Let’s face it, Meghan Markle scored. Not only is she a successful and gorgeous American woman of color, but her new fiancé is handsome, charming, and has heart of gold. Oh yeah, and he’s also royalty. So when Markle’s engagement to England’s Prince Harry (who passionately continues his late mother’s work as an HIV/AIDS activist) was recently announced, many American women took to social media to give their “sister” a resounding “You go, girl!” — and none so exuberantly as fellow women of color.
Hashtags such as #blackgirlmagic and #blackprincess began to trend almost immediately after the announcement on November 27, reports ABC News. Many were comparing Markle (who will actually become a duchess through the marriage) to fictional African-American Disney princess Tiana, and fictional future queen Lisa McDowell from the 1980s hit comedy, Coming to America.
Despite all the celebration, many others were expressing their concern with what underlying messages may be conveyed to young women and girls from such comparisons — especially those of color.
Nikki Ogunnaike, fashion director at Elle.com said, “While it's amazing that they've found each other and found love, I honestly don't care about the monarchy — and furthermore think it kind of sucks that she's now been reduced to headlines that describe her as “the Suits actress who is 36 years old and snagged a man,” instead of the feminist biracial woman who is going to use her mind and platform to change the world.”
Ogunnaike shared her thoughts, along with 15 other women of color in a recent article by Elle magazine, in which opinions varied on the topic. Writer Morgan Jerkins felt that having women of color in the Royal Family was ultimately a positive step.
“I am beyond thrilled that Meghan Markle is marrying Prince Harry, not only because they seem madly in love with each other, but also because she's a modern-day, biracial, black American royal,” said Jerkins. “Seeing black women become First Ladies and royals is awesome, for lack of a better word. And I also love the fact that Meghan is in her mid to late 30s. It is an encouragement to women of color and women in general that just because you're 25, 30, or 35, there is still hope. There is always hope.”
Kimberly Foster, the founding editor of For Harriett, an online community centered on black women, echoed Jerkins thoughts. “By seeing Meghan Markle... and just seeing that she already had a great career… it means a lot to us because it means that there's hope for us in our personal lives.”
Though Markle (who has a white father and black mother) identifies as mixed-race, many black women feel that the former actor will still help to “fill in the gap” when it comes to representation.
“Black women miss Michelle Obama, and I think we’ve been looking for somebody, something to be excited about,” Tykeia Robinson, cohost of the adulting podcast Gettin’ Grown, told ABC. “We’ve not had someone to represent us in the media recently, and it’s just good to see something good happening to a woman, a black woman specifically, amidst all of the challenging news that we’ve been faced with this last few weeks.”
Foster was also quick to point out that because Markle is biracial does not make her immune to “anti-blackness in her life” — pointing to how Kensington Palace recently condemned discriminatory “racial undertones” in some of the early press coverage of Markle and the prince’s romance.
“Meghan Markle is claiming this experience... and it kind of separates herself from some of these narratives about black women and black womanhood that make us feel affinity for her,” said Foster. “There's a certain fluidity that she had that we don’t have access to, and that matters.”