Booker prizes, likened the royal family to pandas, “expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment”.
“But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at?” Mantel wrote in a 2013 essay. “Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage.”
Harry admitted he had felt confined.
“I was trapped but I didn’t know I was trapped,” he said. “Trapped within the system, like the rest of my family are. My father and my brother, they’re trapped. They don’t get to leave and I have huge compassion for that.”
Polls show the British public overwhelmingly support the queen, and even republicans admit there is absolutely no prospect of any constitutional upheaval while Elizabeth is monarch.
But approval for Charles – who Harry said he felt had let him down – is much lower.
The furore comes in the midst of a “culture war”, often portrayed as a rift between an older generation wishing to protect Britain’s history and heritage from a “woke” youth, who see their elders as blocking moves to end racial and social injustice.
A snap survey carried out after the interview indicated that the British public’s sympathies lay more with the queen and other royal family members than with Harry and Meghan, but were split on whether the couple had been treated unfairly, with younger people tending to take the couple’s side while those over 65 did not.
Borkowski said the generation who grew up when Elizabeth came to the throne were dying out and the monarchy had to think about its future.
“This throws up many, many questions that need to be answered because of what Meghan and Harry have unveiled by opening up some wounds and pitching a battle in the heat of the culture wars,” he said.
The Daily Beast
The last time that the impending demise of the British monarchy was proclaimed with real conviction, it was outside the flower-strewn gates of Kensington Palace, as a shell-shocked nation absorbed the tragic death of Princess Diana.
Such was the global and national anger at the monarchy in the strange weeks before and after Diana’s funeral, that it really did seem possible the whole edifice of gilt and gold might topple to the ground and be revealed as nothing more than a moth-eaten music hall set.
Ironically, it was Queen Elizabeth, the figurehead of the institution of monarchy that was being indicted for its cruelty hourly on the news, who came to the rescue, confounding the critics and republicans with her famous “as a grandmother” speech. She reportedly received help on its composition from that master of ’90s spin, Tony Blair.
Twenty-three years later, the royal family finds itself in another existential crisis following its dismal failure to keep Meghan and Harry in the Firm.
This crisis is very different from the Diana crisis or the abdication crisis of 1936. To borrow from the language of pathology, the ailing royal corpus’ plight in both of those earlier disasters was acute (severe and sudden in onset: think a broken bone); now, however, it is living with a chronic problem. Chronic conditions are long-developing syndromes, such as osteoporosis or cancer—and the royal family is a patient that is sick and has long been getting sicker.
The arrival of Harry and Meghan on the scene promised a dusting of humanity and glitter to distract the punters from the essential absurdity of a 21st-century monarchy, not to mention its irrelevance to their lives. Their untimely departure has only served, however, to reveal the royal establishment’s dire, possibly terminal, condition in an even starker light.
Senior courtiers’ and aides’ answer to this, so far, seems to be that they will throw the other royals at the problem.
Apparently dubbed the “magnificent seven” by palace officials, the core group of working royals is now William and Kate, Charles and Camilla, Edward and Sophie Wessex, and the redoubtable Princess Anne.
The Mirror reported this week that they are to be pushed forward as soon as the pandemic eases, and will be under orders to put on a “united front” for the monarchy (Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the veracity of the claim to The Daily Beast).
They do undoubtedly number seven.
But magnificent? Really?
Critics would say it’s harder to think of a paler and staler representation of Britishness. And it’s not entirely clear whether William and Kate fancy the rest of their lives being a never-ending treadmill of opening civic centers and gyms. They have long been criticized for their lowly work rate, which tends to hover at around 150 public engagements per annum (this sounds like quite a bit until you factor in that they’ll often do three or even four engagements on one day).
Mark Borkowski, the British crisis management veteran who has a longstanding fascination with the branding of the royals, told The Daily Beast that the departure of Harry and Meghan needs to be seen in the context of “the bigger question,” which is what happens when the queen dies.
When things have gone wrong for the royals in the past, he pointed out, it has always been the queen who has “put everything back on track.” Charles, who is not held in the same affection or respect, won’t be able to do that as easily.
