It appears Gwyneth Paltrow, Goop and her jade eggs will soon face increased competition in the realm of “wellness”. This week Meghan Markle announced that she will be relaunching her “passion project” lifestyle blog, The Tig.
The blog is named after the duchess’s favourite wine, Tignanello, and will include articles on food, recipes, travel, interior design, and health and wellness. On the surface this blog sounds well-intentioned. The world has been through a stressful couple of years with a global pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis that has left many people struggling to afford basic necessities. Given all the stress, who wouldn’t want to come home to a little self-pampering? Meghan has previously spoken of her appreciation for yoga, green smoothies and facial massages.
In many ways it makes complete sense that Markle would have a wellness blog. She’s moved back to California, arguably the spiritual heart of the wellness industry. And she has all the time, money and privilege that would allow her to package life advice to readers under the auspices of empowerment – without ever forcing them to question what is making them sick in the first place. In short, Markle is the perfect metaphor for the wellness industry.
According to the consultants McKinsey, wellness is now a $1.5trn industry covering fitness, appearance and mindfulness. These things are undoubtedly beneficial, but the wellness industry would not exist without distortions of self-worth that convince individuals that the solution to their problems is rampant consumerism.
To understand what wellness is, it’s first important to understand that it is not health – health is not determined by willpower alone, but by many things outside of our control. A woman growing up in the most deprived areas of England, for example, is now likely to die eight years earlier than a woman growing up at the same time in the least deprived. Health is also greatly impacted by stress, be that stress from not knowing how you’ll pay your gas bill, or stress from wondering how you’ll afford childcare.
Wellness, on the other hand, puts the responsibility for health squarely on the individual. It suggests, for example, that your life isn’t falling to pieces because you can’t find affordable housing, but because you’re not mindful enough. Wellness preaches that spiritual fulfilment isn’t to be found through connection and community, but rather through a hyper-focus on the self and a quest for perfection.
In the fourth episode of Meghan’s recent Netflix documentary, when friends throw her an extravagant baby shower in a luxury New York hotel that supposedly cost over $100,000 it’s dressed up as “female empowerment”. She says: “These independent, strong, successful women choose to use their own money… to throw a party for their friend from a place of love.” Later in the same episode, she complains about her poor living conditions in a small cottage next to Kensington palace while simultaneously bragging about volunteering in a kitchen – and in the next scene she talks about Grenfell. This is the heart of the contradiction: interior design tips won’t help those families find a home, just like travel advice won’t help you recover from burnout when you can’t afford to go on vacation.
The solution to these problems isn’t in wellness but rather in questioning what societal forces put Meghan and her husband in a palace, while others are left buying scented candles for apartments they can’t afford.