When the Duchess of Sussex released her long-awaited podcast, Archetypes, this summer, it didn’t take long for it to rocket to the top of the Spotify charts, and has even earned a nomination in the People’s Choice Awards.
But, as viewers eagerly tuned in to listen to revelations from the tennis ace and the gloriously diva-esque singer, many were left disappointed. It seemed the podcast was, in fact, a bit of an excuse for the duchess to share her own brand of sunny Californian platitudes.
And for all the headline-grabbing guests, millions of dollars, and manpower behind the show (it’s made by a team of 28, more than double the number you’d expect for this type of podcast), there’s been one unforgivable criticism levied at it: just how boring it is.
Still, it does have its moments, if only for the juicy revelations we get of Harry and Meghan’s charmed life in Montecito. Here we’ve ranked all the episodes released so far, and cherry-picked the finest bits for you to enjoy.
1. The Duality of Diva with Mariah Carey
The one where: Meghan meets her teenage girl crush and all-round bad-ass singing sensation Mariah Carey to discuss the connotations of the word diva and whether it should be seen as a compliment or a criticism.
The duo also swapped tales of what it was like growing up as mixed-race women in America. It’s a testament to how much of a true diva MC is, that she managed to keep Meghan relatively quiet throughout the show – unlike in the previous episode with Serena Williams, where Meghan spent 11 minutes talking about herself before even introducing her guest.
Meghan’s truth:The word diva is a particularly thorny one for the duchess, because she really wants to believe it’s all about fabulous rhinestone-encrusted gowns and glamour – à la Ms Carey - but she just can’t shake the feeling that, when it’s levelled at certain women, it takes on a more pejorative meaning, as someone who’s “petulant” and “temperamental”.
Best line: When Mariah shocks the duchess into stunned silence by proclaiming, “You give us diva moments sometimes, Meghan.”
Takeaway: Meghan is happy to discuss almost anything – as long as it’s in the script - but don’t call her a diva. The moment when Mariah does just that sparks the most human response of the entire series from the duchess. “It stopped me in my tracks,” she says. “I started to sweat a little bit… I just kept thinking, in that moment, was my girl crush coming to a quick demise? Does she actually not see me?”
2. The Misconception of Ambition with Serena Williams
The one where: Meghan sits down with her “dear, dear friend” Serena Williams to discuss that “dirty, dirty word when it comes to women – ambition”.
There’s giggling and fan-girling aplenty between the two gal pals, as well as a wholly unnecessary cameo appearance from Prince Harry himself, where he proclaims he likes what Serena’s done with her hair: “That’s a great vibe.”
No stone is left unturned as Meghan and Serena discuss double standards in sport, the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and whether Kevin Costner is from Compton (answer: he is, but Meghan is most definitely not).
This is also the episode where Meghan reveals that there had been a fire in baby Archie’s nursery when the family was on tour in South Africa, an incident that left her shaken and in tears – and questioning whether there was room in The Firm for “human” moments like this that require us to “give each other a break”.
Meghan’s truth: Meghan was raised on a healthy diet of all-American ambition, which never struck her as problematic until she washed up in Blighty. Cue numerous questions about why ambitious women are branded “bossy” and “hysterical”, while ambitious men are seen as “passionate”.
Best line: “I don’t remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ambitious – until I started dating my now-husband.”
Takeaway: Ambition doesn’t have to be a dirty word as long as you live in California, where you can get away with saying things like “speak your truth” and “personal-growth journey”. Oh, and something about swimming, which apparently Serena is afraid of. Because, as Meghan so wisely noted, “When we don’t swim in the shallow end, and instead choose to dive into the deep end, that’s when we gain a more nuanced understanding of each other.”
3. The Stigma of the Singleton with Mindy Kaling
The one where: Meghan and the writer and actress Mindy Kaling dissect the horrors of being a single woman and discuss how some women will go to any lengths to get a man to put a ring on it rather than suffer the shame of spinsterdom.
The duo also share childhood stories of growing up as lonely outsiders without any friends, and dreaming of “cookie-cutter” perfect lives.
Meghan’s truth: I’m not really sure how the twice-married duchess feels about the curse of the Old Maid, as this episode was curiously free of personal anecdotes relating to the topic – she certainly didn’t delve into what it felt like to be the oldest woman to ever marry into the Royal Family. She did, however, reveal that, when she got engaged to Harry, everyone told her she was so lucky that he chose her, while forgetting that she chose him, too. “Thankfully, I have a partner who was countering that narrative for me.”
Best line: When Meghan reveals she was, in fact, an “ugly duckling” growing up. “Massive frizzy curly hair and a huge gap in my teeth… I was the smart one. Forever and ever and ever and ever.”