“The William and Harry project was shaping up to be something that was presenting royals in a touchy-feely way. Harry and Meghan’s departure accelerates, to a young and mobile audience, the impression that the monarchy cannot truly modernize,” he said.
Borkowski does not see the monarchy, which has “an inbuilt ability to protect itself,” falling, but he said it risks becoming a “heritage brand.”
Meghan and Harry’s departure should be “a wake-up call” to the monarchy to start thinking about how it can stay relevant.
It is time to start thinking about the future again, and, he suggested, “the future is Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.”
Robert Lacey, the royal historian who acts as an adviser for the Netflix show The Crown and whose most recent book, “Battle of Brothers,” chronicles the painful collapse of Harry and William’s fraternal bond, concurs.
Lacey said, “We have already seen a coming to the fore of not just Prince George but of all the Cambridge children. Two years ago, I suspect that William and Catherine would never have foreseen their children being interviewed on television at such a tender age, albeit in the context of a friendly chat with ‘Uncle’ David Attenborough. They probably would not have imagined putting their children on Instagram either, but needs must.”
Lacey added, “Prince Charles’ vision of the slimmed-down monarchy depended on his two sons with their wives and families providing the twin pillars of the monarchy—to the exclusion of the various Kents and Gloucesters and Yorks. The departure of Harry and Meghan has left a big gap to fill.”
Until George and his siblings come on stream, however, the palace will have to think of other ways to retain the love of the people.
One suggestion floated by Simon Jenkins, a former chairman of both English Heritage and the National Trust, was that the royals should give the 42-acre gardens of Buckingham Palace, right in the middle of London, to the people.
In the midst of what sometimes feels to be a never-ending pandemic, with their diverse subjects needing outdoor space like never before, a grand and useful gesture might just beat one more Zoom with another rich white royal.
If the Sussexes play their cards right, PR and branding experts tell us, their foundation can flourish and make them celebrity ‘influencers’.
After Oprah, the deluge. The world has finally heard Meghan and Harry’s side of the story, but having told it, what next? How will they live the rest of their lives? Will they be enjoying the quiet life in Santa Monica raising their two children, secure more blockbuster deals with the streamers, or develop their own Royal reality show like Prince Edward? We surveyed brand, celebrity and PR consultants on both sides of the Pond about what the duo should do next.
“Looking at the headlines after last night’s interview, Meghan and Harry are currently the most famous couple on the planet right now,” says James Herring, CEO of branding consultancy Taylor Herring, whose clients have included the BBC and Disney. “What they don’t do is as important as what they do. It’s important that fame is all channelled into something that’s positive.”
“The epic polarisation is problematic,” says one LA-based Brit who worked on aspects of the couple’s Netflix deal. “In the US, she is a biracial woman, thrust into a cold, inflexible, hierarchical family who cold-shouldered her from the start – while the UK’s national press has had it in for her from the beginning. In the UK, she is a narcissistic, brattish, overly ambitious Hollywood climber, who married for a power grab and has a victim complex. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but there is an ugly seam of institutional racism and anti-Americanism in the UK, and certain corners of its media, which has snowballed to the extent that she can do no right across the UK media.”
And yet, the UK media is not the Sussexes’ game at all. The arrival of rapidly growing global streaming services like Netflix and Spotify has dramatically altered the power structure of the world’s media industry, with national TV, radio and newspapers competing with Spotify’s 345 million monthly users and Netflix 204 million global subscribers.
The Netflix audience is younger, more diverse and far more woke than the average UK media outlet. The £112 million deal the Sussexes struck with the streamer was initially about the money – as Harry told Oprah: “My family literally cut me off financially, and I had to afford security for us.” But if played correctly this could become a strategic move that places them in a new category of global influencer – former power players who are using TV to advance their agenda, including the Clintons and the Obamas.
“The production deals Netflix is signing with the Sussexes, the Clintons and the Obamas are far more significant that people realise,” explains Ed Waller, managing editor of the television industry bible C21. “Look at the programmes the Clintons are making – they are all about empowerment and ticking the right box on women, children and continuing a political legacy. A hit on Netflix is soft media power with a footprint far beyond borders, press statements or political campaigns. A lot of the programmes are aimed at kids.
