Watching the royal wedding of Meghan and Harry with my 10 year old daughter was really quite emotional. On so many levels. I love a wedding anyway, the dress, the flowers, the vows. They get me every time. But this wedding was different. Meghan Markle is mixed race, like me, like my daughters, and she is the first of her kind in the royal family. I wish this didn’t matter, but it really, really, really, does.
I tweeted on the day that I, the mixed race woman, felt very proud watching the mixed race princess get married with my mixed race daughter, and the response was huge. I was even quoted in The Observer on Sunday (natch!).
Twitter buzzed at the gear-change for the House of Windsor. Naomi Campbell wrote: “BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY GIVING ME LIFE” while Ed Miliband claimed that Curry “could almost make me a believer”. TV presenter Angela Griffin summed up much of the mood: “Not sure I’ve ever seen so many people of colour at a royal event ever. Feel quite proud watching with my 10-year-old mixed-race daughter”. THE OBSERVER
The reason I felt proud was because I felt represented, that being mixed race, neither black or white was no longer seen as being less than, but equal. To get on in the world I believe you have to have confidence, you have to feel like you belong, that you have every right to be here, that you are equal and as important as the next person. A way to acquire this is to follow in others footsteps, seeing people like yourself being successful, in love, in careers, on tv, in the streets, anywhere and everywhere. So for my daughter to see somebody who looks like her enter an area of society where up until now there has been nobody else like her, was a groundbreaking moment. It told my daughter that nowhere is off limits to her.
When I was growing up black people on tv were ridiculously under-represented, it felt like all we had was The Cosby Show, Desmond’s and Crimewatch. So for me to want to become an actor was huge, it was breaking the mould, and in all fairness being on television didn’t feel like it was even an option, I thought I would be working in theatre. But break the mould I did. And helped clear the way for others coming behind me. Of course not every little mixed race girl is going to get the chance to be a princess, but thats not the point, they are being told that they have a chance to be ‘anything’, that the colour of their skin, their heritage will not and should not hold them back.
Meghan’s influence was all over the wedding, from American preacher Reverend Curry to the black gospel Kingdom choir singing Stand By Me. The guest list was full of actors, celebrities and friends rather than political leaders and dignitaries. And the mix of non white/people of colour/black faces on the day was jaw dropping, and everybody noticed. That was why it is important.
That one wedding dragged the Royal Family right up to date. It told the estimated 2 billion people watching that we are a country that is welcoming, diverse, inclusive and modern. We have moved with the times.