It has been a little over a month since these two incredibly inspiring women met. Thinking back, this meeting was not just about two women meeting for the first time. This meeting said so much to me as a black woman, it said lift as you climb, it said Queens adjust each other’s crowns, it said we (Black women and people of color) will not stand for patriarchy, xenophobia, sexism, misogynoir, racism, and most importantly, it said I have to ensure that I do what I can to lift others up and stand for what is right! ALWAYS! For me, it was a lesson in what womanhood should always be about. POWERFUL! Tina
On Sunday the 14th of July 2019, two of the most famous women in the world, Her Royal Highness Duchess of Sussex and Princess of the United Kingdon, Meghan, and Beyoncé Knowles Carter (“Queen Bey”) met for the first time. The meeting took place on the yellow carpet of the UK premier of Walt Disney’s live action remake of the 1994 favourite animation adventure drama — the Lion King.
It was a much anticipated meeting. Afterall, as many pointed out, Hollywood royalty was meeting British royalty, two powerful institutions separated not just by geographic distance, but by history and tradition – one open, fluid and adaptable, the other closed and impenetrable, steeped in rigid traditions, and almost impervious to change. On a more substantive level, the meeting brought together two influential Women of Colour (“WOC”), both unapologetic feminists determined to use their enormous talents and unique platforms to tackle social and economic issues — race, gender, class, economic inequality, and female empowerment.
The world watched with much anticipation as Beyoncé, Queen of the Beyhive (arguably the strongest fan base in the world) and Duchess Meghan (the former actress turned British royalty), accompanied by their husbands, Prince Harry and the famous rapper-turned-business-mogul, Jay-Z (two men who are so confident in themselves that they are not afraid to let their spouse’s light shine), were finally officially introduced to each other. Other luminaries of the entertainment world from both the UK and the US who were also in attendance at the event that took place at the Leicester Square included Vin Diesel, Pharrell Williams, Sir Elton John, and Guy Ritchie.
This was Duchess Meghan‘s first major red carpet appearance since giving birth to her and Prince Harry’s first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Naturally, the couples quickly bonded over their children. In a video that captured the sweet moment, Beyoncé is heard to observe that Archie is “so beautiful”, Meghan inquires about the Carter twins and is told that they were left home for this trip, Prince Harry proudly volunteers Archie’s latest developmental milestone – raising/holding his head/neck up, and Jay-Z rounds off the family-centered moment with the sound advice to the new parents to “always find some time” for themselves. He should know!
An instant rapport was formed
As soon as they were introduced, the Duchess of Sussex and Queen Beyoncé hugged each other. The embrace was a subtle, but unequivocal statment of support and solidarity between two outstanding WOC, each of whom has been the target of unfair and unwarranted racist and mysoginistic attacks by tabloids and internet trolls. Captured on video as the two women’s bodies made contact for the first time, Beyoncé was heard to whisper to the Duchess: “My Princess”. This was Beyoncé acknowledging Duchess Meghan as a bona fide member of the British royal family in spite, or maybe because, of the prolonged, concerted and extremely well co-ordinated efforts to “other” her and, in so doing, deligitimize her claim to full membership in the British royal family, a hitherto whites-only national institution.
In the video, Beyoncé was also overheard telling Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry: “We love you guys”. This was yet another acknowlegement and affirmation of a reality with which the British tabloids, a segment of the British public, some palace coutiers and, perghaps even some members of the royal family itself, appear to be having huge difficulty accepting. This, more than a year after a televised wedding watched internationally by approximately 1.9 billion people, and the birth of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 6, 2019, a royal baby currently sitting as the seventh in the line of succession to the British throne.
In formation for Duchess Meghan
Of note, this was not the first time that the music powerhouse couple had openly expressed their admiration and support for Duchess Meghan. In February this year, at the height of the sustained, intense, and brutal media scrutiny of Duchess Meghan, which lasted throughout her pregnancy and does not show any sign of abating even now, the Queen of the Beyhive took to Instagram and her website to share her appreciation and support for Duchess Meghan.
During the Brit Awards the singer, who couldn’t attend in person to accept her award, did so via video. She subsequently shared an iconic video of herself and her husband re-enacting a pose from their “Apesh*t” video, standing in front of one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa. In their acceptance video, the “Meghan Lisa” was unveiled where the Duchess of Sussex is depicted as the Mona Lisa wearing a stunning tiara. Beyoncé also posted the picture to her Instagram to share with her almost 130 million fans. Her caption cited Duchess Meghan’s strength as a WOC and celebrated her during Black History month as a “melanated mona” on her website.
Now we know that when the Queen speaks, her hive listens and posting that picture to her Instagram was a silent message to her fans to rally and show their support for Duchess Meghan who was constantly being trolled online. Her congratulatory message on the Duchess of Sussex’s pregnancy spurred the Beyhive into action to support and encourage someone their Queen openly admires.
