Will Harry and Meghan learn the A-list art of saying nothing at all? | Barbara Ellen

To join Clooney, Gates, Beyoncé and co, the royal couple might need a little discretion

Considering where Meghan and Prince Harry wish to end up, are they blowing it big-time? In the commotion over who the Sussexes are upsetting (royal family, British press, British public, and the real victim in all this, Piers Morgan’s wife, who has him back, cluttering up the kitchen in the morning), are we forgetting that the couple may have become too noisy and leaky for the scrupulously private mega A-list ranks they evidently yearn to join?

The serious issues of race and mental health have been much discussed. But let’s look at this through the lens of the type of celebrity and status the Sussexes appear to be aiming for. First, that interview, where Oprah Winfrey was allowed to bash away at the Sussex piñata for headline-generating goodies. Now the leak from Oprah’s mate, Gayle King – about the couple’s “non-productive” talks with Prince William – presumed to emanate from Meghan.

So, from speaking their truth to leaking their truth? That was quick. Is this a good look for the “global philanthropy”-minded couple? Put it this way: has Michelle Obama ever sat on a TV sofa bitching about her sister-in-law?

Supporters and detractors alike perceive the Oprah interview as the Sussexes’ golden ticket into the US elite, but it’s not as simple as that. While it’s accepted that such behaviour is offensive to the royals, it’s forgotten that it’s also the antithesis of how the mega-rich, uber-influential, notoriously private elite conduct themselves. The Sussexes aren’t going after standard-issue celebrity: one doubts their game plan is to end up on Dancing with the Stars. This is about the higher echelons of fame, at least Beyoncé/Clooney level, maybe Obama/Gates, considering those philanthropic impulses, a bit of swishing around with earnestly normcore billionaires or trillionaires, tech moguls and the like.

Anyone who’s ever fleetingly ventured into such elite orbits will tell you that they’re a discreet breed, living in micro-managed worlds, operating a strict privacy-first code. Getting close to them is like pushing through plasma. If they give out personal information, it’s in a tightly disciplined way. These people are unlikely to feel true kinship with people who give explosive gut-spilling interviews, never mind leak private family conversations to showbiz journalists.

In such rarefied circles, the Sussexes simply don’t fit in. Whatever supportive platitudes are spouted, in private, eyebrows may be being raised at the oversharing.

I wish the couple only well, because – chrissakes! – why not? However, they may have catastrophically miscalculated reverting to Meghan’s Suits-level fame strategy (Push. Publicise. Repeat.). When (oh, the irony!) the royal family’s oft-maligned, tightly buttoned “never explain, never complain” reserve would have far better endeared them to the elite circles they wish to join. They say you should dress for the job you want, and perhaps, exposure-wise, the Sussexes should have maintained self-control for the social position they want. It’s a bit late now.

Imagine no do-gooding celebrities, it’s easy if you try

Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot persuaded a host of celebrities to wail plaintively into cameraphones. Photograph: Leon Bennett/WireImage

It’s the anniversary of that hilariously tone-deaf Imagine video – you know, the one that marked the start of lockdown, inadvertently serving as a before/after shot of splashing celebrity tears being worth anything at all.

For those who’ve yet to see it, this version of John Lennon’s Imagine was, I suppose, imagined by Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot, who pulled in a host of other celebrities (Will Ferrell, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, Labrinth, Amy Adams, Sia, and more) to wail plaintively into cameraphones in an effort to unite the world. And unite the world they did – in outright derision.

Back in the real world, people were getting sick and dying, while others were wondering whether to go the full Mad Max, snatching toilet rolls off supermarket shelves. In the video, the famous folk, with expressions set to peak anguish, warbled through the tune, mostly remembering to keep their mansions and swimming pools out of shot.

Astonishingly, it didn’t make the world feel any better to witness the simpering celebrities in expensive jumpers imploring us to imagine “no possessions”. Well-meaning though they undoubtedly were, all they did was highlight the grinding solipsism of do-gooding celebrity culture.

Then again, are the rest of us sometimes too hard on celebrity do-gooders? Today, even legitimate charitable efforts get slammed as vanity projects or cynical exercises in career resuscitation, but how are famous people supposed to react when they’re asked to do something? “Sorry, I can’t visit sick kids in hospital because it would look too much like virtue signalling.” It’s getting to the point where the famous could be forgiven for being a little gun-shy about pitching in.

Hurrah for Glastonbury! That said, I’m still not going

A scene from Glastonbury 2017.
A scene from Glastonbury 2017. Photograph: Guy Bell/Alamy

Glastonbury festival may be happening in a scaled-down form in September. Although it’s hard to predict what might happen, pandemic-wise, organiser Emily Eavis has announced that she’s applied for a concert licence. Which feels like great news. Which, in turn, feels weird. What’s happening to me? Is it time to stand in front of the mirror, paw my face, and whisper: “Who am I?”

Thing is, I loathe and detest Glastonbury. It’s always struck me as a festival of annoying, mud-splattered, jester-hatted capering hippies and equally irksome poseurs slurping bottled lager in corporate yurts, and smoking tiny, badly rolled spliffs. For me, this was as close to a vision of hell as it was possible to get, whatever acts happened to be performing. Just the mention of Glastonbury was always guaranteed to grate on my nerves.

Now look at me – reduced to giving internal little cheers that “Glasters!” might happen in some form, even though I’m statistically more likely to be abducted by aliens than go. Oh, whatever. I may as well succumb. Good luck to Glastonbury and all the other festivals and live events that are trying to happen this year. As for my personal turnaround, it appears that the pandemic has changed us all in ways impossible to fathom.

• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist

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Barbara Ellen

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