If you missed it, you can read about Chapters 1-5 here.
Moving right along, the next few chapters we’re going to cover are basically the three years in-between Meghan’s divorce and the beginning of her relationship with Prince Harry. Admittedly, I made it into Chapter 18 last night before I absolutely had to go to bed, so I’ve seen a bit how the beginning of the Sussexes’ relationship is portrayed and read the rundown on the basic Windsor background. I’m flagging that because there are inaccuracies, some of which are minor and some of which are dangling rumors that can be easily disregarded. As such, it’s important to take what Bower is writing with a grain of salt because I’m not in a position to fact check the minutia of the pre-Harry years in Meghan’s life.
The basic gist is that around 2013/2014, Meghan began to position herself as an influencer and became focused on “social climbing” in not only Toronto, but LA, New York, and London. Before we get into the actual anecdotes provided, I want to level-set that while this period of time in Meghan’s life is portrayed pretty negatively, there’s context to it which is worth understanding. Meghan wasn’t a well-known actress and her television series, her one real acting coup, was several seasons in. Realistically, she knew that in a couple years’ time she would be unemployed once more, older, and potentially financially vulnerable again. Her establishing an online brand was in fact professionally savvy, and the extent to which her philanthropic work was self-motivated is worth considering, yes, but not particularly groundbreaking in the grand scheme of Hollywood PR moves. In other words, she was laying the groundwork for a second act and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The rub comes, of course, that once Meghan entered the Royal Family, her charitable endeavors stopped being about her or her “brand,” and as we’ve seen, that became an issue. Meghan was either unable or unwilling – depending on who you talk to – to understand what her plot of land was in the overall Windsor matrix.
I’m not going to get too in the weeds on the blow-by-blow of Meghan attempting to create commercial deals or standing up The Tig, but I will dig into a few issues I think are interesting given what we know is coming.
With regards to Thomas Markle, Bower says that Meghan’s father was offended that when he asked her for money, Meghan responded that she’d talked to her financial planner and said planner had flagged for her that she’d given him $20,000 over the last two years. Thomas didn’t care for the fact that she was keeping such meticulous track and thought that was unfair given that he’d provided money for her education and 2011 wedding. On this issue, I’m siding with Meghan. It’s not a character flaw to keep track of your money – in fact, had Thomas been doing so, he might not have had to file for bankruptcy multiple times. And if you donated thousands of dollars to your daughter’s wedding only to find yourself in a financial bind a few years later, then maybe that wasn’t a sound decision in the first place. The money a parent chooses to invest into their children doesn’t come with a promised ROI. And again, Meghan was herself potentially facing a period of professional and financial insecurity – arguably, she quite literally couldn’t afford to keep sinking thousands into a person who has systemic money problems.
The second issue worth covering is Meghan’s relationship with Cory Vitiello, a Canadian chef with whom Meghan was in a relationship from 2014-2016, including a period of time when they lived together in Toronto. Bower’s book alleges that Meghan may have cheated on Cory and that their relationship was on-again/off-again. The former issue is very much raised in the context of Meghan social climbing…as in, she was on the lookout for boyfriends/future husbands who would be more beneficial to her. Cory isn’t quoted in the book, but I get the sense from the information provided that he did speak to Bower. I could be wrong, but there’s a lot of insight into what was going through his head at various points, as well as information on private conversations that happened between the two of them (for example, Cory accusing Meghan of cheating on him). The basic gist is that Meghan changed a lot over their two years together and by 2016 had essentially turned into a very critical diva.
I don’t have much to say on the Cory issue. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t have a lot of judgment for how people may have behaved in the context of former romantic relationships. The wrong match can bring out the worst in just about anyone, and in this case, this was an unmarried, childless couple who eventually ended their relationship. I think that’s all firmly between them. And, much like how I like to point out in the Sussex v. Windsor drama, we don’t truly have the Windsors’ version of events, in this case, we don’t have Meghan’s. I don’t know about you, but I’d probably take issue with my exes’ hot takes on shared history. Fortunately, I don’t have to read them in print(!)
Next, let’s get into this UN Women thing. When Meghan first began dating Harry, her experience volunteering for the UN and having made a speech a few years back was very much a point in her favor. For me at least, I thought it indicated an interest in humanitarian issues and philanthropy that aligned nicely with her future royal work, and given Harry’s passion for Africa, was significant common ground between them. Flash forward to October 2018, when Meghan was in the midst of the Oceania tour – and newly pregnant with Archie – there was a weird incident during an engagement in Fiji where it was reported Meghan showed hostility towards a representative from UN Women, an organization she had famously worked with. At the time it seemed so random, and there was conflicting information. I looked back on my Fiji posts and I don’t even mention it there, so that info either came out later or I didn’t feel I had enough clarity to include it.