Takeaway: There are some things you just can’t predict when you’re a 14-year-old planning your own wedding for a school assignment (what kind of weird school did Meghan go to?!) – like marrying the world’s most eligible bachelor and becoming one of the most famous women on the planet. But don’t fret if that’s not your reality – Meghan didn’t have any mates at school and had to wear braces, so really, she’s just like you (#relatable).
4. Breaking Down ‘The Bimbo’ with Paris Hilton and Iliza Shlesinger
The one where: Meghan reveals that she may have been cast as a briefcase girl on the US version of Deal or No Deal because of her “beauty” rather than her “brains”, as she unpicks the notion of ‘The Bimbo’ with Noughties It-girl Paris Hilton and comedian Iliza Shlesinger.
Apparently, the duchess knows a thing or two about feeling “objectified” after her time on the game show, where she was constantly told to “suck it in”. “I was thankful for the job, but not for how it made me feel,” she says. “Which was… not smart.”
Meghan’s truth: Paris was the guest that Meghan was most “nervous” about meeting, because she has to admit she bought into the idea that Paris was a “dumb blonde” for a while.
“And, because my entire sense of self-confidence was wrapped up in being the smart one and not the pretty one, I found the way to project all of my judgment and envy onto her,” explains the duchess. “‘Who would want to act stupid?’ I would think.”
Best line: “I’m embarrassed to admit it... I had a judgement about Paris. And I don’t like having judgement. It doesn’t feel good. But I had to be real about that.”
Takeaway: Never judge a book by its cover – or, in this case, an heiress by her reality TV show persona. Though Meghan doesn’t let her off the hook entirely. “This is not to be framed as the defense of Paris Hilton,” the duchess sums up, “but it is the humanisation of her.”
5. To ‘B’ or not to ‘B’? With Mellody Hobson and Victoria Jackson
The one where: Meghan discusses the ‘B-word’ – meaning bitch, in case you weren’t aware, though the duchess cannot bring herself to actually utter that abominable phrase – “and its cousin, ‘difficult’”.
She takes a closer look at the way the term is used against “strong-minded women” with Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and chair of the board of Starbucks, and cosmetics entrepreneur and medical advocate Victoria Jackson, and looks at whether we need to “reframe”, “reclaim” or “simply relinquish” the word bitch once and for all.
Meghan’s truth: As a self-professed “word nerd” who loves etymology and admires “people with expansive vocabularies” – one can only imagine that’s what first drew her to Harry – Meghan has spent a lot of time thinking about the word bitch, in particular how women can “stand in their power” without being branded as “pushy”. Ultimately, flinging around the B-word is just another way to deflect attention from a woman’s “awesome qualities: persistence, strength, perseverance”.
Best line: “As a woman, you come to terms with the fact that not everyone’s going to like you. The goal can’t be for everyone to like you. But the goal can be for them to respect you.”
Takeaway: That old adage, ‘sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you’? Well, according to Meghan, it’s a “flat-out lie”. Words have the power to wound, so use them wisely. And, if you do find yourself branded with that most unfavourable of B-words, “remind yourself of all the other words with a B that better describe you. Beautiful. Blessed. Brilliant. Beguiling. Blissful. Bedazzling. Take your pick. Be that person.”
6. Good Wife/Bad Wife, Good Mom/Bad Mom with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Pamela Adlon, and Sam Jay
The one where: Meghan opens up about being a mum and a partner in the public eye, alongside her friend, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau – wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - actress Pamela Adlon, and comedian Sam Jay.
Out of all the episodes, this is the one where the duchess reveals the most about her life in Montecito, sharing the details of the pool party she hosted for Sophie and her kids this summer – where the pizza slice-shaped inflatables were the biggest hits and the pair spent the day “giddy, like absolute school girls” – and sharing that mornings at home are like a “whirlwind”, as she gets the kids up and makes breakfast for Harry, Archie, and Lilibet every single day. “It’s very important to me. I love doing it.” She also talks about studying for her British Citizenship Test, which even Harry found difficult.
Meghan’s truth: She may be married to a prince, but Meghan’s keen for us to know she’s as down to earth as the next girl. For her pool party with her gal pal Sophie, she didn’t turn up “all perfectly coiffed with updos and pearls”, but “with wild curly hair and swimsuits and loose linen”. Oh, ok, so not quite like every other mum of a one- and a three-year-old, then, who usually turn up with vomit down one shoulder, something that looks suspiciously like poo down the other, and bags the size of dump trucks under each eye.
Best line: “Because you can be a feminist and be feminine. You can clutch your pearls one day and let your curls be wild the next.”
Takeaway: Let’s banish the notion of the Stepford Wife, or the impossibly perfect mum who makes her own shop-worthy cakes for the bake sale, once and for all. That person doesn’t exist. “Maybe it’s time to let go of these challenging, limiting archetypes riddled with so much judgment,” she says. “And instead just focus on one thing — being a good person.”
