Meghan Markle will soon participate in a rare interview—with a twist. This time, she’ll be the one asking the questions.
On August 14, the Duchess of Sussex will close out a virtual summit from The 19th*—a new nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom focusing on gender and politics—with an interview with its cofounder and CEO Emily Ramshaw.
The event will mark the centennial of women’s right to vote with a series of live-streamed conversations between prominent women in politics, civics, journalism, and the arts. The organization is named for the transformative amendment that granted women—but in practice, white women—the ballot. The asterisk serves as a visible reminder of the 19th amendment’s unfinished business.
That kind of candor—about whom our democratic ideals have accommodated and whom those same values have failed to protect—seems to have drawn Markle’s interest.
“The 19th*’s commitment to reporting and storytelling that lifts up those who are too often underrepresented in the media has never been more important,” the duchess said in a statement to Glamour. “I’m looking forward to asking the cofounder what it means to build a media outlet with gender equity, diversity, and community at its core.”
Ramshaw explains that “the duchess learned about The 19th* and its mission and reached out to us. She told us that our vision for The 19th—building a truly diverse and representative newsroom that covers women with nuance—spoke to her immediately.”
The summit—The 19th Represents—will see journalists from the outlet sit down with some of the most influential women in America: three U.S. senators (including potential vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris), several congresswomen and congressional candidates, Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Stacey Abrams. It will also feature none other than Meryl Streep.
But even in that group, the duchess is a standout. Since stepping back from her duties as a senior royal in March and moving stateside, she has made just a handful of public appearances. And next week’s event will be a first—an interview, with Markle holding the proverbial cards and Ramshaw in the hot seat.
“I would call it a surreal experience for me,” Ramshaw says, laughing. The 19th* went live less than a week ago. The summit itself is the culmination of months of intense work. In no universe was the active participation of Meghan Markle on Ramshaw’s vision board.
The session will focus on what motivated Ramshaw—a former executive editor of the Texas Tribune—to launch her new venture and how The 19th* intends to approach its work. According to the official description of the conversation, Ramshaw will be asked about “creating a transformative newsroom centered on gender equity.”
In conceiving of the summit, Ramshaw and the team intended to “bring together the women who are changing the game.” She wanted to hear from women who were at the forefront—whatever the cause. That meant enticing Abrams to talk about voting rights and getting Gates, who has been leading an international conversation about vaccines for decades, to take stock of where we are in the pandemic.
But while there can be no doubt that Markle—an American actor and proud feminist who married into one of the most traditional, conservative families on the planet—has changed the game, it was never Ramshaw’s intention to land a duchess for the summit, nor did she expect that she herself would feature in the lineup.
In general, Ramshaw likes to ask the questions—not answer them. But not this time. “It feels vulnerable, but also important,” she explains. “Journalism is a critical piece of the democratic equation. We should ask questions about it. So we’re looking forward to rounding out the week with this chance to talk about the mission of the 19th, and I’m supremely excited to get to do that with someone who believes deeply in gender equity and racial justice and high-quality journalism.” Ramshaw—consummate reporter—has guarded the news of the duchess’s involvement until now. With one notable exception: She couldn’t resist letting her daughter in on the secret. Putting the revelation in preschool terms, Ramshaw told her that she was going to meet a princess. The news did indeed impress Ramshaw’s daughter, who is four; it also risked a leak. For the past six months, Ramshaw has angled Zooms to make sure her daughter is just out of the frame in calls with investors. She has structured meetings around nap time. While she is the first to allow that as “a white woman of privilege,” she’s found the pandemic far easier to cope with than many other women, it hasn’t been simple to get a startup up and running under lockdown while parenting. Just as Ramshaw was gearing up for the site’s debut, she and her husband made the decision to send their daughter back to day care “because we couldn’t get across the finish line with her at home,” Ramshaw says. “So she walks straight in, bursts into the room, and declares, ‘My mommy is going to talk to a princess!’ Thank God no one believed her.” The 19th Represents is free to attend online, and those interested in watching Meghan flex her Oprah interviewer skills can register here. Her session will stream at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, August 14.