Meghan Markle hails ‘service’ as she accepts Women of Vision award

Meghan Markle borrowed the Queen’s mantra last night by hailing ‘daily acts of service’ as she urged women to ‘be the visionary of your own life’ while accepting a feminist award at a New York gala – in a boost to her US relaunch.

The Duchess of Sussex was attending her first public event with husband Prince Harry since her absence at her father-in-law King Charles III‘s Coronation in London 11 days ago, which the Duke attended alone on May 6.

Addressing the Ms Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary event at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan last night, the Duchess told the crowd: ‘It’s just never too late to start. You can be the visionary of your own life. You can charter a path in which what you repeat in your daily acts of service, in kindness, in advocacy, in grace and in fairness, that those become the very things that are recognised by the next wave of women, both young and old, who will also choose this moment to join the movement and make our vision for an equitable world reality.’

The California-based couple were accompanied yesterday by Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland. And the Duchess’s comments on service were notable given that her brother-in-law Prince William paid tribute to Charles’s ‘service’ during the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on May 7, one day after the ceremony. William had said: ‘For all that celebrations are magnificent, at the heart of the pageantry is a simple message. Service. My father’s first words on entering Westminster Abbey yesterday were a pledge of service. It was a pledge to continue to serve.’

And on May 8, at the end of the bank holiday weekend, Charles issued a message insisting that he and Queen Camilla would ‘rededicate our lives to serving the people of the United Kingdom, the realms and commonwealth’. 

And Queen Elizabeth II famously said on her 21st birthday in 1947 in a speech broadcast on the radio from South Africa, when she was still Princess Elizabeth: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’ 

Meghan’s words also recalled when she and Harry made a statement in February 2021 after Buckingham Palace confirmed they would step down as working royals, saying: ‘We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’

The Duchess’s relaunch – dubbed ‘Meghan 2.0’ – has already seen her speak about mental health with youngsters in Santa Barbara and dine with Hollywood stars including Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow over the past week. 

Last night Meghan, who wore a strapless $1,850 gold dress with scalloped pattern detailing, received the Women of Vision Award – recognising her ‘global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls’. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Ms Foundation Women of Vision Awards at Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York last night

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Ms Foundation Women of Vision Awards at Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York last night

Meghan arrives in a strapless gold dress at the glittering New York gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan last night

Meghan, 41, also posed for a solo shot, smiling happily for the cameras before making her way inside the awards ceremony 

The Sussexes were joined at the gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York last night by Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland

The ceremony honoured ‘game-changing’ grantee partners and visionary leaders committed to the organisation’s mission of ‘advancing collective power and creating safe, just and equitable futures for women, girls, and gender-expansive people’.

Meghan was presented with the award by renowned journalist and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.

Her acceptance speech closed out the gala where she said: ‘It’s never too late to start. You can be the visionary of your own life… There is still so much work to be done.

‘I am a woman who remains inspired and driven by this organisation,’ she said, looking over Ms Steinem, who introduced her alongside current foundation chief executive Teresa Younger.

‘It allowed me to recognise that part of my greater value and purpose in life was to advocate for those who felt unheard, to stand up to injustice, and to not be afraid of saying what is true and what is just and what is right.’

According to video of the event shared by Town and Country writer Emily Burack, Meghan also told of how she had read Ms Magazine while at school – the publication founded by Ms Steinem.

Meghan shared an anecdote from her childhood, revealing that the Ms Magazine played a role in her upbringing, recalling how she would ‘come home, settle in after a day of school’ with her ‘TV tray dinner’ and would glance at the publication on the coffee table.

‘It’s funny because as a young girl, I would come home, I would settle in after a day of school, pull up my TV tray dinner, and I would turn on my evening ritual, Jeopardy!’ she recalled. 

‘And I would glance at the coffee table, where I would see an array of things. It could be the cat’s collar, my homework, some mail that had just been brought in, and some magazines. The magazines said ‘Ms.’ on them.

The royal has previously told the same story on her Archetypes podcast. 

Meghan arrived modeling a strapless $1,850 gold Johanna Ortiz dress that featured a key-hole cutout at the chest and which she paired with some strappy $1,350 gold heels from Tom Ford and a matching $1,100 clutch bag by Carolina Herrera.

