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We must discover love, the redemptive power of love and when we do that we will make this world a new love. Love is the only way…
Oh boy. Now that my feet have touched the ground, as promised, I wanted to give you a rundown of one of the most overwhelming and humbling 72 hours of my life. The Royal Wedding – Harry and Meghan tying the knot in-front of billions on the 19th May 2018. The energy was absolutely electric and the universality of joy was incredibly infectious and I was right there in the thick of it all and it as a moment I will never forget.
I was invited to provide expert commentary on the day before and at the wedding itself with the BBC One, BBC Worlds News, BBC Radio Five Live and Sky News and had the time of my life despite the hideous 4am call!
Now I want to be very transparent.
I have struggled with patriarchy and I have really struggled with feeling patriotic in this country. Perhaps a sticky by-product of having union jacks waved in my face throughout my adolescent accompanied by screams telling me to go back to my own country, coupled with constant “othering” constantly being asked “where I am from” my melanin always being a barrier to being seen as British.
I have also struggled to be a fan of the Royals – an institution that historically hadn’t really included me, or people like me accept as a slave or servant. An institution that only accepted people with “blue blood” into its circles. An institution that forbade anyone to have relationships with people of colour – an institution that saw mixed race children as “less than” as Mulatto’s. Fast forward several decades we still have a complex relationship with race and the Monarchy. Meghan and Harry have too endured dissatisfaction of their union and racial abuse. You see, our history with the monarchy and race is intricate. For these reasons I have always felt conflicted.
Saturday was the first time in a long time I felt patriotic. The unashamed blending of two people in love, two cultures, the unapologetic snippets of black culture, against the beautiful backdrop of British tradition which it would appear was a little like marmite, was quite something. So I wanted to give you the lowdown on being present and share my thougths…
SO! After my involvement with this special Sky News documentary I had the pleasure of being invited to be live at the Royal Wedding and I had to look the part!
I had the pleasure of providing commentary on the wedding and what it might mean for a very homogenous wedding industry and also for women of colour in the UK. I flew straight from work in Marrakech to Windsor (nearly missed my flight – don’t ask) on Friday and had a wonderful time discussing race representation with the Deputy Director of Elle UK Magazine Kenya Hunt with Sky News, Katty Kay at BBC World News and shared another lovely moment worth noting in an interview with Lisa of Stylist Magazine – formidable women.
With Kenya – Deputy Editor of Elle Magazine
With all this media attention I knew I wanted to make an effort and not embarrass myself on TV. LOL! Thank God I had the wonderful designer and founder Olga from Anderson Club who has been helping me step outside of my comfort zone with my clothing choices. She has been encouraging me to wear clothes that make me stand out from the crowd rather than blend in (which I’ve been doing for years) and intends to give my wardrobe a complete overhaul!. We chose a Nairobi blue (inspired by Lupita Nyongo 2014 Oscar number – a nod to Cinderella. We chose a blue and pink brocade, a rich fabric woven with raised pattern notoriously worn by Royalty (well, I told you, I had to make an effort) I felt wonderful in it.
I accessorised by gorgeous jewellery pieces Josette and Bonita by Lola and Alice and a stunning hat by superb milliner Beverley Edmondson who was also kind enough to help support me in abolishing my fear of looking stupid in hats.
I HAVE to thank Hazel at Hazel’s Bridal Beauty who I am forever indebted to for joining me at 4:30am (RIDICULOUS call time) to help get me camera ready. She is so calm, totally un-wavered by my anxiety to be on time and talented and wonderful at what she does. I ADORED my make up and felt utterly beautiful in it ready for the day ahead.
With Lisa – Editor-in-chief of Stylist Magazine
With designer Caroline Castigliano on BBC Breakfast TV
Live with BBC World News the night before the big day!
Arriving to Windsor, the early morning eerie-ness reminded me of my own wedding day. The bubbling nerves and excitement of what’s to come. Jovial police passing me a compliment as I walked to the Castle and sharing in the spirit of the day. Heartwarming Crowd cheers when I walked up Castle Hill. (Even though they had no idea who I was) !
And the genuine buzz and community of many different people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and class systems coming together to celebrate our Royals. Even I was giddy with excitement, (which significantly detracted from the hideous call time). This community is something I haven’t experienced for a long time and I enjoyed spending the morning and early afternoon working with BBC One, World News and BBC Radio 5 Live to provide expert and live commentary throughout the morning.
Live wedding commentary with BBC Radio 5 Live
Meghan and Doria
I remember being asked to comment on Meghan and her mother as they left Cliveden House in their Rolls Royce. The very first glimpse of the pair of them.
