Meghan Markle and Mariah Carey on being mixed-race and the term diva
Meghan Markle’s Weekly Series Archetypes returned with its second episode this morning, just a day after Meghan’s big The cup the interview is out. Meghan had invited Mariah Carey to discuss the negative connotation attached to the word “diva”. While the two spent most of the 45-minute episode discussing Carey’s background and career, the women also discussed very candidly how being mixed-race has shaped opinions of the public about them and how they saw themselves because of it.
Meghan admitted that it wasn’t until she was Prince Harry’s girlfriend that some members of the public began to treat her as a black woman more than a mixed one.
Meghan began by telling Carey, “You have been so formative to me. Representation matters so much. But when you’re a woman and you don’t see a woman who looks like you somewhere in a position of power or influence, or even just on screen – because we know how influential the media is – you came on the scene, I was like oh, my God. Someone… Someone looks a bit like me.
Carey asked, “Do you feel like, I know this person is, like I can tell they’re black and white?”
“Yeah Yeah. Yeah. I could feel it,” Meghan said. “Yeah, even at that young age. And it’s so funny because I remember when I was young I can’t put a number on it ; I imagine 12 or 13.
“We don’t want a number. Because they’re going to try to do the math,” Carey said. “We don’t, we don’t, I don’t believe in numbers.”
Meghan went on to say, “I had read this article about Halle Berry, and they were asking her how she felt being treated as a mixed-race woman in the world. And her response was that she said, “Well, your experience around the world is how people see you.” So she said that because she was darker in color, she was treated like a black woman, not like a mixed race woman. And I think for us it’s very different because we’re fair-skinned. You are not treated as a black woman. You are not treated like a white woman. You are between the two. I mean, if there was ever a time in my life when I was more focused on my race, it was only once I started dating my husband. Then I started to understand what it was like to be treated like a black woman. Because until then, I had been treated like a mixed-race woman. And things have really changed.
“But, but it’s an interesting thing,” Carey said. “A Métis woman, because I always thought it was okay to say I was Métis. How should it be to say that. But people want you to choose.
“Yes,” Meghan said.
“And so, like, my father’s father’s mother was Venezuelan, my great-great-grandmother. Right? But my father’s family is black. So everyone is like their dad is Venezuelan and black because they don’t know how to put me in that box,” Carey continued. “They want to put you in a box and categorize you. Right?”
Later, the two continued to talk more about the term diva, leading to a moment Meghan later said gave her pause: when Carey called her a diva on the podcast.
“You give us diva moments sometimes, Meghan,” Carey said.
“I do – what kind of diva moments am I giving you?” Meghan replied.
“Don’t even act like—don’t act like,” Carey said. Carey went on to say that it was the visual that gave Meghan diva vibes. “It’s largely the visual because let’s say you didn’t have the visual…”
“See, that’s the thing, I associate it differently,” Meghan said.
“I know, but let’s say you weren’t that beautiful and you didn’t have everything and you didn’t have gorgeous ensembles often,” Carey explained. “You wouldn’t, maybe you wouldn’t get that much diva stuff. I do not care. I’m like, when I can, I’ll give you some diva. But the thing is, you’re like, we started Dreamlover with the curly hair, the plaid shirt, the thing. It was what they wanted for me. They wanted Girl Next Door. So I’ve always admired the Marilyn Monroes, the Sophia Lorens. Of course, all the beautiful black actresses who have never made it…”
Meghan later reflected at the end of the episode on how that moment made her feel: “It stopped me in my tracks…when she called me a diva!” You couldn’t see me, obviously, but I started sweating a bit,” she said. “I started squirming in my chair in this silent revolt, like, wait, wait, no, what? How? But? How can you? It’s not true, it’s not… Why would you say that? My mind was really spinning with the nonsense she must have read or clicked on to get him to say that. I kept thinking, at this point, would my girl crush go away quickly? Does she really not see me? So she must have heard my nervous laughter, and you all heard it too. And she jumped on it to make sure I was crystal clear. When she said diva she was talking about the way I dress, the posture, the clothes, the quotes, the fabulous as she sees it. She meant diva as a compliment. But I heard it as a dig. I heard it as the word diva, as I think of it. But, at that time, as she explained to me, she wanted him just as chic, as ambitious. And how a highly charged word can mean something different to each of us is mind-blowing to me. And it made me realize that in these episodes, because I opened the door to the conversation around the archetypes that are trying to hold us back. What I hadn’t considered was that for some, reclaiming the words is what they believe will propel us forward.
You can listen to the full conversation between Carey and Meghan here on Spotify.
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at In the style and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running in Central Park, getting people to #ootd pictures of her, and exploring New York.