But Bower has a theory. Basically, Meghan began working with UN Women in 2014, right around the time they launched the HeForShe campaign with Emma Watson. In March 2015, Meghan was asked to address a conference held during the UN General Assembly – aka her famous UN speech. Her remarks were received well, Meghan was pleased, etc. Great. However, after the event, Bower alleges that when Meghan asked to be introduced to Emma Watson, the UN organizer refused. Likewise, she asked to be promoted from UN Advocate to UN Ambassador, the latter being the title A-list celebrities usually hold when working with the organization. In response, Meghan resigned from HeForShe and quietly cut ties with UN Women. After the split, according to Bower, she continued to highlight her work with UN Women as part of her philanthropic resume without noting it had ended.
“Meghan’s cause [with the UN] could not have been helped by giving the impression to some people that while she did speak about politics, philosophy and ideology, her apparent all-consuming passion for the empowerment of women was in reality focused on self-promotion and the empowerment of Meghan Markle.”
This also provides context for why, in the autumn of 2018, she was uninterested in allowing UN Women to amplify its ties to her once she was a high-profile member of the Royal Family. She had apparently objected to their presence at her engagement and was livid that they were in fact there, thus getting her residual star dust.
On the one hand, I kind of get it. If you felt like you weren’t deemed good enough by an organization back in the day, it’s a little irritating to have them circle back later on once you’ve moved up in the world. I can certainly understand the petty instinct of wanting to extract revenge. HOWEVER, we’re talking about the United Nations and humanitarian work. And their great crime was withholding a promotion after less than a year of work and investment. In the professional world, that’s not so much an insult as it is a reflection of reality. So, yeah, I find this narrative believable in light of what we saw play out in Fiji and it certainly lends credence to the idea Meghan had delusions of grandeur. At the very least, we’re missing credible information as to why she found this personally insulting.
All of that said, let’s circle back to Emma Watson. If you’ve been reading about this book in the news or following its discussion on Twitter then you’ve probably seen this debate before. The distilled version is that Bower alleges on another occasion, Meghan requested to meet Emma Watson and the actress turned down the request. But there’s a photo of the two together. The picture is making the rounds on the internet as having been taken at the same event Bower claims Meghan was snubbed. I don’t know – I can’t verify where this came from. It looks like an old Instagram pic. Whether these are conflicting UN events or whether Bower is flat out wrong, I can’t say. But, there is proof that at some point the two met.
In the latter half of 2015/first half of 2016, Bower alleges that Meghan’s ego had gotten out of control. The Tig was doing well, she’d had a high-profile gig with the UN, and she had more say in her character development on Suits. In the midst of this, Meghan was looking for celebrity brand endorsement deals, and while she wasn’t able to secure Ralph Lauren or something of that ilk, she did snag a deal with Reitmans, a Canadian retail company specializing in women’s clothing with a reasonable price point. There’s a lot of fodder about Meghan being extremely difficult to deal with in the conceptualizing phase of the project. More importantly, though, Bower includes this:
“Two hours had been allocated for completing her hair and makeup and, at her last-minute request, to paint her nails. Animatedly during that session, Meghan talked about life with Felix, her trusted hairdresser. The manicurist, a women in her late thirties, joined the conversation. According to those involved, Meghan was rude and unpleasant. The manicurist was stunned. There was silence as her nails were finished. The manicurist was dismissed. She left the location in tears. ‘This unusual situation caused me stress,’ she later confessed. ‘It still haunts me.’”
I’m highlighting the manicurist over Meghan’s disagreement with Reitman executives and contracted creatives because I think there’s a clear difference. Going back and forth in a professional capacity over a shared project is, to me, very different than being so rude to someone in a service position that they are pushed to tears. It’s a bit like the adage that you can tell everything you need to know about someone based on how they speak to the wait staff at a restaurant. I firmly agree with that. Based on the inclusion of a quote and the details provided in the narrative, this doesn’t feel made up to me, and in my opinion, this is by far more damning than the idea that Meghan made repeated demands about getting the right camera angle to a director.
The long and short of it is that several people involved with her Reitmans campaign described her as arrogant, unkind, condescending, and a bully. That sounds a lot like what we’ve heard from her tenure inside the Royal Family from staff. That can potentially be read as Bower cherry-picking anecdotes to feed into his preferred narrative, but again, in this case, there are specific people going on the record by name and corroborating each other’s stories. If this is a misrepresentation of facts, then it’s very well done, because this reads authentic to me.
So, that’s where we net out in mid-2016, shortly before her meeting with Harry. We’ll pick up there next time.