Megan Markle was recently flipping through channels, she said on her podcast—noting the “rarity” of being able to do so when you have two kids under four years old—when she stumbled across NBC’s Deal or No Deal.
In 2006, the Duchess of Sussex had a short stint on the game show. Seeing it on her TV, unexpectedly, “bought back a lot of memories,” which Markle has mixed feelings about.
“My experience on this show, which included holding said briefcase on stage alongside 25 other women doing the same, was fascinating,” the 41-year-old said.
Markle studied acting at Northwestern University and graduated in 2003. Deal or No Deal, wasn’t exactly acting, she mentioned on Archetypes, but, it was a foot in the door and it paid the bills.
“I had health insurance, it was great,” she continued. “I had also studied international relations and there were times I was on set thinking back to my time working as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina. [I was] being valued specifically for my brain. Here, I was being valued for something quite the opposite.”
The former Suits actor recalled lining up for various stations before getting on stage, including lashes, extensions, bra padding. The women were even given spray-tan vouchers each week, in order to fit the “cookie cutter idea of precisely what we should look like.”
Markle said she’ll never forget being repeatedly told to “suck it in” by one of the females who ran the show.
“I was thankful for the job, but not the way it made me feel,” she added. “I would leave with this pit in my stomach knowing that I was so much more than what was being objectified on that stage. I didn’t like feeling forced to be all looks and little substance—being reduced to this specific archetype.”
Markle described Paris Hilton, someone all too familiar with what Markle was feeling and her podcast guest, as the “it girl” of the nineties. Hilton was famous for being famous.
“She continued to grow that brand over the years, most notably starring in her own reality TV show The Simple Life alongside Nicole Richie,” Markle said before the iconic theme song of the show played.
“Let’s take two girls / Both filthy rich. From the bright lights / Into the sticks...Lets take away their limousines / Their credits cards and shopping sprees / Well they’re both spoilt rotten / Will they cry when they hit bottom?”
Markle asked Hilton if she could pinpoint the first time she felt as if people were “putting a label on you.” Hilton recalled moving to New York at 15 years old, living at the Waldorf Astoria and being able to sneak out and go to parties, clubs and fashion shows.
“All of a sudden Page Six was writing about me. Almost every morning I would wake up to stories,” she said. “Just getting that label put on me of party girl, dumb blonde, spoiled, rich heiress. You know, all the negative connotations or nicknames they could make up. It was difficult because people would just invent stories to make it more exciting.”
Hilton noted that it could be considered normal teenager behavior, to rebel and do things that strict parents wouldn’t approve of. The difference was that everyone else wasn’t getting caught by tabloids every night.
“I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be a singer, a model an actress,” Hilton, 41, said. “I had all of these really big dreams.” Hilton always loved music, art and fashion. She changed almost everything about herself, down to her voice, to fit the “dumb blonde” stereotype that producers wanted.
Markle pressed Hilton to remember when she started to “buy in” to the “bimbo” stereotype. “I almost got like stuck and lost in the character where I, at some points, it was like the lines got blurred or I, it’s like, I forgot who I was,” Paris said of her time on The Simple Life. “And I don’t know, makes me sad because I used to be such a free spirit. I think with so many things that happened to me during the years I just closed off in a way in my mind and I wish it didn't happen. Going through trauma affects you.”
Fifteen years later, Hilton has changed her brand entirely to fit who she really is and wants to be — “the hero that I needed when I was a little girl.” She's an advocate against child abuse and passionate about supporting women artists within the NFT space. Hilton also recently launched her own media company and has been frequenting Washington, D.C. to working on school reform legislation.