“There’s a propaganda dimension. They’re not just trying to make money – it’s about changing minds. With the Sussexes, Netflix is associating itself with the people that its target audience aspires to and getting great access.”
Given the fallout from Sunday night, however, some advise extreme caution in turning up on screen again too soon. “Too much chatter around Netflix and their media career makes it easy for snipers to write off their desire for independence as a cash grab exercise,” says Herring. “They need to follow Diana’s playbook and put their spotlight onto causes that don’t get enough attention – just as she championed landmines and HIV when neither received media attention.
“She wrote the rule book of the modern royal. What we don’t want is the sequel to Sarah Ferguson’s Budgie the Helicopter series. There are lots of causes coming out of this pandemic underfunded and struggling as charitable donations have dried up. They can add the Meghan and Harry effect in terms of profile, awareness and fundraising.”
“They’ve done the right branding things by moving to LA,” says Rachel Caggiano, managing director of Ogilvy PR in Washington, DC. “You can merchandise, you can do everything off your celebrity – that’s what LA is built for. In the US, just be famous, wear some labels, do some interviews, we’ll be so happy to have you. They have zero obligations so that now they can 100 per cent focus on what they believe in.
“I see them being the Bill and Melinda Gates of their issues – they have such an amazing platform. Harry is going to make a big case over the storyline of their life, and how what happened to him as a child cannot happen to his family. His pitch – sheltering his wife and kids from racism and sexism – will reach younger audiences so well.”
Caggiano notes that the couple “have some very smart people advising them”. Team Sussex is headed up by chief of staff Catherine St-Laurent, an ex-Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation employee who also serves as executive director of their new non-profit organisation, and includes former Pinterest comms boss Christine Schirmer as head of communications.
Markle’s agent Nick Collins handles their film and TV work and they’ve employed PR agency Sunshine Sachs, whose founder Ken Sunshine worked for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns and represents the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jane Fonda and Natalie Portman. The Sussexes’ ability to pick the right people was underlined when, as soon as they left the UK, the Queen hired their former UK press officer Sara Latham.
For PR agent and author Mark Borkowski, who has worked on campaigns for Jimmy Page, Universal Music and Sir Cameron Mackintosh, “they’re doing exactly what they should – they have the perfect backdrop of a new child coming along, and having got rid of the Daily Mail, their accusations of bullying and lack of privacy have effectively been sanctioned by the courts. You have to think about Harry’s life. For me as a father – seeing those two boys walking behind their mother’s coffin – that is going to scar anybody.”
The key moment in understanding this, he argues, is the Queen’s Christmas messaging on Royal Christmas cards and during the Queen’s speech. On her table there are pictures of Kate, William, the kids, Charles and Camilla – the line of succession. Everyone else is a spare, and the spares have always struggled.
“Most of the women Harry was having romances with would never want the big job – they were British, the Tatler set, and knew they were looking at a life of opening health centres in Kettering on a wet Wednesday,” he explains. “Up comes this American who bought into the idea of a fairy tale prince. Now they are the future of the Royal Family. They want to create a foundation. He’s desperate to follow through on the work of his mother who disrupted the protocol of rigidity and service.”
The Royal family, Borkowski argues, have real issues with succession management as the boomers die out. The Queen has always represented the trusted brand, sacrifice, but Charles is anonymous. “How old will Charles be when he takes the throne? How old will William be when he eventually gets there?” says Borkowski.
“The Sussexes embrace global concerns. Their values are the Millennial and Gen Z values. You needed Harry and Meghan in the tent. Outside the tent – I’m sure they’ll be very successful. What the boomers and the editors and the chat show hosts hate – that’s irrelevant for the brand they’re building over the next 20-30 years. James Corden’s interview with Prince Harry garnered over 15 million views in its first week on YouTube, with the comments almost universally adoring.”
