Confirming that their influence knows no bounds, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2021. To commemorate the honour, the couple appeared for the first time together on the cover of a magazine.
According to Time: “Their actions this year not only prompted deep re-appraisals of British society and the monarchy’s place within it, but have also catalyzed essential conversations on topics from mental health to misinformation.”
Chef and humanitarian Jose Andres wrote a tribute to the couple saying: “Hand in hand with nonprofit partners, they take risks to help communities in need—offering mental-health support to Black women and girls in the U.S., and feeding those affected by natural disasters in India and the Caribbean.”
The couple have been very vocal about racism, mental health issues and Royal protocol and as a result have upturned a number of Royal conventions.
Prince Harry brought up his own mental health in the docuseries The Me You Can't See, which he co-created and produced with Oprah Winfrey.
“We live in a society where we’re willing to accept that suffering is so much a part of life. But we’ve created a society where we’re almost forbidding, or making it hard for people to talk about and share that suffering,” he said.
Meghan Markle has also been open with her own mental health struggles, admitting that she faced suicidal thoughts when she was pregnant due to stress and isolation.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she told Oprah Winfrey in their much talked about interview. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember — I remember how he [Prince Harry] just cradled me.”
They have also been vocal about racism, with Prince Harry adding his voice to topics such as unconscious bias. Telling British Vogue: “I’m not saying that you’re a racist, I’m just saying that your unconscious bias is proving that, because of the way that you’ve been brought up, the environment you’ve been brought up in, suggests that you have this point of view – unconscious point of view – where naturally you will look at someone in a different way.”
Meghan Markle has also spoken out about the racist ways she’s been treated by the British tabloids as well as the Royal family.
Despite their attempts to highlight important topics that need wider coverage, their openness has often received criticism. Even their first ever joint cover for Time magazine was not to some people’s liking, with some claiming it looked too fake or “plasticky”.
There have also been media outlets hiring body language experts to analyse the photographs of the couple to prove that Markle “has authority” in the relationship. Try not to cue major eye rolls at this.
However, despite the critics, there were many others who appreciated seeing the couple in a photoshoot together.
The TIME100 list highlights people who have significant influence in the world, whether it is in science, entertainment, politics or sport.
Some other notable entries in the list included sports stars Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. As well as celebrities such as Kate Winslet and Billie Eilish.
The list also aims to give wider coverage to notable people doing outstanding things in their fields. People like Adi Utarini who is conducting groundbreaking research to fight dengue fever and activists like Phyllis Omido who took action against deadly water contamination.
The headlines however will be focussed on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but the hope is that their star power will bring wider attention to those on the list who are also making change in their fields.
In the end, it is hard to deny that no matter what The Sussexes do, they face criticism. Ultimately however, they manage to rise above the noise and continue on with their work, which perhaps makes this another notable thing the couple have managed to achieve.
Saman Shad is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @muminprogress.