7. Upending the ‘Angry Black Woman Myth’ with Issa Rae and Ziwe
The one where: Meghan unpacks the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotype with actor Issa Rae and comedian Ziwe, as the three women discuss how they’ve all had this archetype levelled at them at work, whether auditioning for roles or creating their own content.
Meghan also enthusiastically reveals that she’s recently taken a DNA test and discovered that she’s 43 per cent Nigerian, to which the Nigerian-American Ziwe responds that makes sense, as she looks just like her Aunt Uzo.
Meghan’s truth: Just because you happen to be a woman of colour who’s “particular” – in Meghan’s own words – doesn’t mean you’re difficult or demanding.
Best line: “I remember when I was auditioning, and even the idea of Black roles… those casting sheets where the description of the character, she always had to have an edge or an attitude.”
Takeaway: According to Meghan, the main thing here is to make sure we’re “living our truth”, “existing on our own terms”, and being allowed to “just be human”. And if that feels like the same takeaway as every other episode, that’s because it basically is.
8. The Decoding of Crazy with Deepika Padukone, Jenny Slate, and Constance Wu
The one where: Meghan tackles what might just be the heaviest topic of the season – the struggles people face when it comes to their mental health. In the episode, actress Constance Wu opens up about her suicide attempt, comedian Jenny Slate dissects the word “hysterical”, and Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone reveals how going public with her mental-health issues changed her life.
Meghan’s truth: As we know from her bombshell Oprah interview, Meghan’s no stranger to her own mental-health battles, after she revealed that she’d had suicidal thoughts while struggling to find her place within the Royal Family.
Best line: “I feel pretty strongly about this word ‘crazy’... the way that it’s thrown around so casually, and the damage it’s wrought on society and women everywhere.”
Takeaway: If you find yourself in the same situation, the best thing to do is to find someone to talk to about it – even if that person does happen to be checking out their groceries in the supermarket at the time, as Meghan reveals happened to her when she first called the woman she was referred to by Harry.
9. The Demystification of Dragon Lady with Margaret Cho and Lisa Ling
The one where: Meghan’s joined by the comedian Margaret Cho and journalist Lisa Ling to discuss the “toxic stereotyping” many Asian women face.
This was the first episode of the podcast released after the death of the Queen, and in it the trio tackle everything from the over-sexualisation of Asian women in Hollywood to the trope of the “dragon lady”, while Meghan shares the “very humbling experience” of visiting Korean spas with her mother as a teen and having to walk around naked. “All I wanted was a bathing suit,” she recalls.
Meghan’s truth: Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to how Asian women are seen in America, especially films like Kill Bill – even if Lucy Liu, the only Asian-American woman in the movie, has spoken publicly on numerous occasions about how she was totally fine with how she was portrayed…
Best line: “If you want to be weird or be sponge-like, be silly or fierce, be curious, or even self-doubting or unsure some days and strong and brave on others. Whatever it is. That’s up to you. Just be yourself.”
Takeaway: Meghan devotes a lot of time to talking about how people are “multi-dimensional” and “layered”, and how there isn’t one word that defines us. Essentially, that’s what every single episode in this podcast boils down to: women are not archetypes. Glad we cleared that up, then.
10. The Audacity of the Activist with Jameela Jamil & Shohreh Aghdashloo
The one where: Meghan’s joined by actors and activists Jameela Jamil and Shohreh Aghdashloo to discuss the “stereotypes and judgements women face in the world of activism.”
It also proves to be another opportunity to talk about how great Meghan is with Jameela describing her as “kind and normal” and her relationship with Harry as “a really sweet dynamic.”
She also thanks Meghan for the support she’s given privately and says she’s always defending Meghan to people and even does so on the podcast even if she suspects it won’t make the final cut of the episode (it does, people, it does): “I’m sure maybe you can’t keep this in or whatever but the treatment of you, I’m so sorry you’ve had to withstand it, it has re-highlighted for us there is intense unkindness and bigotry and misogyny in our media.”
Meghan’s truth: Some people judge women when they’re activists, and contrive to “make women with big opinions, feel small.”
Best line: “It reminded me of a message that was shared with me a few days before my wedding by a very, very influential and inspiring woman, who for her own privacy, I won’t share who it was with you - but she said to me, “I know that your life is changing but please don’t give up on your activism, don’t give up because it means so much to women and girls’.
Takeaway: The whole subtext here is that the Royal Family did not want Meghan to continue with her activism when she married Prince Harry, but nothing - not even that institution who you may have seen on TV’s The Crown - will stop her.
To listen to Archetypes, visit Spotify.