Opinion polls back this view up. Whilst a February YouGov poll found 46 per cent of the public thought the Oprah interview “inappropriate”, the generational split was dramatic. Fifty-two per cent of 18-24-year-olds thought giving the interview was fine, compared to 38 per cent of 25-49s, 20 per cent of 50-65s and just 11 per cent of those over 65. Breaking down the popularity of individual Royals, Harry and Meghan far outrank Charles and Camilla with Brits under 50, with approval ratings amongst 18-24s matching William and Kate.
A Morning Consult poll of Americans, meanwhile, found even the Queen’s corgis scored higher than Prince Charles. The Queen topped the poll with a favourability rating of 53 per cent followed by the Duchess of Cambridge at 49 per cent, Prince Harry at 46 per cent, Meghan at 45 per cent and William at 42 per cent. Then it’s the corgis, then it’s Charles.
For now, says Herring, they need to disappear for a while. “Every red carpet takes them five steps back,” he explains. “Every time they go to an event all of the snipers will reload and take aim. It will be an uncomfortable ride.”
The consensus? It seems the couple could evolve over the next 20 years into a kind of funky Bill and Melinda Gates. “They’re a hybrid brand so their foundation will probably mix mental health and planet concerns,” says Caggiano. “Boomers will struggle to see that’s important, but that’s not the couple’s demographic any more.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey could trigger “the start of a PR war”, public relations experts have warned. But it’s a battle Buckingham Palace is ill-equipped to win.
Accusations of racism and a lack of care over the Duchesses’ mental health struggles, sure to resonate with the couple’s target audience of young, liberal, progressive Americans, are toxic for the monarchy.
Meghan and Harry painted the institution as archaic and hostile to newcomers who look different and propose modern ways of using the royals’ “soft power.”
“The Palace is in a very difficult position,” said PR consultant Mark Borkowski. “They can’t respond publicly, but there will be private briefings.”
“They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They don’t have the freedom Meghan and Harry have in North America.”
Courtiers wanted to assess the damage before issuing a response. If individual royals were attacked, they could issue rebuttals. Prince Charles in particular will be deeply hurt by the claim that he “cut off” his son financially.
The pre-broadcast plan was to demonstrate, by the Queen and other senior figures’ busy programme of events this week, that “duty and service” is more valuable than a Hollywood megaphone.
Unnamed courtiers will present an alternative narrative, of how the royal household bent over backwards to welcome Meghan but found her impossible to satisfy and determined to impose a narrative of “victimhood”, leaping on every perceived slight.
Identifying the royal who allegedly said the couple’s child would be “too brown” and that would be a problem, is a threat the Sussexes now hold over the Palace if the fightback gets even dirtier.
Borkowski said: “Some of the accusations and some of the deeply personal insights into living inside a royal household will be judged, particularly by an American audience who are watching on primetime, as pretty shocking.”
“It certainly is their (the Sussexes) opportunity to give their side of the story, it’s depending on what is the counter view of that – we’ve already seen bullying accusations, this could be the start of a PR war.”
“Or it could be a moment for everybody to draw a line in the sand and start talking and trying to heal some wounds here, because the wounds are very deep.”
The healing appears a long way off.
It may be an American coronation of sorts.
When Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated and potentially explosive interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex airs in its primetime spot on Sunday evening, millions across the US are expected to watch. It will be the couple’s first interview since since stepping back from their royal duties in early 2020, but it could also mark the moment that the Sussexes evolve from British royalty to Hollywood elite.
“Having a big interview with these royals, or ex-royals, and having it done by Oprah Winfrey, begs the question – as it always does – who is the bigger star here, the interviewer or the interviewees?” said Robert Thompson, a professor of TV and film at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
While Meghan already had a successful career as an actor and was well known in the US before her marriage to Harry, since their move to the States last year the couple have dominated drugstore magazines and online gossip sites, all obsessed with tracking their lives in California as well as every twist and turn of their rifts with the royal family, which appeared to deepen even further this week.
While some in the UK have been concerned over the timing of the interview, as Prince Philip remains in hospital, commentators in the US have mainly focused on the claims that the palace appeared to be attempting a “smear” campaign prior to it airing, and the further revelations that could be in store.