She appeared to have had her dress – which was created by a Colombian designer – altered for the occasion; images of the original design show it with straps, which the Duchess opted to go without. 

Prince Harry attends the event with Meghan and mother-in-law Doria Ragland and is seen following behind the two women

The Duchess of Sussex beams from ear-to-ear as she arrives at the event with Harry and her mother Doria Ragland

Meghan’s appearance at the event comes ten days after she skipped her father-in-law King Charles’ Coronation ceremony

The Duchess held a gold clutch in her hand and she sported several diamond bracelets on her wrist in New York last night

Meghan arrives at the event with Harry and Doria Ragland, but the trio opted to skip the event’s red carpet livestream

Meghan is honored at the event by her friend Gloria Steinem, 89, with whom she is understood to have formed a close bond

Harry joined Meghan at the ceremony – where tickets cost a whopping $1,500 and tables cost a minimum of $15,000 – to watch on as she received the Women of Vision honour from Ms Steinem, with organisers revealing that the Duchess was being celebrated for her ‘lifelong advocacy for women and girls’. 

Inside the event, Meghan took to the stage to accept her Women of Vision award, making her way up to the podium to the sounds of Alicia Keys’ hit song Girl on Fire.

Once on the stage, the Duchess gave Ms Steinem a warm hug, before moving to address the crowd, thanking guests for giving her ‘such a warm welcome’ and describing Ms Steinem as her ‘friend’.

She also praised the 89-year-old ‘for the inspiration that you are, for your mentorship, your sage advice, your extraordinarily cheeky sense of humor and, of course, for your incredible friendship’. 

Meghan then offered her congratulations to the evening’s other honorees, praising them for the ‘important and meaningful work that you do’. 

‘While I was familiar with most of your work before tonight, nothing could compare to the focus, the determination, the energy I feel from each of you, especially as we all bear witness to you standing in the elegance and the power of your strength,’ she continued. 

‘And I remember them vividly because the pictures were different. There was a diversity that I hadn’t seen as often, both of color and of age, and the names were different. 

‘There were Congresswomen, there were astronauts, and the topics were different. From mothering to being a working mom to heavier topics such as domestic violence, the poverty line, unearthing its roots, where it comes from, and matters of equity.’

Yesterday’s event marks the first public event that Harry and Meghan have attended together since the duke made the solo trip to the Coronation earlier this month.

Meghan had opted to stay at their US home in Montecito, California, with their two children Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.

Last year the pair became the recipients of the NAACP President’s Award as well as the Robert F Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award, at a ceremony also held in New York.

Meghan and Harry held hands as they make their way out of the venue after she gave a passionate acceptance speech

Harry leads the way as the Sussexes stroll out to their waiting car following the event in New York last night 

The couple exit the same way that they entered the ballroom venue – at the back of the building – last night

Meghan holds her award in her hand as she and Harry exit the Ziegfeld Ballroom last night following the end of the event 

Several burly security guards are seen putting protective arms around Meghan as she follows behind her husband last night 

Harry is seen beaming as he exits the evening’s event in New York, smiling happily as his security guards escort him

Meghan, whose appearance in Manhattan came ten days after she skipped the Coronation, went full glam for the occasion, modeling a smoky eye and nude lip, while her long brunette hair was styled in loose waves that she wore swept over one shoulder – allowing the strapless design of her textured gown to shine. 

She added further glitz in the form of several pricey pieces of jewelry, including two diamond bracelets and a $7,350 gold Cartier Love Bracelet, as well as a pair of sparking hoop earrings from budget-friendly brand J. Crew. 

One of the glittering accessories on her wrist appeared to be a Cartier design that was once owned by Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, which the Duchess has been seen sporting on several occasions, including during the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. 

Harry opted for his signature navy suit, which he wore with a white shirt and pale blue tie – while his mother-in-law Ms Ragland chose a more low-key black dress, accessorizing the look with some black slingback heels and a black clutch bag. 

While the Sussexes were seen beaming from ear-to-ear as they arrived at the event, they seemed keen to avoid any prying questions – opting to skip the event’s red carpet livestream after entering via the back of the Ziegfeld Ballroom. In a rather unglamorous start to the evening’s proceedings, the pair were seen making their way into the venue via a Hertz car rental arena located at the rear of the space. 

