The Biggest Reveals From Meghan Markle and Serena Williams’ Talk on Archetypes’ Ambition Podcast
The first big fruits of Meghan Markle’s Spotify deal have come out today. The Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes podcast launched this morning, with her first episode featuring her and longtime friend Serena Williams breaking down the word “ambition” and how people’s negative portrayal of ambitious women have affected their own lives.
The two also discussed Williams’ announcement that she is evolving away from tennis, balancing motherhood with their public roles (Meghan had a particularly jarring story about how Archie was almost caught in a house fire during her and Harry’s 2019 South Africa tour), and their friendship.
You can listen to the full podcast below; it’s worth the listen. Here, highlights from their candid chat.
Meghan on when she was first introduced to ambition as a bad thing: “So, I don’t remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ambitious until I started dating my now husband. And um, apparently ambition is, uh… a terrible, terrible thing, for a woman that is–according to some. So, since I’ve felt the negativity behind it, it’s really hard to un-feel it. I can’t unsee it, either, in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller–so much smaller–on a regular basis.”
Serena on playing (and winning) a 2018 French Open match on just 30 minutes of sleep after her daughter Olympia broke her wrist the night before: “Moms do more, I know that now there are more dads that do a lot. But moms traditionally do more, which is why they always ask, how do you balance this, mom? How are you going to be able to play tennis and be able to still have a kid? Because, quite frankly, we care and we’re there and we’re breastfeeding and we’re rocking that baby to sleep. I’ll never forget, this is a crazy experience. I don’t think I’ve ever, like, said anything about it publicly. At the French Open, it was, that year I wore that infamous catsuit. The one piece, black.”
“So that year I had Olympia and I had a match the next day and that night, she fell out of her high chair and broke her wrist. And she was on my watch. And I was just basically devastated. Like, I literally couldn’t think. I felt so guilty. I just, anyway. So she fell. We went to the hospital and she had a small tear, a break in her wrist, so she had to get a cast and we didn’t get back ‘til like four in the morning. Meanwhile, of course, it is the one day I was playing early. I remember holding her the whole night and just like rocking her to sleep and I just didn’t let her out of my sight at that point because I was already and I’m hard on myself, and I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. But I was so mad at myself for even allowing that to happen. So I think I got like 30 minutes of sleep and then I had to go play this match. And I’m just thinking, how am I going to play?”
“I somehow managed to win, but I was so emotionally spent and just like so emotionally drained that it was, it was crazy. And, you know, and then like every night after that, I just was with her the whole time and was like you’re going to be with me. I just took a lot on. But moms do a lot. Like I look at my mom, I don’t know how she had five kids. I don’t know.”
Meghan on having to do events after her then-4.5-month-old son Archie was nearly caught in a house fire:
Meghan: “When we went on our tour to South Africa, we landed with Archie. Archie was what, four and a half months old. And the moment we landed, we had to drop him off at this housing unit that they had had us staying in. He was going to get ready to go down for his nap. We immediately went to an official engagement in this township called Nyanga, and there was this moment where I’m standing on a tree stump and I’m giving this speech to women and girls, and we finish the engagement, we get in the car and they say there’s been a fire at the residence. What? There’s been a fire in the baby’s room. What?”
“And so we’re in the car. We had just landed, what, an hour or 2 hours before racing back? We get back our amazing nanny, Lauren, who we’d had all the way until, um. In Canada here. Lauren in floods of tears. She was supposed to put Archie down for his nap and she just said, You know what? Let me just go get a snack downstairs. And she was from Zimbabwe and we loved that she would always tie him on her, her back with a mud cloth, and her instinct was like, Let me just bring him with me before I put him down. In that amount of time that she went downstairs. The heater in the nursery caught on fire. There was no smoke detector. Someone happened to just smell smoke down the hallway went in, fire extinguished. He was supposed to be sleeping in there.”
“And we came back. And of course, as a mother, you go, Oh, my God, what? Everyone’s in tears, everyone’s shaken. And what do we have to do? Go out and do another official engagement? I said, This doesn’t make any sense. Can you just.”
Serena: “How did you not bring him?”
Meghan: “I was like, Can you just tell people what happened? And so much, I think, optically. The focus ends up being on how it looks instead of how it feels. And part of the humanizing and the breaking through of these labels and these archetypes and these boxes that we’re put into is having some understanding on the human moments behind the scenes that people might not have any awareness of and to give each other a break. Because we did– we had to leave our baby. And even though we were being moved to another place afterwards, we still had to leave him and go do another official engagement.”
Serena: “I couldn’t have done that. I would have said uh-uh.”
Meghan: “Oh. Well.”
Serena on evolving away from tennis and looking forward to expanding her family: “I do like the word evolution because it’s like, I don’t want, I don’t like the word retirement because it has like, I don’t like it for me in this scenario because I will never retire from something that you absolutely love. I will always have some sort of involvement. And it won’t be professionally, but I will always want to be involved in some way, shape or form in tennis. You know, obviously I’m retiring professionally, but it’s also an evolution. I’m doing more business things. And I really want to expand my family. And, you know, I’ve been putting it off for so long. And as a woman, there’s only so, so long you can put that off. And, you know, other people out, other men out there can continue to play. But, but I love being a woman and I love, I loved being pregnant. You know, I was one of those. I was like, oh, I love this. The nothing, nothing’s oh, I’m so happy. Like, I was literally.
Meghan: “Oh, with the belly chain.”
Serena: “One of…those women.”
Meghan: “Forget it. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just like everything. You made pregnancy looks so sexy. I just waddled around. I was just tired. So tired. Oh my god.”
Serena: “I was the annoying one. You were under a lot of stress.”
Meghan: “Yeah, it’s true.”
Serena: “But I have to say that it’s just I look forward to it. I think, I you know, I’ve been fortunate enough to play tennis really well, but I think my best is being a mom. I think I can really be really good at that.”
You can listen to the full episode here on Spotify.
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.