The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, have trademarked doing things their way. Supporters of the royal couple, dubbed the #SussexSquad or dig if you will the #meyhive, have applied that mood to reclaim the narrative around them.
Keep Meghan, Harry and Master Archie out your mouths and you won’t have to hear theirs. That’s the golden rule.
“I would go online, and I was just getting this perspective of, I don’t know how politically correct I want to be. I just felt like it wasn’t the perspective of women of color that I will see you know when I read about her or their relationship or what they were doing,” Tina, co-creator and co-host of the Sussex Squad Podcast said.
Tina recalled being a fan of Princess Diana and her sons. The late princess was an icon revered around the world and her youngest has come into his own as her successor: a royal with the people’s touch that drew Tina to him.
Tina separately followed the former actress through her role on “Suits” and lifestyle blog, The Tig. The self-appointed Okoye ready to throw the wig and go into battle in defense of Meghan and Harry was also impressed by her royal highnesses previous work with the troops. She entertained military personnel and their families while taking part of the 2014 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, visiting those stationed in Spain, Italy, Turkey, Afghanistan, and England.
In 2016, the fandoms collided. Tina was living in England with her husband and rumors were swirling, pun not intended. Tina returned to the United States, dejected about the presidential election but excited about the unfolding relationship between Harry and the vibrant Hollywood star who was used to the circus that gripped those in the public eye. A year later, Vanity Fair profiled Meghan. Tina just knew Harry would propose. Her prediction proved accurate, but she quickly realized that the coverage of her beloved rebel prince and his love did not lend itself to a Disney fairytale come to life or even the history of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly’s fabled romance.
Markle being American, biracial and a divorcée were stigmas. An asterisk was placed beside the self-made woman, social influencer and humanitarian by those who consider themselves monarchy gatekeepers.
“It was just coming from a very how do I say, I don’t want to say sinister but what I felt was a sinister look like there was in little comments like, ‘Oh she’s beautiful but’ you know what I mean? Like there was always a but,” she recounted.
Michelle, Tina’s partner in the podcast, shared the exasperation. Sexist and racist tropes were prominent defining features in Meghan’s biography by the tabloids with an assist by reputable outlets. The authors were predominantly white.
“I was frustrated by the coverage Meghan was getting in the press, particularly from the British press. So, through Twitter, I expressed my will of maybe doing a podcast to change the conversation around her. Someone connected me to Tina because she also had a desire to do a podcast for a while and she wanted a co-host,” she said.
Michelle is often the cool wind to Tina’s fire since they started their partnership, the first podcast airing in February. Their approaches have aligned perfectly.
“I feel as if we have very different energies that mesh well together. I’m amazed how we managed to get along so well and so fast. We talk on the phone for hours many times a week,” she told.
Tina and Michelle are just two of the premiere voices who have taken up the mantle of ‘Who said that? Who the hell said that?’ They’re part of the Sussex Squad spine that forties with each passing day; helping the royal couple break Instagram records, like pics and count toes. These individuals are diverse in age, ethnicity, background, temperament, and creed. It’s not a monolithic YASSS Queen but range.
The Sussex Squad Podcast, The Sussex Set Podcast, My Duke and I Podcast and Meghanpedia are just a few of the platforms created to correct harmful assertions surrounding The House of Sussex; providing alternatives to verified personalities who swear by palace sources. Above else, you will put respect on their names and causes.
“Well, we felt that the British press and the royal reporters were not focusing on events that Meghan and Harry, especially Meghan, with the events,” Denese, co-host and co-creator of My Duke and I, said.
“They were more focused on the clothes she wore, whether she was breaking or not breaking their false protocol and they all tried to undermine the actual work that they were doing for the actual causes and we just got sick and tired of it.”
In full disclosure, I’ve made two appearances on the Sussex Squad which boasts 23 videos on YouTube thus far, averaging 5K views in recent episodes. I’ve said what I’ve had to say and that was that. For these content creators, each airing bleeds into the next.
“The demand is huge which shows that people are sick of the kind of coverage Meghan is getting. I love when people particularly tell us that our words on the podcast are exactly how they have been feeling. So, I feel like we’re on the right track,” Michelle said.
Victoria started off as a listener of the Sussex Squad and transitioned to host of the Sussex Set. Known as V, her offering began almost a month ago. Her love of the couple began three years ago at the onset of their coupling.
“Of course, I woke up like everybody else to watch the royal wedding and all of that but then once I saw things happening about like in terms of the news coverage of the couple but particularly Meghan and it’s like after the tour and up and through the New Year, I saw how that just turned. It was like a 180,” she said.