“You’ve said some pretty shocking things here,” Winfrey says to the pair in one teaser clip from the two-hour interview released this week.
“How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today?” Winfrey asks Meghan at the start of another. “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent,” Meghan responds.
Having secured lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify that will finance their new independent lives, the couple have been speaking out on a range of hot-button issues in the US, from racism and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd to voting rights.
A January cover story in People magazine credited the “progressive” couple with having “changed the royal family forever” and continuing to “shake up the monarchy” while settling into their California lives with their young son, Archie.
In the interview, Britain, as well as the couple, will be under the microscope. Winfrey is expected to question the pair on the racism Meghan faced while living in the UK, how the couple felt “hounded” by the British tabloid press, and the role these played in their decision to move stateside.
“I know that many women of color have been fairly horrified by the undercurrents of racism and classism that have defined much of the coverage of Meghan Markle, particularly in the British press,” said Keli Goff, a US columnist.
Maiysha Kai, managing editor of the Glow Up and co-host of The Root Presents: It’s Lit, said the couple had been strategic in their choice of interviewer.
“I don’t think their divestment from daily obligations of being royal means they’re going to drop some big betrayal but I do think there’s an opportunity here to clear the record a bit on what the world came to know as ‘Megxit’, a term we’ve all used but is implicitly racist,” she said.
“Meghan’s color should have been irrelevant to the issue, but then we saw that despite the endorsement of the marriage by the royal family, we saw a backlash from some in the media and the public.”
Winfrey has played a prominent role the couple’s life in the US, initially helping them to find a temporary home (the Beverly Hills estate of her friend Tyler Perry, the film producer). Now, the Sussexes and Winfrey are neighbors in a seaside Santa Barbara county enclave, home to a slew of Hollywood heavyweights, and they even exchanged Christmas presents.
To complete what Thompson called “a ritualistic transition”, the couple will “confront stepping into the new territory and stepping out of the old”. And it’s Winfrey, as she has for decades with countless others, who will be a ceremonial guide, and is expected to bring her loyal audience of millions to watch.
“A primetime Oprah interview maybe one of the really symbolic moments of arrival because Oprah is, and always was, always about reinvention,” Thompson added.
Though a recent Morning Consult poll found that the Queen remains the favorite royal among Americans, with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, second, Harry and Meghan rank highly, coming third and fourth respectively. But whether they will draw audiences to rival those of the Netflix drama The Crown (seen by 78 million households worldwide, according to the streaming service) remains to be seen.
Buckingham Palace announced last month that Harry and Meghan would not be returning as working members of the royal family following their 12-month trial separation. The statement meant the couple, and their son Archie, would formally – and finally – step away from royal duties.
Mark Borkowski, a British brand expert, believes this formalized break could give the couple the freedom they need to complete their re-invention or rebranding in more contemporary terms.
“The point is, they are on a journey and much depends on what momentum they get around them,” Borkowski says. “This is about where she could be in 15 or 20 years time. Could she have a shot at the presidency? I think she probably could.”
Meghan Markle will ‘raise the issue of race in Britain’ and the ‘impact that living in UK had on her mental health’ during Oprah chat, reveals ITV News Royal Editor amid fury at channel paying ‘£1m to air interview’ while Philip is sick
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will discuss the issue of race in Britain with Oprah Winfrey, it was revealed today.
The Duchess of Sussex will also open up about her self-esteem while living in the UK after her husband claimed the pressure of being in London was ‘destroying’ his mental health so they needed to emigrate to the US and quit as frontline royals.
Meghan, whose mother Doria is African-American and father Thomas is white, became the first mixed race member of the Royal Family after walking down the aisle with Harry at Windsor in May 2018.
ITV’s Royal Editor Chris Ship has revealed that the issue will be discussed with Oprah in the tell-all interview due to be broadcast on CBS in the US on Sunday night and on ITV1 in the UK on Monday at 8pm.
‘I know that she is going to mention things like mental health and the impact of being in the UK had on her mental health. I know that she’s going to mention about the press intrusion, but also she’s going to raise the issue of race in Britain’, Mr Ship told Good Morning Britain.
