The majority of the British public will likely go into Saturday’s royal wedding with an icky feeling towards Meghan Markle’s estranged family, who have made their presence felt in our tabloids since her engagement to Prince Harry was announced.
Most of the press has not been good. Earlier this week, her half-sister Samantha, who is intending on publishing a memoir entitled The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister, admitted that she orchestrated constructed paparazzi photos for their father. As a result of this revelation, his attendance at the wedding is up in the air. She wasn’t invited in the first place.
Meet The Markles, an hour-long Channel 4 doc which sees up-and-coming presenter Amelia Dimoldenberg breaking bread with people who have been accused of exploiting the soon-to-be-princess, doesn’t quite exonerate them, but it does serve as a reminder that they’re only human, after all.
The journey takes in knife-throwing with terrifying eighth cousin Jeff, a marijuana festival with nephew Tyler – who is selling a Markle-branded strain of weed in the hope of cashing in on his aunt’s fame – and a day out with Samantha, the most vocal member of the clan.
“From what we’ve seen in the media in the UK, it’s been quite full-on and distorted,” Amelia says. “I was intrigued to actually go and meet these people in real life instead of just reading these things on Twitter, and find out about Meghan from the people who know her.”
If an invite to the wedding is Amelia’s white whale – she asks every family members she meets to hook her up – Samantha, who has sent many vitriolic tweets directly and indirectly addressing her sister and her fiancé, is a big, juicy consolation carp. Her appearance gives the narrative an emotional heft, because she just seems like a normal lady who is upset to have fallen foul of her sister.
Kudos must go to the presenter here, who is best known for disarming grime stars with awkward banter in her YouTube series Chicken Shop Date. The tricks she employs – uncomfortable silences, forthrightness, deadpan humour – come in handy here too, and she gets Samantha to open up over the Floridian equivalent of fried chicken: deep-fried alligator nuggets. So on brand.
“The looks that I do, and the awkward silences and the pauses – I think you can say so much with that, and they add so much,” Amelia says.
The documentary is a fine advertisement for her talents, which extend far beyond what we’ve seen in 3-4 minute long episodes of her online series in which, she says, she exaggerates “quirks of a middle-class white girl.”
“That’s in no way the real me,” she says of the YouTube alter ego, though, she adds: “there’s obviously parts of myself in it.”
“I’ve always thought that, with Chicken Shop Date, I show the different side of the person [Maya Jama, Big Narstie and MC Jammer have all appeared] – that’s why I love doing it, and that’s what gives it its originality and why people watch it. They know that when they watch Chicken Shop Date they’re gonna see their favourite rapper or online personality in a way they’ve never seen them before. So I’ve always been interested in being able to prise something out of someone.”
She currently has another season of the YouTube series in the works, with rapper Lady Leshurr set to be her first guest (“I want to interview more women”) and she is intent on fulfilling her longtime desire to get hip-hop megastar Drake down to a Morley’s (other chicken shops are available).
“Honestly, I’m gonna go to Toronto [Drake’s hometown],” she says. “I want to film a documentary about me getting Drake on Chicken Shop Date. I know some people who know some people… and I can get my way in, it’s gonna happen. Dave [a London grime artist who has appeared on her show] knows Drake, then my old flatmate… her boyfriend met him one time. So, that’s another way in. And he liked a photo on Instagram of me. He knows about me for sure. He’s just taking his time – playing hard to get.”
Her dedication is admirable. While she says she didn’t get high with Tyler Markle at the marijuana expo in California, she did immerse herself in a much less palatable, but no less deniable facet of American life in Meet the Markles: staunch Trumpism. A visit to a Tea Party rally and a conversation with a group of walking Make America Great Again hats – who tell her that liberalism is “a mental disorder” – leave her a bit shaken.
“You see Trump supporters online and you see Trump and you feel like you know what they’re about but it’s something else when you’re literally standing 2 centimetres away from them and they’re shouting in your face about gun control. It’s mad,” she says. “But you can’t argue with them because it doesn’t get you anywhere – they’re so set in their ways. So I tried a different sort of approach of being a bit sarcastic.”
The Tea Party visit comes as a result of Amelia’s determination to understand how Americans view the Royal Wedding, but focusing on lower-class Trump voters feels a little bit like plucking low-hanging fruit.
The show is much more successful when she gets some one-on-one time with the Markles themselves – particularly Samantha, who will be glad to see herself portrayed as multi-dimensional after her experience opposite Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.
“She’s a very complicated person,” Amelia says. “I think that I’m still figuring out what I think about her. We had a really fun time together and she’s so friendly and welcoming and funny. But she just has this – I don’t know whether to call it obsession – but the attention she’s getting at the moment, I think that she’s revelling in it, and much to her disadvantage.”
Meet the Markles airs on Channel 4 at 10pm on Tuesday 15th May