We have long been fans here of Allison P Davis; as I’ve said before I will read anything she writes because she is one of the best culture writers and one of the best celebrity profile writers in the business. Her latest profile, for The Cut, is on Meghan of Montecito, Meghan of House Sussex. And while Meghan, of course, is the star subject here, my excitement when I saw the piece in my feed was about Allison. Because Allison is exactly the right person to tell us about Meghan, after being invited to hang out with Meghan – and all the Sussexes – at their home in Montecito.
What’s tricky about covering the Sussexes, and Meghan in particular, is that the British tabloids and the racists on social media have made it complicated for objective and qualified journalists to provide fair criticism. But, as I’ve often said, the Sussexes are celebrities and like all celebrities, Harry and Meghan can occasionally invite some side-eye. Pointing that out is tricky though, because you risk being lumped in with all the assholes and the haters in the British media and on Twitter. You don’t want to give them any more fuel for their distortions. Allison herself acknowledges this in her piece:
“The result of trying always to do and say the right thing is the impression that [Meghan is] constantly policing herself, and in a meta-twist, I find myself worrying that the words I write about her will be misinterpreted and dissected — rudely, maliciously — too.”
It’s that awareness that makes Allison the perfect person at the perfect time to write about Meghan, who is promoting her podcast, Archetypes, that launched last week on Spotify and went straight to #1. Allison is fair but she is not fawning. She writes with empathy for both Meghan and Harry over what they’ve endured and how terribly they’ve been treated, without compromising her duty to her job, which is to provide unbiased insight to the reader on what Meghan is like through her own experience in spending time with her. And without compromising her own voice as a writer – observant and thoughtful, but also irreverent and hilarious.
Credit to Meghan and her team, then, for agreeing to sit down with Allison because they would have done their research and reviewed Allison’s work. Allison P Davis doesn’t produce profiles that are written by a publicist. And this profile of Meghan was definitely not written by a publicist. Not with all the Bachelor references. Like this:
“Though she has been media trained and then royal-media trained and sometimes converses like she has a tiny Bachelor producer in her brain directing what she says (at one point in our conversation, instead of answering a question, she will suggest how I might transcribe the noises she’s making: “She’s making these guttural sounds, and I can’t quite articulate what it is she’s feeling in that moment because she has no word for it; she’s just moaning”), at this stage, post-royal, there’s no need for her to hold back.”
There’s the commentary on Meghan’s celebrity without spelling it out. And it’s fair. Celebrities have messaging that they need to hit. Celebrities want to control the messaging. Celebrities are obsessive about their narrative. Celebrities must balance that messaging with “authenticity”. But, as Allison also notes, given how horribly Meghan’s narrative has been misrepresented, how can anyone blame her for over-producing it? Especially now, a few years after she and Harry quit the royal family, and they’re doing the thing that celebrities do most: self-promotion. As Allison describes it:
“She’s flinging open the proverbial doors to her life; as any millennial woman whose feminism was forged in the girlboss era would understand, she has taken a hardship and turned it into content.”
There it is. Those two sentences are exactly why Allison P Davis is great at her job – it gets at why some who can see that Meghan and Harry have been attacked and betrayed by both their families and by the public can also not quite get there yet with their branding. Because sometimes it feels surface. And Allison hits the heart of that conundrum, cheekily but not cruelly. It is precisely the right amount two things can be true. And two things can be true is the spirit that flows throughout the piece.
Allison is clear about the sh-tty things that have happened to Meghan that were not her fault. The racism she’s experienced. The lies that have been told about her. Allison is also clear that Meghan and Harry too can be really, really …cringey!
The detail about the trees? Sorry, but I cringed hard. I won’t excerpt that here because you should enjoy that for yourself. Same goes for the salt and pepper.
“Meghan launches into a little story. Right now, they are trying to teach Archie his manners. (“We always tell him: ‘Manners make the man. Manners, manners, manners, manners, manners.’ ”) In one of those lessons, Meghan remembered something she’d learned at a young age from a friend’s mom: Salt and pepper are always passed together. “She said, ‘You never move one without the other.’ That’s me and Harry. We’re like salt and pepper. We always move together.”
It's corny! And Allison’s skill is in the restraint because she just drops the corn in the text trusting the reader to react appropriately without succumbing to the temptation of pointing it to with more words like, OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGG I’m dead.
And, then, on top of the corny and cringe, the gossip. As a friend of mine texted me just now, “One thing about Meghan, she will always choose violence”. Ha!
“I think forgiveness is really important. It takes a lot more energy to not forgive,” she says wisely. “But it takes a lot of effort to forgive. I’ve really made an active effort, especially knowing that I can say anything,” she says, her voice full of meaning. And then she is silent. She breathes in and smiles and breathes out and says, “I have a lot to say until I don’t. Do you like that? Sometimes, as they say, the silent part is still part of the song.”
“I have a lot to say until I don’t.” And also:
“Harry said to me, ‘I lost my dad in this process.’ It doesn’t have to be the same for them as it was for me, but that’s his decision.”
You can imagine…they’re apoplectic over that in England right now.