Following the event, Harry, Meghan and Ms Ragland were seen sitting together in the back of a New York yellow taxi after leaving the venue. 

The Women of Vision website gushes that Meghan is ‘a feminist, champion of human rights and gender equity, and global role model’.

‘Meghan is also a passionate advocate for family rights, and an investor in dynamic female founded companies,’ the Duchess’s biography on the awards site continues. 

‘Meghan is noted as one of the most powerful and influential women in the world, topping lists such as Time Magazine’s Most Influential People, The Financial Times’ 25 Most Influential Women, Variety Power of Women, and British Vogue’s Vogue 25.’ 

Prince Harry is seen in the back of a New York taxi after the Ms Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary gala event last night

Meghan is spotted in the back of a taxi after the Ms Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary gala in New York last night

The couple were accompanied by Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, in the back of a New York taxi after the event last night

The Duchess sits in between Doria Ragland and Prince Harry after receiving the Ms Foundation’s Women of Vision Award

Meghan, pictured in a taxi, was recognised for her ‘global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls’

Meghan is seen in the back of a New York taxi after the Ms Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary gala event last night

‘We are thrilled to announce this year’s honorees for the Women of Vision Awards and to celebrate 50 years of progress and power,’ Ms Younger, the president and chief executive of the Ms Foundation, said last month.

She added that Meghan, as well as the other award winners – including Black Lives Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown – ‘are incredible leaders, and we are grateful to be able to shine a light on their many accomplishments and tireless work on behalf of gender and racial equity across the country and the world.’

The Women of Vision Awards gala was designed to ‘explore the past, present and future of the Ms. Foundation and feminist movements, while raising funds for the organization’s strategic, equity-centered initiatives’.

A press release for the event also said: ‘Each year, the foundation honors visionary leaders and game-changing grantee partners committed to the Ms. Foundation’s mission of advancing women’s collective power and creating safe, just and equitable futures for all.’

The decision to honor Meghan at the event has certainly not been without its controversy – with several critics taking to social media to pan the awards ceremony organizers, Ms. Foundation, over its choice of recipient. 

‘Unlike fake organizations like @msfoundation creating awards to massage the egos of Hollywood fake celebrities and failed royals like #MeghanMarkle, true Awards are different as they celebrate TRUE HEROES. Ordinary, hardworking, people!’ one person wrote on Twitter. 

‘I had a subscription to Ms. Magazine when it came out. Today, I am forever done with Ms. And Gloria Steinem for bastardizing their foundation to allow these FAKE awards to be ‘bought’ for a donation,’ a Facebook user commented on the awards show page. 

‘Case in point – Meghan Markle is the farthest thing from a feminist that I know of… That person is not a feminist… I hope the $$ was worth the bad press this will generate for you. You’re getting Markled!’ 

Meghan’s appearance at the awards ceremony in New York comes amid what experts have described as her attempt to draw ‘all eyes on her’ following the Coronation on May 6. 

Earlier, Harry is seen following his wife and mother-in-law into the event after arriving at the venue in a large SUV last night

Meghan and Harry enjoyed a sushi dinner alongside A-listers Cameron Diaz and her husband Benji Madden, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Brad Falchuk on Friday night. 

And earlier this week, Meghan took part in a royal-style engagement at a Santa Barbara youth group, posing up for pictures alongside several young people who take part in the program. 

Brand and culture expert Nick Ede told MailOnline that Meghan has expertly used the focus on the Coronation and drawn it onto herself this week through appearances with Hollywood glitterati, young people and now an awards ceremony with a Black Lives Matter leader. 

He said: ‘Meghan has cleverly circumnavigated herself away from the Royal Family and Coronation scrutiny and got all eyes on her and what’s she’s doing next.

‘Meghan’s positioning herself as an inspirational figure, which she is to many, and she’s doing what she does best: highlighting causes whilst highlighting herself.

‘She’s also giving herself space from Harry to stand on her own two feet and be recognized not as a Duchess but as her own person, which she will be very happy about’. Meghan Markle hails ‘service’ as she accepts Women of Vision award

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