“I’m doing my best to be a diva.” Not quite the opener you’d expect from a podcast about how women are typecast by words we didn’t choose, and how those labels have shaped narratives about who we are and what we can do.
But that’s exactly how the latest episode of Archetypes — Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex’s new podcast — kicked off as she sat down with five-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Mariah Carey.
Each week sees a different woman interviewed to discuss a different word that has been used to denigrate women and their accomplishments. The first episode featured Serena Williams talking about the double standard women face when they are labeled as “ambitious.” The latest episode is a conversation with Carey about the word “diva.”
But it’s so much more than that, too. Aligned with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell Foundation’s #DontBelieveTheType campaign — through which anyone can share a time they were typecast and how it made them feel — the episode with Carey is a frank and honest chat about the complexities and intersectional difficulties that women face.
The Duchess and Carey are no strangers to championing important causes.
The Duke and Duchess served as campaign chairs of Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World in May 2021 to galvanize the private sector into helping end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere. The campaign helped mobilize $302 million to help fight COVID-19 and secured more than 26 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for those in need. Additionally, in partnership with Global Citizen, Meghan and Harry marked their son Archie’s second birthday last year by leading a global fundraising effort to secure COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable people. They mobilized matching donations of more than $3 million.
They also took to the Global Citizen Live stage in September 2021 to underline the importance of global vaccine equity, saying: "Every single person on this planet has a fundamental right to get this vaccine — that's the point, but that's not happening."
Carey, meanwhile, has been fighting for decades for causes such as gender equity, youth education, and an end to world hunger. She’ll also be adding this year’s Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Sept. 24 to her running list of performances.
Leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens will gather to help End Extreme Poverty NOW and build a more sustainable future for all. Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, MÅNESKIN, Mickey Guyton, Rosalía, and more will join Carey on stage in New York to rally the world to advance policies that empower women and girls, take climate action, break systemic barriers, and lift up activists and advocates. If you’re based in NYC, take action now and you could earn free tickets to be there.
But first, we look at the powerful conversation between these two incredible icons. Here’s what we learned.
1. The power of reclaiming the word “diva”
According to The Duchess of Sussex, 1998 was the heyday of diva-worship. The word itself “diva” — which comes from the Latin dīva, meaning goddess — didn’t have any negative connotations back then. It was aspirational.
So what happened? How did the word “diva” devolve from meaning high class to high maintenance? How did we get to a point, as Meghan explained, where “it’s so often used to tear a woman down?”
If anyone knows about divadom, it’s got to be Carey, the record-breaking singer-songwriter who once famously entered a bathtub in six-inch stilettos and wears the “diva” label unapologetically and unabashedly.
On the podcast, Carey and Meghan discussed the "duality of diva." Carey, wearing a luxurious sequined gown, talked about growing up with a diva — her mother was an opera singer, which is another meaning of the word — and how that informed her understanding of the term. Diva meant glamor, extravagance, and grandeur.
But when Meghan asked Carey if she thinks diva is "a compliment or a criticism," Carey was ambivalent. "I think it's both," she said. "Because I know the origin of the word.
"It's very much the grandeur of it all, is what I envisioned," Carey recalled. "Glamorized and fabulous and whatever. And then, as things evolved, the diva [came to] mean the B-word, a B-I-T-C-H. Like, it's not OK for you to be a boss. It's not OK for you to be a strong woman, you know what I mean?"
Carey, then, has reclaimed the word in an act of linguistic defiance, embracing its original meaning.
2. The complexity of navigating the world as a biracial woman
Carey and The Duchess, who each have one white parent and one Black parent, also spoke candidly about their mixed-race identities.
“I was reading 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] your experience through the world is how people view you. So she said because she was darker in color, she was being treated as a Black woman, not as a mixed woman,” Meghan said to Carey.
“For us it’s so different, because we’re light-skinned; you’re not treated as a Black woman, you’re not treated as a white woman, you sort of fit in between,” she continued.
Meghan had previously written about her experience of growing up between two worlds in an essay she wrote for Elle titled “I'm More Than an 'Other.'”
“To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined,” she wrote. “Yet when your ethnicity is Black and white, the dichotomy is not that clear. In fact, it creates a gray area. Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.”
Carey’s 1997 song “Outside” touches on similar themes. “Inherently it's just always been strange,” she sings. “Neither here nor there / Always somewhat out of place everywhere / Ambiguous / Without a sense of belonging to touch / Somewhere halfway / Feeling there's no one completely the same [...] Uncertainty forever lies / And you’ll always be / Somewhere on the / Outside.”
3. The importance of representation
On the podcast, Meghan and Carey discussed the importance of representation as a means of giving role models to the next generation. In fact, Carey was one such figure for Meghan.
Meghan described the hole it leaves “when you are 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 the screen,” she said. And then the revelatory moment she first saw Mariah: “I was like ‘Oh my gosh. Someone kind of looks like me.’”
As well as providing young people with role models that they can aspire to, positive representation fosters a sense of belonging, can be helpful in increasing self-esteem for people of marginalized groups, and can assist in reducing stereotypes of underrepresented groups. As Meghan underlined: “Representation matters so much.”
4. The prevalence of violence against women
Carey opened up about witnessing domestic abuse as a child and feeling like she had to be her mother’s savior from as young as 6 years old.
"I was calling my mom's friends to help her out, saying she's been knocked out. I watched her fall down on the floor," said Carey.
As heartbreaking as this is, it’s not an uncommon story. The World Health Organization estimates that globally about 1 in 3 of women has been subjected to either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence, with almost one-third of women aged 15 to 49 reporting being in a relationship in which they have been subjected to some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.
Yet, it is often unseen or ignored. The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) describes it as “the most pervasive yet least visible human rights violation in the world.”
Not only does gender-based violence hold back gender equality for women and girls, it also impedes income inequality and significantly holds back the global fight to reduce poverty and achieve the UN’s Global Goals.
Global Citizen Festival is calling on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to do more than they’ve ever done before to End Extreme Poverty NOW. Through our global campaign and with stages in two iconic locations — NYC’s Central Park and Accra’s Black Star Square — we will unite leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens around the world on Sept. 24 to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates. Wherever you are in the world, you can join the campaign and take action right now by downloading the Global Citizen app.