To see Meghan and her mother Doria, a single parent and the only member of her family present at the wedding, her mother who has also received racism and vilification from the press (which I spoke about in my interview with Sky on Friday) standing there proud as two women of colour, with knowing smiles, sharing this momentous moment in history was extremely very moving for me. Not many will understand the REAL significance of this very visible moment.
The Ceremony, Politics and Symbolism
The way Harry looked at Meghan when he first saw her walking towards him with a charming Prince Charles escorting her part way reduced me to tears. Love like that is difficult to explain. But you see it and boy do you feel it.
I was both surprised and warmed to see that Harry and Meghan were able to bring both of their cultures into their unplugged wedding ceremony. It was a powerful and humbling to see Harry and Meghan’s two totally different backgrounds acknowledged and blended in front of billions, even Mr Nu Bride was captivated by it!
There have been quite a few rhetorics on social media stating that the ceremony was ‘too political’, a ‘circus’ an embarrassment to Britain and someone even muttered to me in Windsor that it was ‘too black’ – to which, of course, I challenged.
Whilst I don’t want to give these micro-aggressive views a platform (which is why I have purposefully chosen not to link to them) but it reminded me that these views are indicative of the great work we have left to do to dismantle this perceived discomfort around any sense of celebrating an ounce of black culture and to normalising difference. These rhetorics are also a sign that our Royal family is still deemed as the epitome of Britishness which many believe is white. Well its not just that anymore, in-fact it hasn’t been for years, the Royal family is changing. Given our intricate history with race, colonialism and slavery , as much as we try to silence it and ignore its existence and the very real implications of our past, you cannot separate politics from the Royal Family and to have acknowledged it in-front of billions as part of Meghan and Harry’s union on Saturday was very bold and pertinent and a taste of things to come.
The cultural nods, the inclusion of American Bishop Michael Curry, an advocate for social justice and marriage equality, was invited by Meghan and Harry alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury to deliver a 13 minute impassioned homily. A homily/ sermon centred around Christianity and the power of love that unapologetically referenced the legend that is Martin Luther King and slavery – oh yes it did.
There is something right about love. Our lives are meant to be lived in”that love” sacrificial love can change the world.
So it is no surprise that it was Bishop Curry’s sermon that has generated the most conversation. It led to witnessing both hilarious and inappropriate giggles from some of The Royals; the visible discomfort, juxtaposed against the visible joy, laughter and the tears evoked from the sensational punctuation of music from the Kingdom Gospel Choir, (featuring my wonderful colleague Mari.Songs, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Rita Colson’s launch last year)
Harry and Meghan, or now more aptly; The Duke and Duchess of Sussex personally chose to have gospel music, of which Prince Charles is a huge fan of, performed by The Kingdom Choir who were invited directly by Clarence House just a couple of months before the big day.
The power of gospel music at weddings – even Mr Nu Bride and I had one and it was beautiful to see this incorporated into the #royalwedding on Saturday. Congratulations to @thekingdomchoir and my very wonderful colleague @mari.songs who got to gift the Royals with her beautiful voice this weekend! #historymade #gospelchoir #standbyme
The couple were very hands on with their ceremony plans. Right down to their music choices and the songs they wanted the choir to sing and how they wanted them to perform it and included the absolute classic by Ben E. King – Stand By Me – a song historically used as a song of solidarity in the black community. Happy coincidence? Either way, it was beautifully performed and elevated the ceremony and was one of the main talking points from guests. Music also included stunning choral, as well as absolutely beautiful accompaniment from 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason; the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award in 2016 . He played Apres Un Reve during the signing of the register and it was his rendition of Ave Maria that finished me off! Accompanied by an elegant orchestra and guests including James Corden were visibly moved.
The Fashion & Dress (es)
Of course there was huge fascination on what Meghan would be wearing – during my commentary the BBC were absolutely obsessed with asking me about it LOL! It was simple and elegant number from Claire Waight Welley for Givenchy – she wore what she wanted to (as all brides should), a timeless number with a bandeau neck-line and trumpet skirt stripped back modern twist and most importantly, it was a clear representation of her own style – (within the confines of royal protocol) and had a very wonderful touch of having every flower of the commonwealth embroided into her cathedral veil was delightful. Her second Stella McCartyney number TOTALLY had me at hello.
I cannot go without mentioning Harry. He looked superbly stylish and they reminded me of a couple from a bond movie. HOT. I am sure the groomed beards will stay on trend for years to come. He looked sharp! And it was great to see the nerves and giddy excitement did not escape him either!