V maintained that Meghan’s ascension into a higher profile left the impression that anything could be said about her. She had plenty to say about that.
“We’re talking about how it’s important to have an objective view of who Meghan really is and I can see it with her friends sticking up for her because she’s in a place now where she can’t really go to Instagram. She can’t go to Twitter and speak for herself but she’s constantly being maligned,” V said.
“So, I just wanted to be another one of those voices.”
Victoria’s not out to imitate bombastic radio disc jocks as she goes about it but has a more conversational style. V may as well be talking to someone she’s known for a while and not a user who just started following her.
“I do know that I have a lot to say sometimes on certain things and so I just kind of talk about them basically how I talk with like a girlfriend,” she said.
My Duke and I, which also went live April, has been very particular about how their space is focused on the educational aspect. Denese’s creation is a weekly podcast that discusses the couple’s causes, especially in relation to the Commonwealth youths, access to education, wounded men and women of the military, women’s rights, and the nations.
“Other people that are in the Commonwealth are just really absolutely elated that they’re finally getting the attention that they deserve,” Denese said.
The royal couple toured Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia last October for their first visit as married royalty.
“That’s the whole point of it to educate people on the Commonwealth countries and on the things that Meghan and Harry are doing to help and to improve,” she said.
Tina welcomed the other podcasts as compliments rather than competition. They were all family. One picked up the slack where the other couldn’t.
“When Meghan was on maternity leave, we were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to focus a lot on a lot of charities. Before she started work you know joining the royals and how we will show how it applies. But there is so much drama,” Tina said.
“We have to address the craziness. So, the intent of our podcast has actually changed quite a little bit from what our original intent for our podcasts was, you know, which is now more like to devote day to day stuff. You know here and there. And so, I’m glad that My Duke and I focus more in-depth on their work with the Commonwealth.”
Listeners of the Sussex Squad know that Tina is always ready. But she hasn’t had to cuss anyone out in three episodes.
“It is progress because Ramadan is going on,” she joked.
Meghanpedia is not a podcast but follows the template to debunk lies and claims. Fact checking misconception and preconception to a global audience is the directive of the four people that maintain the site. The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, did not enter the British Royal Family as a blank canvas who the RR’s could other at free will. So-called experts are the go-to answers about Meghan’s story. Most are dismissive of her experiences as a woman who enjoyed a full life and career before she met a real-life prince.
Thank you, next.
“The negativity towards Meghan, instigated by British tabloids, became exhausting and unbearable. Every time I would look up news about Meghan, I got tons of negative articles written by British tabloids. The comment sections under Tweets, articles or Instagram posts about Meghan were full of hatred and racism,” Maria, one of the site runners, asserted.
“I was like, there needs to be a place where you can look up infos about Meghan that is not riddled with negativity. That’s when Meghanpedia was born. The platform is not only a collection of Meghan’s pre-royal accomplishments, her current royal life but also a place where we challenge media narratives.”
The #GlobalSussexBabyShower, spearheaded by Twitter user @freepeeper, was a virtual baby shower that encouraged donations to charities supported by the Sussexes. The podcasts harness that engagement by recognizing and respecting what’s on their minds. It is not always a uniform and distinct tone as growing pains are being sorted out in real time.
“The content is 100% excellent. I just have issues with presentation,” Janice Williams said.
Williams is recently retired. She is training herself to listen to the Sussex Squad as a fan rather than critic who takes note of diction, pacing, and length. Some episodes were just too long for her to sit through and must be broken up in parts. Language is another concern.
“Sometimes, we just can’t sit there and say what we really feel. You have to be careful of the verbiage,” Williams cautioned.
The retiree underscored that her criticism was constructive and not a takedown. She believed that the podcasts were a force of good but did not want the points obscured. Williams sought improvements through outlines and less profanity.
“I know we’re frustrated but we have to be careful because those things come back and bite.”
Regina Hurt, born and raised in the South, listened to all three podcasts. Each offered her a different perspective.
“Tina and Michelle, they can get my emotions out. The Duke and I, very educational,” Hurt said.
“I’ve learned so much, as an American learning so much about the Commonwealth and they apply the educational component to the journey. And Sussex Set, the young lady on there, she calls herself ghetto so I’m just going to repeat what she said. I just find her to be hilarious.”
Hurt also found it funny that royal reporters dismissed those in support of the Melanated Mona.
“Well, I felt the bot thing to be hilarious and because of the maligning of Meghan, they couldn’t wrap their minds around that this black woman would have so much support,” she said.
A few years ago, the name of Meghan Markle never passed her lips. Prince Harry was closest to her heart through sorrow, mistakes and adulthood.
“I’ve always been sympathetic to Harry,” she began.
