Stop comparing Meghan to Michelle Obama - they are worlds apart

As speculation grows over Meghan Markle and her White House aspirations, her relationship with the former First Lady is under the spotlight

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle could have political aspirations, some believe Credit: Michele Spatari/AFP

Back in mid-August, when Meghan Markle gave her first interview from her and Harry’s new Santa Barbara home, we were given a clearer picture of the embattled couple’s safe haven. Along with the price tag – $14.7 million – nine bedrooms and sixteen bathrooms we already knew about, we were treated to a tantalising glimpse of the views and the vintage Martin Lawrence Bullard-inspired decor.

But all I really wanted to see was Meghan’s ‘strategy bunker.’ Because there has to be one, and in my head it looks a lot like the White House’s Situation Room: a plush 5,000 square foot global intelligence centre, complete with mahogany conference table and high-backed leather chairs. In my mind, it’s from this bunker (and the vast digital image of a rainbow-shaped career plan mounted on the soundproofed wall) that the Duchess is able to chart her journey from C-list actress to President of the United States.

If it were ever in doubt that this could be the possible end game, a new clause appended to the trademark registration of the couple’s sustainable travel project, Travalyst, should help dispel that. In documents released by the Intellectual Property Office in London this week, “lobbying with respect to laws regarding sustainable travel” has been added to that 2019 registration.

And with influencing governments now openly on the agenda and Meghan having become increasingly politically active in the US in recent weeks – urging Americans to vote on November 3 – a 2024 bid seems inevitable. Indeed the odds on her running and winning were recently slashed to 100 to 1.

Meghan’s rainbow starts with the royal title – gained and then promptly lost – before rising up, nonetheless, in a glorious curve of personal achievement. Her September 2019 guest editorship of British Vogue is charted, along with her Disney nature documentary, Elephant, the following year. And of course, the £112 million Netflix deal signed last week is up there. But it’s the relationship she has so painstakingly forged with Michelle Obama, and the parallels we are supposed to draw, that are to take her to the end of that rainbow.

Michelle Obama was a popular First Lady Credit: Charles Dharapak /AP

Suddenly Michelle isn’t just an “inspiration”, “mentor” and “friend” – as she shmoozily described the former First Lady in her Vogue Q&A – but a kindred spirit and fellow ceiling smasher: a woman whose slow, steady and selfless push towards a better world is a triumph over adversity.

Only there’s a problem with these parallels. Namely that they are lazy, preposterous, baseless guff. Growing up as a privately educated schoolgirl in Hollywood is unlikely to have given Meghan the same insights as the ones Michelle gleaned being raised in a cramped apartment on the wrong side of Chicago. Equally, struggling to get roles on daytime telly soaps thanks to her “ethnically ambiguous” looks is a rather smaller violin to saw away on than defying every high school teacher’s expectation to win a place at Princeton University, where Michelle was made to feel “like a visitor on campus”, before going on to excel at Harvard Law School.

One of these two women met her husband at the Chicago law firm where she was one of just two African Americans in the department; the other was set up on a blind date by a member of London’s society set, after allegedly putting the word out that she was keen to land a “famous British man.”

Harry and Meghan were first introduced via socialite friends Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Then there’s the small matter of intellectual rigor. Meghan may have been described as “Hollywood smart” in the past, but Hollywood smart to Michelle Obama smart is what dog years are to human years. The former First Lady would never have taken it upon herself to scrawl “inspirational messages of support” on bananas handed out as part of food packs to sex workers. She would never have alienated powerful figures like, say, the Queen of England in her blinkered and toe-curlingly transparent attempts to carve her own path.

Despite being effectively muted by her husband’s presidency and forced to downplay her own ambitions and intelligence, Michelle would never have been overheard icily muttering “Don’t I have a voice?”, as Meghan was revealed to have done at an early public event in which she was humiliatingly made to wait in line alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Whereas Michelle resolutely refused to whinge throughout her years in the White House, knowing that her voice would be heard in time, Meghan has done nothing but complain from day one, ironically flouting the one piece of public advice her mentor once gave her. “Take some time and don’t be in a hurry to do anything,” the former First Lady offered up as counsel to Meghan in an interview with Good Housekeeping in 2018. “Like me, Meghan probably never dreamed she’d have a life like this and the pressure you feel can sometimes feel like a lot.”

Was Michelle being disingenuous? I suspect young Meghan dreamed of precisely the life she has today. Only rather than it feeling “like a lot,” it won’t now feel like nearly enough.