BEL MOONEY says the first episode of Meghan’s Spotify podcast sounded warning bells from the start 


That the Duchess of Sussex invited tennis superstar Serena Williams to be the first guest on her long-awaited podcast series, Archetypes, was no surprise.

It was high time that the £18million deal with Spotify, signed in 2020, got off the ground, and of course the first episode – entitled The Misconception of Ambition – had to be a cracker. And certainly the potential was there for two high-profile women to do as billed – investigate the ‘labels that try to hold women back’.

Since Serena is one of the most successful and fearless players in the history of her sport, I was keen to hear her analyse her ambition and desire to win, and to reflect on the personal cost of her dazzling triumphs; to find out what originally put the steel in her spine and to hear her serve up some devastating backhand shots against male put-downs.

But it didn’t happen. This bizarre, saccharine and faintly queasy schmooze-fest between Meghan and ‘my dear friend Serena’ (as we hear over and over again) tells us next to nothing at all about the making of Serena Williams’s towering ambition.

What’s more, the encounter ends with Miss Williams breathing huskily: ‘Above all, I’m just a mom and I love being a mom.’

Oh, come back Martina Navratilova and teach this self-congratulatory pair how to stop their inane gushing and talk tough about what matters!   

This bizarre, saccharine and faintly queasy schmooze-fest between Meghan and ¿my dear friend Serena¿ (as we hear over and over again) tells us next to nothing at all about the making of Serena Williams¿s towering ambition

This bizarre, saccharine and faintly queasy schmooze-fest between Meghan and ‘my dear friend Serena’ (as we hear over and over again) tells us next to nothing at all about the making of Serena Williams’s towering ambition

What¿s more, the encounter ends with Miss Williams breathing huskily: ¿Above all, I¿m just a mom and I love being a mom.¿

What’s more, the encounter ends with Miss Williams breathing huskily: ‘Above all, I’m just a mom and I love being a mom.’

Meghan Markle and Serena Williams (pictured in 2014) first met at a Super Bowl party in 2010 and eventually became close friends

Meghan Markle and Serena Williams (pictured in 2014) first met at a Super Bowl party in 2010 and eventually became close friends

Let me be clear, Meghan’s podcast series is about a subject close to my heart, and I wanted to be impressed. Reading some of the abuse dished out to the Tory leadership contender Liz Truss recently, I see how a woman who demonstrates ambition, in politics or any other arena, tends to be smeared as strident and/or stupid.

It can be intolerable. So the idea of a podcast series – which will reach a colossal audience because of Meghan’s fame – taking down the prejudice and smashing what she calls ‘the double standards women face when labelled “ambitious”’ – yes, that certainly appealed.

Yet from the beginning, the warning bells started to ring. This podcast is yet another example of the inescapable truth that Britain and the USA are two nations divided by a common language. No British broadcaster would sanction the almost incomprehensible giggling and gushing between Meghan and her guest that excludes the listener from any real understanding or intimacy.

I waited in vain for sensitive, searching questions about Serena’s upbringing and her legendary father Richard’s influence.

Was she encouraged to be competitive against her sister Venus? Was the ambition inculcated in her from childhood something that weighed too heavily? How interesting her thoughts on that would have been.

But 11 minutes pass before we hear a word from the former world No1 and holder of 23 grand slam titles. Instead, we are treated to a long preamble from the Duchess, who makes it clear that this podcast series isn’t just about distinguished guests, but about ‘me, too’.

‘I’ll be talking to household names, experts and cultural commentators…and of course…’ – here there’s a knowing chuckle from the former actress –‘…I know a thing or two about those labels myself.’

She continues: ‘I hope that my own lived experience will help other women open up… to reveal the truth that none of us are alone in this world and the future is something we get to write together.’

Harry and Meghan hold their son Archie while visiting Cape Town in South Africa on September 25, 2019

Harry and Meghan hold their son Archie while visiting Cape Town in South Africa on September 25, 2019

Meghan Markle has declared that she is going to 'be myself and talk and be unfiltered' in her new Spotify podcast

Meghan Markle has declared that she is going to ‘be myself and talk and be unfiltered’ in her new Spotify podcast

‘I was SO tired!’ Meghan Markle says she ‘waddled around’ during pregnancies – while praising Serena Williams for looking ‘sexy’ while expecting on her new Archetypes podcast 

Meghan Markle has revealed she was ‘so tired’ during her pregnancies – while praising Serena Williams for looking ‘sexy’ while expecting on her new Archetypes podcast.

In the first episode of the podcast, entitled ‘The Misconception of Ambition with Serena Williams’, the Duchess of Sussex spoke to the tennis legend, who is one of her close friends, about double standards women face when they are labelled ‘ambitious’.

In one clip, Serena spoke about how she ‘loved being pregnant’, with Meghan going on to praise her for posing naked on the cover of Vanity Fair with ‘that belly chain.’

The royal mother-of-two continued: ‘Forget it. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just like everything. You made pregnancy looks so sexy. I just waddled around. I was just tired. So tired. Oh my god.’