Having faced similar media bashing during her two pregnancies, as that to which Duchess Meghan was also subjected, Beyoncé was in a unique position to understand what Duchess Meghan was experiencing. Like Duchess Meghan, Beyoncé was accused of faking her pregnancy, using a surrogate in order to avoid ruining her figure, and wearing a prosthetic stomach. She was body-shamed and accused of virtue-signalling for cuddling her baby bump (an action that comes naturally to many pregnant women, famous or not), and denounced for likening herself to the Virgin Mary because of costume choices that she made. Like Duchess Meghan, the media nitpicked Beyoncé’s every decision and every move — from her pregnancy announcements to stage performances, showing no consideration whatsoever for her physical health and mental well-being, or that of the baby she was carrying.
There is no doubt that these two WOC are among the most powerful women in the world today. They also share a genuine commitment to making the world a better place for everyone through their involvement in philanthropy. Even before she married into the British royal family, Duchess Meghan was a successful actress heavily involved in humanitarian efforts, including her role as a Global Ambassador for World Vision, the world’s largest international children’s charity. Duchess Meghan was also involved in the Myna Foundation, a women’s menstrual health foundation that provides affordable sanitary napkins to women and young girls from Mumbai’s most impoverished neighborhoods and works to remove the stigma surrounding menstruation in India. Similarly, as one of the most successful and influential WOC in the entertainment industry, Beyoncé is not only a shinning role model to children of color, espeially young girls, but her philathropic engagements are as numerous as they are varied.
Given their committment to using their platforms to bring about social, cultural and economic change, it is fitting that the first meeting of these two influential WOC should be at the premiere of an event with a charitable purpose. As a prelude to the movie‘s London premiere, The Walt Disney Company announced “a global conservation campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing lions and other wildlife across Africa”. According to the company’s press release, a subset of this campaign:
The Lion King “Protect the Pride” campaign focuses on protecting and revitalizing the lion population, with Disney lending its support to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) and their vision to double the lion population across Africa by 2050 through efforts that engage communities to ensure a future for African wildlife and their habitats.
The premiere, according to the company’s press release, was held “in support of the conservation and communities work of His Royal Highness through the Royal Foundation“. Initially, Prince Harry was expected to attend the premiere without his wife and to use the opportunity “to meet with the cast and crew, watch the film, and chat with representatives from organizations in support of conservation and environmental protection.” Subsequent announcement by the Palace that Duchess Meghan would, in fact, accompany Prince Harry to the premiere was welcome news to fans of both women who had long anticipated such a meeting.
At the premiere, Walt Disney released limited edition toys, including their Simba plush toys (one of which was gifted to Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry for Archie ), and money donated from each sale will be donated to Wildlife Conservation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund and its local partners.
Prince Harry supports several charitable ventures in Africa, the most prominent being Sentebale, which he co-founded with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006. Sentebale’s primary focus is on children whose lives have been shattered by HIV/AIDS. In 2016, Prince Harry spent three weeks in Malawi working alongside volunteers, vets and experts on what is described as “one of the largest and most significant elephant translocations in conservation history”.
It is no secret that Africa is a special place for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. Prince Harry has openly stated that this is where he feels most at home, close to nature. Prince Harry disclosed, during their engagement interview, that he took Meghan Markle to Botswana on their third date where they camped out under the stars and spoke frankly about the pitfalls of life as a royal. This Fall, the royal couple will be visiting the continent officially, with son Archie on his first international trip.
In any case, the much-anticipated meeting between Duchess Meghan and Beyoncé is now history. As expected, their fans got to watch two fiecely independent and powerful women celebrate and reaffirm each other because, as Duchess Meghan so recently reminded us in an Instagram post explaining her collaboration with selected designers for the benefit of SmartWorks (a charity that the Duchess supports and that helps women re-entering the work force), “sharing”, whether it be through donation of time, money, or other material things, or through the simple act of affirmation and support,
“not only . . . allow[s] us to be part of each other’s story; it reminds us we are in it together“.
“Beyoncé leveraged her power to hire the first African-American photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine’s history.” Forbes 2019
Both women often use their power to bring awareness to issues that plague people of colour and the Duchess Meghan’s entrance in the British royal family has brought parts of her African-American culture, such as the black preacher and gospel choir, during the 2018 nuptials of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May 2018 to the world.
With two important women of African descent in the limelight, one in the entertainment world and another one in the British royal family, more black people feel represented in areas which have been exclusively white instead of constantly being relegated to the background.
“The two women who might be considered among the most royal individuals in the world have finally met, and things will never be the same.” Time magazine 2019
Support where it matters
Beyoncé called Duchess Meghan “My Princess” as a sign of respect and acknowledgment of her place as a British Royal, she certainly knows what having a great support system means and being warm and welcoming towards the Duchess has set off what some are speculating could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Having such an open show of two powerful women of colour supporting each other is much needed in a world that constantly judges women, especially black women. Beyoncé and Jay-Z obviously admire Duchess Meghan and applaud her input to the British royal family, that could lead to future charity collaborations between the Sussexes and Carters. We certainly hope so.