In the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ Oprah interview, both of them pointed to their 2018 South Pacific Tour as the moment when everything shifted for them within the family. Harry and Meghan were so well-received in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. It was Sussex Mania, and Meghan was revealed as a huge star and charismatic asset for the Firm. The Firm and the British media’s wall-to-wall character assassination began soon after the Sussexes arrived back in the UK. Tellingly, years later, the British media and the Windsors are still trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that the tour was not a success, that Harry and Meghan were dreadfully unpopular, that they behaved poorly, that no one should believe what they saw with their own eyes.
I bring all of that up because the exact same thing is happening with the Sussexes’ 2021 trip to New York. It was their first big travel since the pandemic hit and since they left the UK. They did it like their own little self-styled royal tour – they met with Mayor De Blasio and Governor Hochul and did a photocall at the Freedom Tower. They had lunch in Harlem and donated to Melba’s. They took meetings at the UN. They spoke and got a great reception at a vaccine rally. They met schoolkids and Meghan read The Bench to them. And now, two years later, Prince William’s little copykeen NYC trip flopped badly (even the mayor blanked him), and so the British media is furiously trying to say that the Sussexes did something bad on their 2021 trip. The Mail had that sad lukewarm tea over the weekend, and now the Telegraph and other outlets are trying to bandwagon:
Aides working for the Duchess of Sussex wanted to rebrand her own book reading as a charitable event to make it sound “more substantial”, it has emerged. Meghan, 42, was joined by Prince Harry, 39, as she dropped in on a class of seven-year-olds at a school in Harlem, New York, in September 2021 to read her book The Bench.
A series of emails released via a Freedom of Information request have now revealed the lengthy negotiations that took place behind the scenes, as the Sussexes’ head of PR thrashed out the details with officials from the New York City Department of Education. The two sides debated the language of a Department of Education press release that would announce the involvement of the Sussexes and the NYC schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, the most senior official in the department. Toya Holness, who worked as the Sussexes’ PR, objected to the phrase “read aloud”, writing: “Can we make the description sound more substantial than a read aloud? Something about community support [of] the arts? Please.” Danielle Filson, the NYC schools press secretary, replied: “Yes!”
In one edit, Ms Filson removed an entire paragraph about The Bench, to the frustration of Ms Holness. “I like all your edits, except the Bench section,” she wrote.
“If you take out all the info about the book, I think it’s weird to only have her bio and not his,” she said, apparently referring to Harry. Ms Filson admitted that she had been trying to ensure the release did not sound too much like an advert for Meghan’s book. “Yes totally!” she replied. “Just wanted to make it a bit less promotion-ey.”
Elsewhere, a publicist working for Penguin Random House revealed that her team was looking into “all things carpet, cushions, decor etc” for the school visit, apparently to make the aesthetic more appealing. A news release from the publisher was amended to say that the Sussexes’ Archewell Foundation “worked with” consumer giant Procter & Gamble to provide free personal health and hygiene products for the school, as opposed to the company just handing them over, according to the emails obtained by the Daily Mail.
[From The Telegraph]
The British outlets are also dreadfully concerned about the standard practice of getting the kids’ parents to sign releases for their kids to be filmed or photographed in conjunction with this kind of visit. Basically, it took two f–king years for the New York Board of Education to respond to the British media’s sad FOIA requests, and they’re now trying to make it sound bad or tacky or something that the Archewell people were simply engaging in good advance work with the school? And again, the Sussexes didn’t come empty-handed – they arranged for the school to receive “free personal health and hygiene products.” Surely, the Telegraph wants to bring this kind of energy to all of Kate’s oh-so carefully stage-managed appearances at nursery schools and kids’ programs too? Because many of those kids are NOT into it and I would love to hear the behind-the-scenes wrangling.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.
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