The image of a 12-year-old Harry walking behind Princess Diana’s casket is seared into memory.
“The things he went through in his 20’s and then I saw the man he became. And then I had no clue who Meghan Markle was, didn’t watch Suits. So, when I saw he was with a half-sister, I started doing my own investigation and found wow this woman is powerful.”
Melissa Murray, Professor of Law at New York University, agreed that supporters of the Sussexes were utilizing their own power. In her view, social media was a reckoning that led to shifts in the culture.
“For some people, I think it is a more truthful account of what’s happening. Take for example Ferguson or the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of things like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, you’ve seen more and more people begin to film the police during encounters,” Murray said.
Murray added that the various podcasts were tapping into that spirit.
“I think for the Sussex Squad, it’s a lot of women, a lot of women of color, American who have a particular experience with racism who are, I think, especially attuned to kind of dog whistling narratives in the media and they are constantly sort of calling out the British royal reporters for what they view as unnecessary attacks on The Duchess of Sussex.”
V agreed with that sentiment. She acknowledged that no one was above criticism, admitting she’s had some for even Beyoncé and Oprah. Still, just as with those two powerhouses, there’s always an avalanche of judgment when it comes to women who have melanin.
“I just want to prevent as many people as possible from getting the wrong narrative about Meghan and Harry but particularly Meghan by her being a woman of color, by her being an American. That’s also another reason why I gravitate or why so many of us gravitate towards her,” she said.
Kennedy Godette has appeared on two episodes of the Sussex Squad, a departure from the usually all female line up. He’s been a fan of the British Royal Family dating back years and Markle’s inclusion was a breath of fresh air. Social media now allows those outside the castle walls more of a say without having to rely on traditional channels.
“It’s a good way for people to express their views but then also to I think that with all of the different platforms it just shows with their marriage how excited for some, others little more nefarious, but it’s bringing in so many people I think that had absolutely no interest whatsoever in the British Royal family at all,” Godette said.
“And I think because of them and only because of them, it’s brought in a huge population of people that that like I said would have had no interest had he married someone for what was expected of him.”
Marlene Koenig, a royal historian, was aware of the podcasts. An older white woman who has borne witness to the pageantry and lore of the Firm, she wished the influx of fans cared more about the BRF.
“The Duchess of Sussex has brought into the mix a new type of royal watcher, not always interested in the monarchy itself, but focusing on the Sussexes, which is good and bad. The bad is not a negative, per se, but makes me a little sad because the interest is solely in Meghan and Harry and not the royal family or the history that goes along with all of this,” she said.
Koenig appreciated Sussex Squad members fighting back over the way DoS is portrayed.
“I am appalled by the hate that comes out of the keyboards of so many people against Meghan, for example. I admire the growing number of “fans” (I hate the word fan use for someone who likes a royal) who made it their mission to take on members of the tabloid press, as well as the Global Sussex Baby Shower, supporting the Duchess’ charities. This is a positive outcome that should never be minimalized,” she said.
Beyond denouncements, some expressed the desire for more open dialogue. For instance, Godette was not immediately fond of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor’s name. He let that be known.
“You don’t want to hurt anyone, of course. So, there’s a way to choose your words but I think that it’s so important in life to communicate how you feel and what your views are in a tactful way,” Godette said.
Godette spoke with the purpose of supporting the Sussexes but not participating in blind worship.
“I would like to think that for instance, the Sussex Squad, though we are huge admirers, I’d like to think that we’re not, you know for lack of a better phrase, not drinking the Kool-Aid. I think that we all are intelligent, bright people who can think for ourselves. We just happen to admire them, and I don’t think that it’s a cult as some people probably have said,” he said.
Hurt fashioned herself similarly.
“I’m a realist you know. I don’t know these people. I always qualify that. But my hope and my prayer and what I want to see is that there’s just so much more great things to come,” she said.
Tina, who doesn’t hold her tongue, said free speech will go but so far.
“No. Here’s why. There’s enough bad out there and not enough good,” Tina firmly stated.
She would not add to the mosh pit of criticisms levied against the Duke and Duchess.
“I understand that, you know, you have to be able to show both sides but right now, we can’t because there’s so much hate out there. Then we have to focus on highlighting the work, pushing back against the negativity. Maybe if it balances out then we can slowly talk about things we disagree with,” Tina made clear.
Above else, their efforts are a labor of love. None of the platforms have monetized their interest in their royal highnesses. In fact, it costs them to record, edit and broadcast. It’s a price worth paying.
“There’s a podcast where we had to explain to people why we decided to start a podcast because someone was accusing us of doing it for money. Personally, I’m not affected by it because I know our hearts are in the right place,” Michelle stated.
