MEGHAN: Hi, I’m Meghan, and this is Archetypes, my podcast about the tropes and labels—words like “diva,” “crazy” “slut” and the B word—they employ to hold women back. I’m going to sit down with some of the smartest, funniest, most passionate women I know. Brave, strong women who live their lives authentically.
Renowned beauty, philanthropreneur, art collector, politician—former First Lady Imelda Marcos needs no introduction. World leader, singer, mom, feminist icon—she’s done it all. I can’t tell you how EXCITED I am to have you with me today, Imelda!! Oh, it’s SOOO exciting!
IMELDA: I’m just so excited to be here with you, Meghan! You know what? I just can’t believe it! Speaking with a real-life Princess! What a gorgeous mansion you have here! So many bathrooms, and all with a marble finish! And just look how BEAUTIFUL you are, too!
MEGHAN: I just love those earrings! Just see them sparkle!
IMELDA: Why, THANK you! You have such a good eye, Meghan! Yes, they’re each 100 carats, so very, very precious to my heart. And you know why I wear them, Meghan? It’s because they are shaped like tears, which reminds me of how I grew up in terrible poverty and oppression—but the light that shines through them reminds me of the hope and strength that saw me through it! And you know what, Meghan—I never gave up.
MEGHAN: Oh my gosh! We have so much in common, Imelda! You know, as a child, I sometimes had to walk all the way to school. And—oh my gosh, I’m welling up—that could mean leaving the house at 8.20 in the morning. And sometimes I wouldn’t arrive until 8.30. Some of the other girls would just get out of their fancy cars, and not even look at me. Yes, I experiened so much pain and negativity. It’s so very hard to unfeel it. But—you know what, Imelda?—there comes a point when you’ve got to own that pain.
IMELDA: You are so right, Meghan! All the way through my life, I’ve had these voices in my ears saying, “No, it’s not okay for you to be a strong woman! You have no right to wear those diamonds, or put a bit of money back for a rainy day, or to cherish shoes, so you need never again go barefoot… ”
MEGHAN: Those shoes! Oh, my gosh, Imelda—I always LOVED your shoes! They’re an INSPIRATION! They meant so, so much to me growing up as a feminist! And you want to know a secret? I’ve never told anyone this before, but here goes! Deep breath, Meghan. Gather! The British Royal Family didn’t care what shoes I wore to my wedding to Harry. They just wouldn’t talk about them. I guess they thought it wrong that a young woman descended from top international slaves should be seen out wearing shoes. Now that I think of it, I might have overheard them saying they wanted me in leg-chains!
IMELDA: You must have hurt terribly.
MEGHAN: And then they gave us this cottage. The rest of them were living in this great big castle. But they wanted us to live in this tiny cottage. And you know what they told me to call it? “Frogmore”! That made me so uncomfortable. I said, sorry, but I have a problem with that. I married a Prince, and now you’re telling me I’m MORE of a FROG???!!! So hurtful! And such a cruel, cruel chapter.
They are shaped like tears, which reminds me of how I grew up in terrible poverty and oppression.
IMELDA: That reminds me of when I—
MEGHAN: And when I fell in love with Harry, he was a Prince, so naturally I would be his Princess. But I was a woman of color, so what did they do? They made me call myself Duchess.
IMELDA: I know just how you—
MEGHAN: But—you know what, Imelda?—every morning, I look at myself in the mirror and I say, “You are a child of the universe. And you have a right to be here. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. And love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
And then they gave us this cottage. The rest of them were living in this great big castle.
IMELDA: So beautiful! So authentic!
MEGHAN: Our society tries to box women in. I’ve never lost touch with that reality. But we can all make a difference to the patriarchal narrative—and you proved it at a young age, Imelda, by becoming the woman you always wanted to be.
IMELDA: You so right! You got to dream your dreams!
MEGHAN: When you achieved your ambition of becoming First Lady of the Philippines, you said, it doesn’t have to be like this, not if I’m true to myself. I’m gonna own this. No more negativity in our society—we don’t need an opposition! Yes, you finally learned to love yourself.
From now on, you could live in the home you always wanted. You could wear the beautiful clothes and wonderful shoes you always loved. And if those inspirational poor people in their darling little homes wanted to reach out and give you all their money—hey!—you would never, ever hurt them by not taking it from them. But, very sadly, that degree of feminist agency disrupts normative social patterns and therefore produces societal discomfort. And inevitably some of the patriarchy started labeling you “diva,” “tiger lady,” and—forgive me—the “B” word. They tried to tell you it was not okay to be a strong woman, you know what I mean?
IMELDA: But, just like you, Meghan, I was sustained by the love of my top international celebrity friends, icons like Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. They saw my pain and offered us so much real tenderness, at a time when the media wished to pull us down.
MEGHAN: Yup, they put compassion into action.
As I tell Harry every day, none of us is alone in this world. The future is something we get to write together. Thank you for sharing that with us, Imelda.
Craig Brown is a columnist for the Daily Mail and the author of One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time