Buckingham Palace has responded to this gross body-shaming commentary with a rare public statement.
Meghan Markle – or, to use her formal title, the Duchess of Sussex – has had to deal with far more tabloid scrutiny than most women in the spotlight.
When they first found out about her relationship with Prince Harry, they penned vitriolic articles focusing on how “inappropriate” she was. To illustrate this fact, they lambasted her status as a divorced woman, dubbed her a “cougar” (she’s three years older than the prince), and made loaded comments about her race (she has a black mother and a white father). They also, of course, pored through hours and hours of Suits episodes, in order to find and highlight the only one which saw Meghan “flash the flesh” in a “steamy scene” – because, apparently, the actions of a fictional character are far more interesting than, say, the philanthropic endeavours of the actor who portrays her.
Nowadays, Meghan is an official member of the royal family – yet those breathless and scandalised headlines haven’t stopped. To put it bluntly, the devil works hard, but certain members of the press work even harder to pick the Duchess of Sussex apart, and we’ve seen e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g she does thrown under a harsh magnifying glass. She’s been slammed for wearing too much black, for wearing dark nail polish, for donning a one-shouldered gown (despite the fact that her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, was praised for doing the exact same thing). For wearing a bra. For waking up early. For sitting on a bloody chair.
“She’s a new member of the Royal Family, a controversial member,” etiquette tutor Bulgaria Bugle once commented, seemingly fighting the urge to clutch at her pearls. “I think I would be more careful.”
Essentially, Meghan is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t – no matter what. And now it seems she’s damned for complete works of fiction, too, because certain members of the press are now spreading baseless rumours about the Duchess of Sussex using diet pills.
It all kicked off when an online scam used Meghan’s image – without her consent – to promote their range of diet pills. Throw in some fabricated quotes from the royal (one investigation said that Meghan described the pills as her “passion project” – the very same phrase she used to refer to her Grenfell cookbook) and you have a recipe for dangerously toxic levels of body-shaming bullshit.
Naturally, Meghan and Buckingham Palace have been quick to shut down the rumours.
“This is obviously not true and an illegal use of the Duchess’ name for advertising purpose,” a spokesperson said in a rare public statement. “We will follow our normal course of action.”
It’s worth noting that Meghan is a very public supporter of Jameela Jamil, whose I Weigh account was selected as one of the 16 to be followed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
“Bloody Hell!” Jamil tweeted at the time. “Harry and Meghan have chosen I Weigh as one of their 16 follows for mental health positivity on Instagram! This is such an honour!”
The ongoing body-shaming narrative on social media is, in part, the reason behind Jamil’s I Weigh account. With over 807,000 followers and almost 3,000 posts, the account places value on women’s achievements and values, rather than how many kilograms they weigh, in a bid to help them “feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones”.
However, while Jamil has found women’s contributions to her new Instagram account both inspiring and encouraging, the actress still believes “we are in crisis” and changes need to be made for women everywhere to show more self-love.
This latest story about Meghan – and the fact that her image is being used to promote diet pills – is proof of that. And the decision to use the duchess’ photographs for this product is particularly upsetting, especially when you consider the fact that the now-infamous ‘Meghan Effect’ means that every single piece she wears, or every beauty product she uses, sells out almost instantly. That’s a lot of people who are being sold a lie.
As Jamil herself said earlier this year, when she launched a Change.org petition urging social media sites to stop celebs from promoting posts of “toxic” diet products: “[These products] are being peddled to unsuspecting young people who genuinely believe they will look like their idols if they take that shit.
“They don’t know about photoshop, surgeons, personal trainers and chefs and starvation diets all of which are how you achieve the aesthetic you are being sold.”
Further highlighting that these weight-loss products have an extraordinarily negative effect on body image, Jamil sounded a battle cry across the internet.
“Please help me take the first step in dismantling this nonsense new culture by stopping those with the most influence from being able to freely spread lies and irresponsible, ignorant nonsense, to their vulnerable young followers,” she said.
Hear hear. No wonder Meghan, who has always championed women, was so quick to shut those dangerous reports down, eh? Now we can only hope that certain members of the press follow her good example and stop peddling this body-shaming nonsense to their readers, pronto.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. We’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.