The Duchess of Sussex said she had to “summon up the courage” to ask to guest edit British Vogue but hopes she has created a magazine of “positivity, kindness, humour and inclusivity”.
In a letter to readers, Meghan describes how she set out to produce a publication of “both substance and levity” with its editor in chief Edward Enninful, who revealed the duchess thought it would be “boastful” to be the magazine’s cover star herself.
Meghan cautioned Vogue fans that although her guiding hand will be felt on most pages of next month’s edition, it will contain traditional elements like adverts.
The duchess writes in her guest editor’s letter how just a few hours after meeting Enninful she summoned up the nerve to quiz him about taking on the September edition – an important issue as it is published just before the autumn/winter fashion season.
Meghan, who at the time was five months’ pregnant with son Archie, said: “So I asked the question. Actually, I typed and deleted the question several times until I built up the courage to ask the question in question: ‘Edward… instead of doing the cover, would you be open to me guest editing your September issue?’
The editor’s reply that he would “love” for Meghan to be his guest editor set her on a journey where she said she immersed herself in magazine life, from learning technical terms like FoB – front of book – to holding regular meetings with staff to plan the issue.
The former actress said about her edition: “The overall sentiment I hope you’ll find, however, will be one of positivity, kindness, humour and inclusivity.”
And she describes her interview with the “extraordinary” former US first lady Michelle Obama as “a candid and heartfelt conversation”.
Fifteen women who inspire the duchess were chosen as cover stars in a 16-photo grid, with a small mirror also featured on the front so each reader could be included in the tagline Forces For Change.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, is not on the front cover, but appears in a picture that accompanies Meghan’s letter.
Another picture features the Duke of Sussex sitting with chimpanzee expert Dr Jane Goodall after Meghan commissioned her husband to interview the ethologist and primatologist for her issue.
The duchess goes on to say: “But more than anything, this issue is about the power of the collective.
“In identifying our personal strengths, it is anchored in the knowledge that we are even stronger together. You will find that spirit of inclusivity on the cover: diverse portraiture of women of varying age, colour, creed, nationality and life experience, and of unquestionable inspiration.
“Some, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and enlisted personally for this issue, others I’ve admired from afar for their commitment to a cause, their fearlessness in breaking barriers, or what they represent simply by being.
“These are our forces for change. And among all of these strong women on the cover, a mirror – a space for you, the reader, to see yourself. Because you, too, are part of this collective.”
Meghan revealed the philosophy that guided her guest editorship of the fashion bible Vogue was a quote from the book The Four-Chambered Heart by Anais Nin, based on the author’s relationship with a lover.
The female protagonist Djuna tells her partner Rango, the duchess writes: “I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
Meghan writes: “For this issue, I imagined, ‘why would we swim in the shallow end of the pool when we could go to the deep end?’ A metaphor for life, as well as for this issue. Let’s be braver. Let’s go a bit deeper.
“That’s what Edward and I have aimed to achieve. An issue of both substance and levity.”
Enninful says in his own monthly editor’s letter that his working relationship with Meghan began when she emailed him while he was out of the country in Austria.
Speaking about Meghan’s request to take the helm of his magazine, he wrote: “I didn’t have to think: I knew the answer was yes. ‘We could call it Forces For Change’, I said, and the adventure began.”
Visits with his team to Kensington Palace followed and there were even “emoji-filled” text conversations with the duchess as the project progressed, he revealed.
Enninful went on to pay tribute to Meghan: “To have the country’s most influential beacon of change guest edit Vogue at this time has been an honour, a pleasure and a wonderful surprise.”
Cover stars include prime minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, actors Salma Hayek Pinault, Laverne Cox, Jameela Jamil, Yara Shahidi and Gemma Chan, and models Christy Turlington Burns, Adwoa Aboah and Adut Akech.
Boxer Ramla Ali, diversity advocate Sinead Burke, Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward, and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie complete the 15 cover stars.
– The September issue of British Vogue is available on Friday August 2.