Meghan welcomed her first son Archie Harrison in May 2019, while her daughter Lilibet was born in June last year. Meanwhile Serena had her daughter Olympia in 2017.

Starting the discussion on pregnancy, Serena said: ‘I was like, oh, I love this. The nothing, nothing’s oh, I’m so happy. Like, I was literally.’

Meghan went on to refer to the athlete’s 2017 cover of Vanity Fair, in which Serena posed naked with a piece of jewellery draped across her body.

She said: ‘Oh, with the belly chain.’

Serena added: ‘One of…Those women.’

And after the Duchess said ‘forget it’, Serena added: ‘I was the annoying one. You were under a lot of stress.’

Meghan agreed, saying: ‘Yeah, it’s true.’

Really? It would take a saint not to scoff, because one very rich woman talking to another very rich woman won’t be doing much to write the future of a single mum struggling to raise her child in Downtown Los Angeles any time soon.

Let’s not forget that baby shower, when a pregnant Meghan flew to New York City in February 2019 for the glittering event hosted by Serena Williams, who reportedly footed the bill.

It was held in the $75,000-per-night penthouse of the Mark Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Do these indulged females really believe that their ‘lived experience’ has any relevance at all to the lives of ordinary women?

Instead of treating the podcast interview (she calls it a ‘chat’) with Serena seriously, Meghan uses it as a vehicle to air her old grievances – the kind of gossipy, headline-making stuff that will make the Spotify execs sigh with relief that their investment in the Duchess has delivered.

Take, for example, Meghan’s claim that she had never been made to feel that ‘ambition was a negative thing’ until ‘I started dating my now husband’. Once she had her Manolo Blahniks firmly inside the palace door she realised that ‘ambition is a terrible, terrible thing, according to some’. Well, she obviously never gave a second’s thought to what ‘ambition’ might mean to the Royal Family.

How could she even begin to understand how the Queen’s lifelong service to the nation makes the word ‘ambition’ an embarrassing irrelevance?

The most excruciating moment – the saddest, too – is Harry’s walk-on role. Since the podcast wouldn’t be happening if Meghan hadn’t married the Queen’s grandson, he has to pop his head around the door – yes, those dollars have to be earned!

‘Look who just popped in,’ says Meghan. ‘You wanna come say hi?’ She and Serena adopt mocking, fake British accents to chorus ‘Hello!’ Then our Harry – who, as a young prince and soldier was so natural, so brave and such refreshing, irreverent fun – actually says to Serena: ‘I like what you’ve done with your hair, that’s a good vibe.’ Oh dear.

What a missed opportunity this was. Instead of a revealing discussion between intelligent and opinionated women about why it is that girls ‘raise their hands in class less as they get older’ and ‘women get stereotyped as being too emotional’ – both of which are true – we got giggles and mutual stroking of egos at every opportunity.

When Serena makes the interesting observation that male tennis stars have always gotten away with outbursts on court, Meghan jumps in: ‘Mmmm… the double standard. And look, there’s something that happens in being archetyped that’s really dehumanising. And I think of that from my personal standpoint of being there in the box with, you know, your mom and your sister. And, like, watching you win. And at the same time, watching the pressure… I find it traumatising too, to go back to that moment where I feel you were treated so unfairly and it was reported so unfairly.’

What on earth is she on about –other than herself… again. To be fair, Serena does try with a long and interesting anecdote about how her daughter Olympia fell out of her high chair and broke her wrist, how guilty she felt to have been in charge and let it happen, how she had hardly any sleep but went on to play tennis early the next morning and win the match.

Great! But then Meghan slams down her own tie-breaker with a horror revelation about a royal tour to South Africa in 2019. In a nutshell, she and Harry had a public engagement, baby Archie was at their accommodation, a fire broke out in the nursery where he would have been sleeping had he not been elsewhere with the devoted Nanny – and ‘everyone’s in tears’.

‘And what do we have to do?’ asks Meghan. ‘Go out and do another official engagement. I said, “This doesn’t make any sense.”’ Well, it would make perfect sense to any public figure who knows that the show must go on – and remember, Archie was perfectly OK.

Self-awareness is entirely lacking in this largely anodyne chat between two women expressing simple sentiments and banal opinions as if they’re holy writ. What we got in spades, however, was the overweening self-absorption of its real subject, the Duchess of Sussex.

By the way, it’s a pity nobody told Meghan that she mixed up ‘archetype’ (which means a very typical example of a person or thing) with ‘stereotype’ (meaning a popular, simplified image or generalised expectation), so let me oblige.

Queen Elizabeth II, for example, is an archetype of disciplined, determined duty, which is why most of the world holds her in such high regard.

Whereas Meghan, abandoning the worthy topic of ambition and spending over half of her podcast gushing about what it felt like to be pregnant, what it means to be a ‘mom’ and how ‘brave’ and ‘hard’ making life decisions can be for us girls who are always victims…that’s a perfect illustration in my book of stereotyping, Duchess.

And that’s the biggest misconception – or betrayal – of all.



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