As Britain gains a new princess, people all over the world are using Megan Markle’s story as a means with which to reassure women everywhere: if an American, mixed race, 36 year old, divorcé can bag the most eligible bachelor going and wind up a part of the stuffy British Royal Family, then there is hope for you yet.
An interesting angle at a time when women are rebelling from this clichéd idea that marrying a prince is the answer to all life’s problems, and one that’s got me thinking about what we now deem to be aspirational.
In a world where anyone can become famous overnight, are we on the hunt for a role model that we consider aspirational or relatable?
A few days before Megan well and truly won the hearts of the nation, the internet exploded with rage in the wake of the Kim Kardashian appetite surprising lollypop scandal.
We were spurred on by actress Jameela Jamil who called Kim out for being desperately irresponsible and, as the tweets and comments poured in from everywhere, it became apparent how badly the world was still clinging onto the hope that one day someone really famous would show us something really real.
“C’mon Kim!” we cried. “This is dangerous, irresponsible, reckless, stupid, DESPERATE! Show young girls the truth, you have a platform. Be honest. Be a good role model!”
As if that was ever going to happen.
Imagine a world in which Kim Kardashian would be able to maintain an Instagram following of 111 million people after appearing online with an oozing spot on her chin and some stray black hairs forming a snail trail on her soft and squishy stomach.
Nope. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that the world obsesses over Kim Kardashian because she is so desperately un-relatable.
Are the rest of us aspiring, actively aspiring, towards a world in which we could have Kim’s stomach and a private plane and an infinite number of cars and bags and sushi all the time and no clothes budget?
Well we can’t say it wouldn’t be nice.
So whilst she might not be our one person dead or alive that we’d have dinner with, a woman that we’d hope to grow into, or even a person we actually like that much, we can’t deny that the life she shows us is a little aspirational.
And of course she relies on that when securing brand partnerships, the Flat Tummy Company knew full how many people look to Kim for inspiration, hence why she’d be such a good advert for their product. And we’re the suckers for staring in the first place (pardon the lollypop pun) but when it’s right there, it’s hard not to look and it’s harder not to want.
Instagram enables us to seek out inspiration in a way that we haven’t before. We are looking to be inspired, we are looking for people to look up to, I’m mostly looking to be told what to do if I’m honest.
Hello bloggers, influencers, content creators. Welcome to the party. Thanks for being here.
People like me have grown a following because we share our lives in the hope that someone, somewhere, will want to hear about it.
This idea that we are less alone online, that someone else has gone through it too, that there is someone out there just like me, or the person I want to be at least, is the reason there are now over fifteen million bloggers in the world.
But that in itself, although seemingly perfect, is creating a problem.
Looking at the journey of Zoella for example, you can see the aspirational vs relatable divide in it’s purest form.
The girl the world fell in love with nine years ago for her girl-next-door, Primark loving, I get spots too attitude has evolved into a woman who now lives in a house big enough to fit most of our houses into twice, with a wardrobe exploding with clothes that were either free or might as well have been, still sharing her life and trying her very best to remain the relatable person that she was when she started.
She was so relatable, she became aspirational. She harnessed her relatablity (I’m making that a word) and morphed it into a career, a means of making money and securing her future.
Props to her.
The pull of Zoella is surely the she has always been herself, only now she does it professionally. Find me a girl who wouldn’t want at least a fraction of what she has.
The fact her journey is out there for all to see, it’s inspiring and exciting and probably the reason thousands, if not millions, of young people created their own platforms and in doing so changed their own lives.
Vix Meldrew wrote an interesting blog post about the influencer element of this debate back in March.
She points out that the tags ‘aspirational‘ and ‘relatable‘ are brands, concluding that this idea of being relatable is relative, and of course it is. What’s relatable to you won’t be relatable to me and vice versa.
And yet time and time again we are looking to the same people and hoping to get the same things from them.
So what of Megan Markle? A relatable role model?
Despite her successful career, humanitarian work and the fact that we know all too well about the obstacles she has overcome, as of Saturday she is now, theoretically, the least relatable woman in the world. Technically all she did was marry-up. SURELY we are beyond the days of forcing the rhetoric that the key to happiness is simply to marry a prince. (I wrote a bit more about the royal wedding here).
But then, watching her get out of the car on her wedding day, alone, and walk herself down the aisle with no friend of family member with her, I was struck by how absolutely phenomenal this woman is.
What this represented and what it signified.
Whilst what she was doing was absolutely not meant to be relatable, I will never be in that situation or relate to it in any way, in that moment she was utterly relatable and perfectly aspirational.
Proudly alone, she took her last steps as a commoner with the world’s eyes on her. She was everything.
Angelica Malin wrote a Twitter thread about this, she said of Megan:
“There was something of Megan being so proudly alone – without being lonely – that really inspired me. Having only one member of your family in a crowd of 600, watched by millions, and being so self-confident. It was really beautiful”.
Somehow, Megan Markle is the most perfectly aspirational and relatable woman when, on paper, she should be neither thing.
We can’t relate to a princess, we shouldn’t aspire to be one and yet here we are, adoring her.
But Megan Markle is surely the anomaly.
The rest of the world, I worry, are fucked.
We are looking everywhere for everything. We are free to watch it all and worse still, we are free to judge it. We’re looking up to people, relating to them, wanting to be them, wanting to be friends with them, all at once.
Which is fine (~ish~) for us… but what about how it is for them??
We are pushing people to such a height of aspiration that we then can’t possibly relate to them… and then we have the damn cheek to blame them for becoming un-relatable.
And herein lies a problem. The Zoella problem. The influencer problem.
When it is your JOB to be aspirational, how, HOW can you then be 100% relatable?
It doesn’t apply to Megan Markle because she doesn’t have to be relatable. Even Kim Kardashian we will continue to watch with a sick satisfaction as she trail blazes a new and depressing form of entertainment, she doesn’t need to be relatable either.
But I think the problem is, someone has to be. We’re not getting the balance anymore.
We no longer get fed shit from the magazines but a hefty dose of reality from our mate’s Facebook page. We are all creating content, in some capacity, and we have access to the best filters going.
Why would you want to be relatable when you could be aspirational? To those without the responsibility to choose, it’s a no brainer.
Many influencers are aware of their responsibility, and they do their very best. But they are not going to tell you about the poo they had this morning or the cry they had on their lunch break or the fact they had a huge fight with their boyfriend and it was all their fault.
It’s not fair to expect that of someone, but then is it fair for them to then only offer half the story and sell it as the whole bundle?
Because that’s what I’m doing, that’s what we’re all doing… that’s sort of just what social media is.
We have always wanted to be inspired. We have always wanted to relate.
And I really hope the next stage of making-it-up-as-we-go-along-because-even-the-grown-ups-don’t-understand-social-media involves a way in which we can finally strike that balance.
Because I don’t know about you guys but I don’t know how much more of this #justwokeuplikethis #nobutreally shit I can take.
I would really welcome thoughts and comments on this because I just don’t know what the future holds…