On 4 August, the Duchess of Sussex – undoubtedly one of the most talked-about, influential women in the world – celebrated a highly memorable occasion: her 40th birthday. And of course, the world was watching.
Also known as Meghan Markle, this royal duchess and former actress, who gave birth to her second child a couple of months ago, starred in a short birthday video. (Her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, made a memorable cameo appearance, showing off his juggling skills!) Filmed at the couple’s chic California mansion, the slickly produced, well-rehearsed video quickly went viral. Every aspect of it, from Meghan’s body language to her Hermès blanket, has since been analysed by the international press.
Did the video show the Duchess of Sussex unwrapping eye-wateringly expensive gifts? Was a lavish dinner being held in her honour? Perhaps a trip to an elite private members’ club was on the cards? No – Meghan’s approach to celebrating her birthday was characteristically modern and unconventional. Sitting at her desk, she took part in a Zoom call.
The Duchess’s Inspiring Mentorship Scheme
The Duchess of Sussex took to Zoom to discuss her 40th birthday plans with Hollywood actress and comedienne Melissa McCarthy. Wearing a frilly floral dress, statement hat, pearls and lace gloves for humorous effect, the latter looked ready to enjoy that quintessentially English custom, afternoon tea, if a little overdressed! She joked that Meghan must surely be planning something extravagant, such as a party aboard a yacht.
In fact, the Duchess of Sussex had come up with an altogether more inspiring, selfless way to mark her milestone birthday. The video wasn’t just an amusing sketch – it had a serious point to make about women and work today. ‘I’m asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who’s mobilising back into the workforce,’ Meghan explained.
The Duchess of Sussex’s 40×40 mentorship initiative addresses a pressing problem. As she points out on her website, tens of millions of women have lost or had to leave their jobs due to the pandemic’s economic and social pressures. In addition, home-schooling their children and caring for relatives young and old has put many of them under considerable strain. Time spent with a mentor will ‘help women regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength’. After all, isn’t time one of the most precious gifts anyone can give?
Assembling an Elite Group of Mentors
As a member of the social elite, the Duchess of Sussex is incredibly well connected. She’s therefore been able to assemble a highly talented group of mentors drawn from many different fields. Nobel Peace Prize nominees Stacey Abrams and Amanda Nguyễn, poet Amanda Gorman (who performed at US President Joe Biden’s inauguration), designer Stella McCartney, superstar singer Adele, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Princess Eugenie (Prince Harry’s cousin) and, of course, Melissa McCarthy are among the individuals who’ve pledged to help women enhance their careers.
The Duchess of Sussex remarks on her website that she hopes the mentorship initiative will ‘inspire countless others to give 40 minutes of their time as well’.
Using Her Status to Bring About Positive Change
As Tatler magazine emphasises, ‘The Duchess made championing feminist causes a key part of her work as a royal’ before she and her husband stepped back from royal duties last year, and her interest in supporting women ‘has continued into her independent career’.
The Duchess of Sussex is clearly committed to using her status and influence to bring about positive social change – and she’s not alone. For example, the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest people in Britain, donated £12.5 million to the nation’s COVID-19 relief efforts at the beginning of the pandemic.
Privilege and philanthropy really can go hand in hand.
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