When we embarked on this journey of self-discovery, Meghan and I, five long podcasts ago, I remarked that beating myself unconscious with a copy of Finding Freedom might have been more fun. I now retract that unreservedly. She is a genius and a rare journalistic talent and, now that I too am sitting in my truth and owning my dimensionality as a multilayered human being, I can see it. I’m still some way from trusting my self-awareness as a person, but that’s my bad. I feel sure that it’s only a matter of time. Today’s episode is called “Breaking Down ‘The Bimbo’ with Paris Hilton,” and it is billed as a serious conversation with a serious businesswoman about a serious subject.
Meghan gives the usual long preamble about herself. This week, it’s about how cursed she was to be born beautiful, and how unexpected and awful it was to feel valued for her looks, not her brain, when she was hired by a game show for her looks, not her brain. “How can you peel back the layers on the cultural script that is quote unquote dumb blonde?” she asks, and how often have I thought that myself. Seven minutes in, she girds herself for her big opening question. Five thousand miles away, I cover my ears.
“So, didn’t your chihuahua go missing?” she says to Hilton. “I am kind, I have a big heart, I am an Aquarius,” Hilton replies, who also loves animals. She confirms that Tinkerbell was found, but does she mean found as in “discovered next to an upturned bin in the kitchen”? Or really “found”, as a multidimensional chihuahua, truly seen as a dog owning its truth? I sense another question might be coming, one with random words and no punctuation, and adopt the brace position.
“So much of the identity, whether it was placed upon you or you adopted or embraced or used to build a career, was about not leaning in to being smart,” she says, reassuring her guest that here, in this safe space, she can be “all the things that no one knows, I don’t think, is part of how you would self-identify. That’s what I want to talk about”. Me too, Meghan. Never a truer word.
We learn that Hilton is an heiress, and that 15 is a formative age. We learn that lots of things said about women, almost everything in fact, have negative connotations, many of them lazy stereotypes perpetuated by the patriarchy. I start to wonder if perhaps my fringe carries negative connotations and has been foisted on me by the patriarchy, because it’s definitely too long and I can’t see. But back to Meghan.
This week, it’s about how cursed she was to be born beautiful.
The podcast follows the usual pattern of someone with something interesting to say occasionally being allowed to say it, free of the judgments of the mainstream media. True, someone from The New Yorker pops up to speak, but The New Yorker is obviously OK, along with Spotify and Netflix, who pay the Sussexes’ bills and are thus presumably lovely media people, as opposed to drunk old men on Fleet Street like the rest of us.
We will pause the podcast here to reflect on recent reports that Harry and Meghan are “at odds” with Netflix over their new desire to play down much of what they’ve said on-screen about the King and Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales. Seeing as they’ve already called them, variously, penny-pinching racists who made them cry and don’t care about their safety, I’m not sure what else could be left to say. Perhaps Kate served Meghan overcooked kale and never took ownership of the subsequent trauma.
“Nothing feels worse than not being yourself,” Meghan intones, which is wise. I felt more at home when she announced that the origins of the nasty stereotype of the “dumb blonde” probably lie in Britain, because of course they do, along with everything else that isn’t butterflies and rainbows. We learn that Meghan wants her daughter, Lili, to be educated, and that seems likely to happen, all things considered, and also that, “When I hear the word ‘bimbo’, I have very negative connotations to it, I don’t see that as an aspirational thing for a woman,” and it’s a relief that she’s spelled that out for us. We learn that envy can be a dangerous thing, perhaps especially when you fancy living in a castle but get given a poxy cottage called Frogmore instead, and have to walk behind other people instead of being right at the front, like you deserve.
Finally, Meghan says she “almost feels silly” asking a particular question, which is quite a statement from someone who recently asked, “Didn’t your chihuahua go missing?” Again, that’s probably my bad. This is a journey, my journey, working through all my negative connotations and toxic British stereotypes.
It’s taking longer than I thought.
Hilary Rose is a longtime columnist for The Times of London and the author of the weekly column How to Get Dressed