It is another hint that Meghan will not hold back after a trailer for the show revealed that she calls her 20 months as a royal ‘almost unsurvivable’ and the interviewer brands her account ‘shocking’ and proof her friend was at ‘breaking point’ before moving to California. Oprah also asks if she was ‘silenced’ by the royals.
During the teaser a visibly pregnant Meghan, wearing a $4,700 black Armani dress and £13,000 bracelet belonging to Diana, says nothing, and is only shown looking emotional or nodding while either cradling her baby bump or holding on to her husband’s hand on location in Santa Barbara.
Last year Ms Markle praised the Black Lives Matter protests in America as a ‘beautiful thing’ and she and Harry both spoke out against alleged structural racism in Britain while promoting Black History Month in the UK from their £11million Los Angeles mansion.
ITV has today been branded ‘deplorable’ after it bought up the Duke and Duchess and Sussex’s ‘grossly insensitive’ two-hour interview with Oprah despite warnings its broadcast could detonate a ‘diplomatic bomb’ if the Duke of Edinburgh’s health deteriorates. Philip is starting his third week in hospital after being moved to a cardiac unit, and hasn’t seen his wife the Queen for more than a fortnight.
The Oprah deal is said to have cost the broadcaster around £1million, having beaten Sky to the rights after talks with ViacomCBS were completed yesterday. It was a largely open field in the UK after the BBC declined to broadcast it.
But some experts have questioned whether ITV will make any money from the deal because businesses may not want to advertise during the ‘toxic’ two hour show as Philip battles heart problems in hospital and claims the public have more affection for him than Meghan and Harry.
Some ITV viewers have already vowed to boycott the show completely due to the ‘horrendous timing’.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, who was editor of International Who’s Who for 25 years, told MailOnline today: ‘ITV’s decision to purchase the rights to Harry and Meghan’s highly sensational interview with Oprah is deplorable. Who knows how matters linked to the Duke’s health will play out over the coming days. ITV have made the wrong decision and they would do well to await events before deciding when to screen it here’.
But the couple’s decision to sign up with a commercial broadcaster means they are unlikely to be able to stop it, with PR guru Mark Borkowski declaring: ‘The timing is just horrendous. This could be a real reputational mess for everybody involved. I think brands have to take a considered view about whether they want their advertising anywhere near this’.
Royal expert Phil Dampier, author of Royally Suited Harry and Meghan in their Own Words said: ‘They can only hope and pray that the Duke recovers and goes home. If something happens to him it would look terrible. Even if Harry and Meghan wanted to stop it they probably can’t and it’s out of their hands’.
One TV insider said that the interview would be a ‘diplomatic bomb’ if it goes ahead and Philip’s health worsens, telling the Mirror: ‘CBS has sold millions of dollars worth of advertising around the interview, but bosses are aware of the delicacy of the Duke’s health.’ The newspaper’s Royal Editor Russell Myers added: ‘The history is there with these types of interview – they never end well – this is a disaster waiting to happen’.
But Prince Charles’ biographer Tom Bower hopes it goes ahead. He said: ‘I think ITV was right to buy the interview. We want to see how Harry and Meghan have sold their souls and are wilfully destroying themselves’.
MailOnline has asked ITV to comment as critics demanded they reverse their decision to show it.
The sit-down, which Oprah promises will be ‘shocking’, has been extended by half an hour, from 90 minutes to two hours, to allow CBS to rake in more money from advertising – a 30-second slot is reported to be costing $200,000, around £144,000. ITV will also set to try to cash in on the deal with up to 24 minutes of advertising time available during the 120 minute show.
But media consultant Chris Hayward believes that ITV may not make money from the £1million deal, however, the broadcaster will believe it will be worth because of the press coverage and getting one over rivals including Sky and streaming giants Netflix and Amazon Prime.
He said: ‘If the idea for ITV was to buy it to draw in advertisers, then I don’t think it will work because Meghan and Harry’s decision to exile abroad is a Marmite subject. But ITV won’t worry about that if they get a big audience because this is about making a big noise and securing one of the biggest TV shows of the year’. He added: ‘This is about PR, and battling Netflix and Amazon’.
