Meghan Markle's Engagement To Prince Harry Centers Black Women In The Fantasy Romantic Narrative

Ad failed to load

Though the news had been teased for months, the official announcement on Monday that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were engaged sent shockwaves through the internet — one corner in particular. Black Twitter is lit, happily celebrating a woman of color moving up in the world, particularly one with a black mother. Even though Markle identifies as a biracial woman, many black women, including myself, find the idea of a modern princess of African descent to be the ultimate wish fulfillment. And, honestly, there are a lot of valid reasons for us to feel that way, even if it doesn't seem that way at first.

First of all, it's worth noting that Rachel Meghan Markle isn't the first American woman of African descent to marry into a reigning European dynasty. Princess Angela of Lichtenstein was born Angela Brown and married Prince Maximilian of Lichtenstein in 2000 with the authorization of the monarch. Second of all, Markle wouldn't even technically be a princess; when Charles ascends the throne, Kate Middleton will become Princess Catherine, while Markle will most likely have the title of Duchess of Sussex, not princess of anywhere.

And, third of all, as many, many, many people have pointed out in the wake of the news, Markle doesn't identify as a black woman. But what's pointed out less is that that's because she identifies as both black and white — biracial, in short. In a 2015 guest column in ELLE UK, Markle wrote that, "Some households may never have had a black person in their house as a guest, or someone biracial. Well, now there are a lot of us on your TV." She also wrote that, "As a biracial woman, I watch in horror as both sides of a culture I define as my own become victims of spin in the media, perpetuating stereotypes and reminding us that the States has perhaps only placed bandages over the problems that have never healed at the root." So, while calling her a black woman isn't inaccurate, as she does not deny her black heritage, it isn't entirely accurate either because it does not solely define her heritage. She is both. She claims both.

Ad failed to load

However, for many like myself, the celebration of Markle's future as a "black princess" is less of a statement of absolute racial fact as it is a statement of hopes, dreams, and wishes come to fruition.

Ad failed to load

Hardly every woman dreams of becoming royalty — the media scrutiny alone is, perhaps ironically, the stuff of nightmares — but films like Julia Stiles' The Prince and Me and every Disney princess movie ever sure as hell made it look like a romantic and social ideal growing up. But those same films painted it as an impossible idea if you weren't white, the beauty ideal that Hollywood reinforces again and again as the group most worthy of success, awards, authority, and, of course, passionate romance. Even the one Disney movie to feature a black princess — The Princess and the Frog — not only made Tiana a commoner rather than a princess, but also showed her working her fingers to the bone and far too busy for romance during the part of the movie she spent as a visible black woman, not as a frog.

Ad failed to load

Essentially, it's rare in the media for women with some more melanin in their skin to be shown as the successful, romantic ideal, rather than to be seen as either sexless or sex object. We're shown this in things as trivial as Riverdale, where Archie Andrews' relationship with the black Valerie Brown was marginalized and then broken off in Season 1 so he could get together with the Latina Veronica Lodge only to then be implied to truly have feelings for the white Betty Cooper. We're shown this in things like Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video, in which she appears nude swinging from the titular wrecking ball, winning Video of the Year at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, while Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," which celebrates black bodies and curves, wasn't even nominated in the same category at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.

Hell, we see that in real life, where Prince Harry literally had to release a statement condemning the racist comments being made about Markle after they were rumored to be dating, when Kate Middleton faced no such backlash about her looks and background. If you're a black or mixed race woman, you are automatically put in a box of being this successful and no more, this attractive and no more, this valid and no more — all things Markle touched on in her ELLE column.

Ad failed to load
Ad failed to load

But Markle's engagement shatters the glass ceiling for black women in one of the most romanticized areas of life. America's obsession with the royal family is so obvious that the New York Times did a whole panel on it in 2012, and, in fact, 23 million of the people who watched Prince William and Kate Middleton get married were Americans. There are books and movies and TV shows about meeting members of royal families and living out that Cinderella story. So, even if you didn't care about the royal family before or after this, the fact that a woman of color is living that romantic fantasy in real life, and that that woman of color is of African descent, is something that black women can't help but celebrate.

It's rare enough to be a huge deal just on a visibility and representation level. But it's also rare enough to be a huge deal in terms of validation: black women are desirable as romantic partners, black women can be princesses, black women can be in positions of societal power, black women can — and soon will — marry into the British royal family. It's another height that previously seemed insurmountable, and, in celebrating Markle's victory as representative of a victory for black women everywhere, we are not trying to fit her into a box and we are not denying her biracial identity. We are claiming a victory for one of the communities that she claims in a space from which we as a community have previously been excluded.

So, yes, there will be inevitable discussions about whether or not Markle should be considered a "black princess" and which community can or even should be claiming her as one of their own. But that does not have to overshadow the justified celebration that a woman of African descent has shown that this glass ceiling can be broken not once but twice. And that, thanks to Rachel Meghan Markle, the potential future Duchess of Sussex, the dream that many little black girls have of falling in love, becoming a princess, and having power and success is demonstrably valid, even in real life.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Bustle's Editors On K-Beauty + McDonald's

If you're a glass-half-full kind of person, you're probably rejoicing over the fact that the week's more than halfway over. And if not, keep your chin up. I've got some insane Fashion Week and McDonald's news to hold you over. So, without further ado…
By Melissa Mills

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

Here Are All The Terms You Need To Know If You’re Watching Olympic Ski Events Right Now

Every four years the Winter Olympics rolls around to remind me that A) there are so many important Winter Olympic sports, and B) I know virtually nothing any of them. And I know for a fact, I'm not alone, I bet most people don't know what the differe…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
via Romper

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale

17 Moms Reveal The Most Disgusting Part Of Their Pregnancy

Pregnant bodies do weird-ass things. Weird-ass, gross things. I mean, my pregnant body did (twice), and I have long-suspected I'm not alone. So I asked other moms to share the most disgusting part of their pregnancy and I learned that, not only am I …
via Romper