Weddings are a powerful reminder of those who we want nothing more to be there – but sadly aren’t. No doubt Harry felt the absence of his mother and he made sure he included her throughout the day. One way was by having some of her favourite flowers included in Meghan’s bouquet (by Philippa Craddock flowers who created all of the spectacular flowers on the day), as well as giving Meghan a beautiful homage to something blue – Diana’s ring.
Feminism and Weddings
I believe you can be a feminist and still get married, we spoke about it on Nu Bride previously. Feminism is about equality and giving women the choice to marry whom they want to and how. There were nods to this in their ceremony; the absence of Meghan’s father meant she made a choice to walk partially down the aisle on her own – what a moment and what an aisle – elegantly supported by a very charming and gentle Prince Charles partway through.
Meghan also edited her vows to omit the outdated honour and obey (good on you girl) reference – as did I.
I think Meghan’s stand and status update on her new Royal page, ‘I am proud to be a woman and a feminist’ – sums it all up. Being in the Royal family, an extremely patriarchal system, one that is not that inclusive in itself is a contradiction to being a feminist – means advocating for women’s rights may come up against some conflict. I look forward to seeing how Meghan continues to blend her own beliefs and causes, together with her new found role as a Duchess and how her and Harry define their own roles in their marriage.
I have to give a mention to Amal Clooney also wearing Stella Mccartney who rocked my world with her understated elegance!
I can’t believe I was meters away from the legend that is Oprah Winfrey and we still didn’t meet! Our time will come!
But it was really moving to spend some time speaking to some of the guests from our grass-roots communities who were invited by Harry and Meghan because of the inspiring work they have been doing to bring about change in society, to improve the lives of others – one of which were the founders of Positive Youth Foundation. The joy and genuine excitement for them to have been invited to take part and be upfront and personal at the wedding and to be acknowledged for the impact of their work was wonderful to see.
You fell in love and we all showed up. The whole world centres around you and your beloved. Bishop Michael Curry
The cheers and whoops and merriment from the crowds was quite lovely to witness, many of which had been camping to get a prime spot to see Meghan and Harry during their carriage procession.
I left Windsor after the ceremony to make my way home around 2:30pm to which I was greeted by the cutest tea party from my mum and dad to celebrate the wedding and congratulate me!
What I noticed was that I hadn’t fully absorbed what I had just witnessed and been part of until I got home. I sat in my car and I started to cry.
Not because I felt sad or was offended by some of the rhetorics I had been subjected to. But because I had just taken a moment to process the magnitude of Harry and Meghan’s love and what it stands for. What it means to me as someone who has previously felt excluded and whose ancestors were slaves to the British Empire.
I wondered for a moment how their union will impact the division that we pretend doesn’t exist in the UK, I wonder how their union will influence our homogenous mainstream wedding industry and if it will finally diminish the barrage of tokenism I have witnessed in the run up to the Royal Wedding. If it will encourage the industry to wake up to the beauty and benefit of being more diverse appealing to and inspiring to more couples. I wondered for a moment if my own low self worth around my racial identity as a child would have been greater with this symbolism in the monarchy. I wondered how it may influence children growing up in this era.
Let us not forget that it was forbidden for people to enter into relationships with a person of colour in the monarchy.
Let us not forget not much more than 50 years ago, it was illegal in the US to marry outside of your race.
I am encouraged not to celebrate my blackness – to not make others feel uncomfortable, to fit in, to not cause a fuss. The openly shared rhetorics I heard at Windsor in response to Meghan and Harry’s blended ceremony were a reminder of this. But what their union cemented for me is that our history in the Monarchy is complex, that there should be NO SHAME in celebrating your heritage, especially on your wedding day. Even if it makes others squirm and feel uncomfortable because it is not familiar. Only when our cultures are embraced, not hidden, and openly celebrated; frequently, can we diminish the feelings of ‘difference’ and obliterate the need for people to question its “place” and it’s “appropriateness” in a royal wedding ceremony.
We should celebrate ourselves – ALL of us. And we should celebrate the beauty of diversity and the added value and gifts that it brings.
Perhaps we won’t fully understand or process the significance of this moment in history and the conversations and doors it may open for years to come. It will not solve our very complex history with race – but it is a stepping stone forward.
I am so grateful that my own challenging journey to feeling excluded as a dark-skinned black woman in the wedding industry, one where I have felt like giving up many times, has led me to THIS moment in time and I am overwhelmed to have been part of such an important day. Thank you to everyone for your heart-felt support
Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – To Harry and Meghan for paving the way. I am excited to see where this step forward leads you and us.
Heart well and truly full.
Photo take by official Royal Wedding Photographer: Alexi Lubomirski