It's a date I will never forget - September 25, 2017.
A striking mixed race brunette actress, wearing torn denim jeans and a French tucked boyfriend shirt, proudly held the hand of our beloved Prince Harry as the new couple walked into the Invictus Games.
"What a mess!" a senior staffer within the newsroom remarked on Meghan Markle's appearance. I found myself in shock.
A mess? Really? In my eyes, she was the opposite of a mess. She was perfect.
A vision in brown ballet flats - this woman was going to rebrand the royal family and give it the shakeup it so desperately needed. I couldn't have been more excited.
Fast forward three and a half years and the now Duchess of Sussex is standing in a chicken coop with Prince Harry and Oprah in Montecito California, comparing herself to the Little Mermaid and lying blind as she pretends she's never googled Prince Harry before.
"What a mess!" I thought to myself.
Act 1. Scene 1.
"I never looked up my husband online," Meghan tells Oprah as the duo frolic through Harry and Meghan's idyllic backyard.
The world collectively goes full 2009 Kanye West vs Taylor Swift and wants to storm the stage: "Yeah, Meghan... I'm really happy for you. I'mma let you finish, but..."
Oprah being the talk show queen she is immediately cuts to the chase, launching into what we all want to know. Did Meghan make Kate cry? Do the pair detest each other? Or are they partial to a gals day at the royal spa complete with mani-pedis?
"No," Meghan tells Oprah - she didn't make her cry. "The reverse happened".
A few days before the wedding she reveals Kate was upset about the flower girl dresses and Meghan says "it made me cry - it didn't make sense".
And apparently, everyone in the institution knew it wasn't true. Oprah asked "why didn't anyone clarify?" Meghan responds "good question".
Good question, indeed, Oprah. One would think you've done this before.
"I don't think it's fair to go into the details because she apologised and I've forgiven her," says Meghan.
You know how the old saying goes. Forgive, forget, throw under the bus during an Oprah interview.
Who can forget the sweet story Harry and Meghan shared when they announced their engagement. A roast chicken was prepared together and then cooked in a quaint cottage before Harry popped the question.
But it turns out there was far more than a chicken heating up and the story was more Rapunzel than Cinderella.
Speaking about the royal family Meghan shares "everyone welcomed me," but "the Firm" was a lot tougher. With a name like "the Firm" no one is shocked.
She was banned from going for lunch with friends and criticised for "being everywhere right now".
"I have left the house twice in four months – I am everywhere, but I am nowhere right now."
"Same," says every single person who had to quarantine due to coronavirus.
In a shock revelation, Meghan says when she was pregnant she was told by "the Firm" that her unborn child wasn't going to receive a title or be offered security.
"Can you tell the truth? Can you tell people my son is not getting a title? But they - the Firm - wouldn't do that."
She said there were several conversations with Harry about how dark their baby was going to be.
Meghan wouldn't say who had that conversation with Harry because it would be "very damaging for them". Harry later confirms the story, also sharing he will never reveal details of the conversation.
Oprah's jaw drops to the floor and I find myself asking what on Earth is wrong with this family that would make any decent human ask this question?
Is the monarchy really that crass? What is to be of the next generation? What if George, Charlotte or Louis come out to their family as queer? Or if future King George chooses to marry a person of colour? Will "the Firm" ever change their backwards ideology? Will members of the family ever allowed to be themselves without fear of judgement?
The latter seems unlikely with Meghan's telling revelations about Archie.
Reiterating the above sentiments I again found myself again in shock when Meghan reveals she asked the family for mental health help and was told she couldn't have any.
"I just didn't want to be alive anymore". Meghan described the thoughts as "frightening" and "constant".
"They said 'my heart goes out to you because I can see how hard it is but there's nothing we can do because you're not a paid employee of the institution'".
Meghan couldn't hold back the tears as she talks about the moment she told Harry she didn't want to be alive, and then the two had to go to a public event together at the Royal Albert Hall.
While I find myself constantly sitting on the fence of the Meghan saga, it was impossible at this moment to ignore that this was a real person who was crying out for help only to be told she couldn't have any.
"The Firm" who put their finest members forward as advocates for mental health charities like Heads Up, ignore their own when they cry out in pain. Hypocrisy indeed.
"I never blindsided my grandmother. I have too much respect for her," Harry says. We believe him because we love him and their "granny" and grandson relationship is too pure to question.
He says he thinks the story that suggested he did blindside her could have come from within the institution. We agree because we love him and at this stage in the interview have lost all faith in "the Firm" and decided they are the bad guys.
The couple says they "never left" the royal family, but instead wanted to step down from being senior royals "to take a breath" – perhaps in a country like New Zealand. They say that request was denied.
One can only assume they never asked Jacinda Ardern, or they would be shacked up on Waiheke Island right now, perhaps operating the Sussex Inn Winery and B&B.
Oprah asks Harry to tell her in the simplest terms why he left.
"Lack of support and lack of understanding," he says. Anyone who has ever been through a break-up agrees these are fair reasons to leave and nods in approval.
He also had multiple "conversations with my father – before he stopped taking my calls".
Can you hear it? The sound of the world's tiniest violin as Harry says he feels "compassion" for his brother and father.
"My father and my brother - they are trapped. They don't get to leave," he shares.
Harry says he feels he's been let down by his father and will do what he can to repair the relationship.
"I will always love him, but there's a lot of hurt that has happened." I instantly decide to blame Charles for the Archie skin colour comments with no evidence at all to support my claims.
Harry does admit that Charles is now taking his calls and Archie is a factor in the healing he is trying to do with their relationship.
As for William, Harry states he "loves William to bits" and we all picture those two young boys walking behind their mother's coffin as Harry admits the pair have "been through hell together," but are on "different paths".
"All she ever wanted was for us to be happy," Harry says when questioned on how Diana would feel about the situation. We all agree because 23 years after her death, she is still the greatest thing to come from the royal brand.
Harry admits that after his family cut him off financially in early 2020, he and Meghan were living off his inheritance from Diana. Collective chills that even after her death, Diana continues to protect her boys when they need her most.
"I've got what my mum left me. My mum saw this coming," says a poignant Harry.
Meghan is an actress. Those are the facts and they became impossible to ignore when she began speaking about a chance encounter with the Little Mermaid movie and finds a way to compare it to her own situation. Yes, you read that right.
While watching the animated classic, Meghan started to see parallels between her own life and that of the mermaid on screen, particularly the part where Ariel loses her voice in order to be with Prince Eric.
She said: "I went, 'Oh my God – she falls in love with a prince, and because of that, she has to lose her voice'".
Despite finding myself feeling like I was watching the conspiracy theorists on the Cecil Hotel documentary, I somehow get on board when Meghan brings the story home with a telling message: "By the end, she gets her voice back".
Hollywood filmmakers are shaking in their boots as they write up a pitch to cast Meghan in the 2023 remake of the Little Mermaid.
"Your story with the prince does have a happy ending," Oprah tells Meghan.
"Greater than any fairytale you've ever read," a glowing Meghan admits.
And the entire world sits and waits for word from Buckingham Palace to see if they have enough mops to clean up this mess. With no Cinderella in sight.
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