The Duchess of Sussex has revealed she was criticised for her ambition when she began her relationship with Prince Harry, saying it was seen as a “terrible, terrible thing”.
She added that she had always thought of it as a positive trait as a child, before learning “a thing or two” about the labels and conventions that hold women back.
In the first of her new Archetypes podcast, released on Spotify on Tuesday and titled The Misconception of Ambition with Serena Williams, Meghan expresses her desire to explore “the boxes women have been placed in for generations”.
The statement, which could be construed as a fresh broadside at the royal family, comes after a turbulent few years for the Sussexes and their relationship with “the firm”.
Speaking to the chatshow host, Meghan claimed members of the royal family had openly expressed concerns about how dark her son Archie’s skin would be and said she came close to suicide while pregnant with her first child.
The couple had a low-key return to Britain for the Queen’s jubilee celebrations and the podcast comes just before they prepare to return again in a few weeks to attend a series of charity events.
“I don’t remember personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ambitious until I started dating my now husband, and apparently ambition is a terrible, terrible thing. For women,” she states. “Since I felt the negativity behind it, it’s really hard to unfeel it. I can’t unsee it either in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller, so much smaller on a regular basis.”
In the podcast, Meghan explains that she wants to explore stereotypes that inhibit women, “boxes like diva, crazy, the B-word” and get to the bottom of where they come from, why they’ve stuck around for so long, adding: “Of course, I know a thing or two about these labels myself.”
She said she wanted to share her experiences, and those of other women, in the hope that her “own lived experience will help other women open up to reveal the layers of thrive within all of us”.
Meghan and Williams, who describe their close friendship in the podcast, also talk about how women are viewed differently when they become mothers, with Meghan saying: “The double standard between how men and women are treated after having kids is so, so real. I’ve felt it.”
Williams, who recently announced that she was stepping away from tennis, revealed the torment she went through as she took the decision to “evolve” her career. She said she had spoken to Harry, who makes a small cameo on the podcast and invites Williams to the couple’s home.
Williams said she has often been close to tears since taking the decision but it was “exciting to not have to worry about … performing on such a high level”.
“Tennis was chosen for me and I loved that choice … but now for the first time in my entire life I’m choosing to do something. And it’s hard,” said Williams.
Meghan added that Williams, herself and Harry “really know sometimes the right decision isn’t the easiest decision […] and it takes a lot”.
Concluding the podcast Meghan said there was a “misconception that if you’re an ambitious woman, you have an agenda”.
In a segment likely to be scrutinised by avid followers of the royal spat, she argues that if women are ambitious they are seen as calculating, selfish or aggressive or a climber, adding: “If you’re that fierce or strong or brave, then you somehow deserve whatever gets thrown at you. However, disproportionate or unfair it may be and even when it’s more than most could endure.”
In a promotional video released on Twitter, Meghan vowed to be “unfiltered” in her series, saying that “people should expect the real me in this” rather than what they see through the lens of the media.
She added: “I’m just excited to be myself and talk and be unfiltered.”