The row over the Sussexes’ bid to break America with Oprah’s help came as:
- Experts warn that ITV is taking a gamble by buying the Oprah interview because businesses may be put off advertising during the show with viewers also vowing to boycott it;
- A sombre-looking Prince Harry and Meghan drive themselves around California with her mother Doria after recording Oprah interview about their ‘unbelievably tough’ exit from ‘un-survivable’ royal life;
- The Royal family are ‘united in prayers’ for Prince Philip, 99, as he begins first full day under care of specialist heart doctors at St Bartholomew’s hospital and experts claim he may be there for six weeks;
- Philip’s poor health means the royals have ‘more important things to worry about’ than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s ‘shocking’ bombshell interview, Buckingham Palace aides insisted;
Brand guru Mark Borkowski told MailOnline that going ahead while Prince Philip is severely ill ‘could herald terrible consequences’ for the royal couple, and damage the ‘caring’ brand they want to build in the US that experts believe could be worth £1billion.
He said: ‘A sensible call would be to put the encounter on hold. It would demonstrate sensitivity. Which lies at the heart of their brand. However the genie is out of the bottle, it might be impossible to halt transmission as it’s scheduled. From the shape of the hype this is going to be a disruptive storm. I believe this might not end well. It just can’t be all about their narrative whilst Harry’s grandfather is ill’.
He added: ‘But I don’t think ITV will lose money. The eyeballs are on this huge TV moment. But the downside for all involved is huge if Prince Philip takes a turn for the worse. No one knows outside Buckingham Palace knows the true extent of his health emergency.
‘Anybody who looks at this through the optics of a caring family, even a family who are estranged from one another, it’s very uncomfortable as you edge towards Sunday’.
‘Surely the disruption, particularly to the Queen… but they’re going ahead with this juggernaut.’
If Philip’s health were to worsen, Mr Borkowski said Harry and Meghan’s fate would be ‘in the lap of the gods’.
‘If you were strategically giving advice about mitigating reputational damage, you would show huge empathy by postponing,’ he said.
Mr Borkowski said a deterioration in Philip’s health would also raise serious issues for ITV as to whether the screening should go ahead in the UK, and could cause problems for advertisers airing commercials during the programme.
Royal biographer Robert Jobson told MailOnline: ‘With the Duke of Edinburgh clearly very unwell, the fact that the couple plan to go ahead with airing their self-indulgent, no holds barred interview with chat show queen Oprah Winfrey makes them appear heartless, thoughtless and supremely selfish.
‘For US broadcast network CBS this interview is a coup, all about securing big viewing figures and big advert sales around the airing of their exclusive interview. So even if they wanted to Harry and Meghan probably couldn’t dictate terms to Oprah Winfrey and the network now. Too much has been invested. I can’t see them having the clout to pull it’. He added: ‘This is the problem when royals swap big bucks for duty and sign up to big paying commercial contracts. They lose the power to dictate terms’.
Harry and Meghan are being urged to ask CBS to postpone the broadcast of their bombshell interview after the Duke of Edinburgh was moved to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London because of ‘a pre-existing heart condition’ hours after a 30-second trailer of the Sussexes’ tell-all interview with their friend Oprah was released.
With Philip set to be in hospital for the rest of the week at least or even longer, royal experts and fans have suggested that Harry should step in and ask for a postponement ‘out of respect’.
Other royal experts have suggested that Prince Charles may have reassured his father about Harry and the continuing turmoil in the Royal Family caused by Megxit during a visit a week ago.
While Grace Armstrong-Jones tweeted: ‘I would hope, given his grandfather’s deteriorating health, that Harry would ask Oprah to postpone the broadcast of the interview. This is the last thing the Royal Family need with Prince Phillip so unwell’. Sandra Meier said: ‘Prince Philip is seriously ill. I hope CBS or Oprah will postpone or cancel Harry and Meghan’s interview’. Another wrote: ‘Out of respect to Prince Philip, they should postpone this fantasy drama fest’.
MailOnline has asked CBS to comment.