No Bad Energy isn’t just the Sussex Squad Podcast mantra but a philosophy they try to abide by. Emphasis on the word try. Trolls flood their mentions. Social climbing and ghosting have been used to characterize Meghan by those with vendettas or clout chasing. Family members want their Facebook friend requests approved. Royal reporters liken themselves to the Washington Press Corps as they go on a birther pursuit over baby Archie, wonder about eggs, and even mock prayers. Many detractors are run of the mill racists. There are also those who proudly declare they would have voted for Obama a third time but bash Meghan just the same in their performative resistance.
Archie is not even a month old but has been subjected to racism and the expectation that he will be the magical negro. A baby who can’t even hold his head up is going to heal the world and make it a better place. BBC even fired a radio host for comparing newborn Archie to a chimp only to welcome him back to the airwaves two weeks later.
It is these acts of aggression, fanning of the flames, that prompt heated responses. There is no comfort taken in that Meghan is depicted as strong. The misogyny to deny the duchess the breath of her humanity but extend it to her white family members is grating. The double standard is carried out even as critics of Meghan exploit her name and image. She’s not good enough for the aristocracy but guaranteed money.
It’s just always something that starts with Meghan, consistently Meghan and not her husband who is frequently emasculated and rendered a bystander in his own union. Harry’s victory against Splash News for invading his privacy met a muted reaction from royal reporters. One opted to discuss how unpopular Meghan supposedly is on her first Mother’s Day with Archie. Yet, inches and bandwidth are given as to how the sixth in line’s wife risks overshadowing the future King and Queen consort.
An odor of wanting a mixed-race woman to know her place lingers as the words keen, taxpayer, snub and protocol pollute the diatribes. WAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Tradition is being broken again.
It is the siren call to start recording. Is this mic on?
“The toxic royal reporters are trying to control someone else’s true narrative by creating their own negatives and if they’re allowed free rein which they have been allowed to do in Britain at least since 2016 when the romance was everybody’s knowledge,” Williams said.
Williams argued that the public benefited from forceful pushbacks. They could decide who to believe and choose the positive alternative.
“Because everybody who follows those royal reporters are caught in the middle and many are sensible people like most of us are and if they’re constantly fed the bitterness, either they ignore it on their own or begin to absorb it.”
It has been stressed to those in the fandom not to engage those who use the names of Meghan and Harry for clickbait; to just say nah every time.
“I just returned from the UK and just from speaking to people on the ground, unless the public really show them that they’re not interested in gossip, they will continue to do that because in the eyes of the royal reporters and tabloids they believe that to sensationalize,” Denese said.
“Nonstories are a big seller for them. And so, it’s only when the people on the ground who reject these types of stories and stop purchasing their papers and even clicking online, they’re the ones that’s gonna change the narrative.”
Denese is a Black Briton with a Caucasian husband and biracial child. In many ways, she mirrors the racial dynamic Harry and Meghan are publicly living. In her eyes, the heart of London was a diverse mix but that an older generation was clinging to a time gone by.
“Sadly, I don’t think the British reporters actually take time to go out and speak to the everyday people. They’re just driven by online, what they see online. And I think they even deliberately go out there and create a narrative for their story in order to make money,” she declared.
If there were no royal robe, tiara or title, Meghan would still be viewed by some as a mascot. She is a woman of color in a space that has been and still is predominantly white. It pierces the skin of her many admirers, knowing all too well what that feels like. Their names may not be etched on headlines that denote them as “Straight Outta Compton” but the visceral debasement is familiar.
“I think it’s really interesting that these are people who recognize and what is happening to Meghan Markle, some of the same things that have happened in their own life and they’re using their social media platform to call it out,” Murray mused.
Maria, humbled by the feedback received from defending the royals honor, vowed to continue standing in the gap. The graphics and web designer was prepared to go the distance.
“As long as there are individuals and media disparaging the Duchess of Sussex, we are going to be right there to challenge them,” she said.
“In [the]near future, I can see Meghanpedia joining forces with other pro Meghan platforms such as SussexSquad Podcast and participate in more charity campaigns started by supporters, such as GlobalSussexBabyShower.”
A free and vital press is as necessary as it’s always been. Journalists see themselves as guardians of the truth. However, when the messenger is no longer trusted, folks are showing the resolve to move around. They will deliver the message.
“If you want to know how they’ve been treated and what is right or what’s wrong in how things have been reported, the Sussex Squad Podcast is where you need to come to,” Tina affirmed.
“Because we will tell you, ‘Hey they reported that they moved out of their house because they couldn’t afford it’. No, but the real tea is they moved out because their security was compromised and here’s how we know.”