I am not a royal watcher. Well, I’m not in the sense that I have binoculars trained on every news source for the next Big Moment. I look in some degree of horrible curiosity and genuine fascination. This is an institution that is rooted so strongly in the past it feels like it hasn’t grown out of it, despite the stretches towards the 21st century.
My mom is somewhat the same way, mostly having a love for Princess Diana. I think I can actually partially credit my mom with this arm’s length curiosity, and a fascination with history being the other side of it. Which is why the first few episodes of When Diana Met really hooked me as a listener.
Aminatou Sow starts her podcast, When Diana Met, examining Diana through a “far from” lens. This was through the eyes of those in the African Diaspora who fell, and felt deeply for the Princess of Wales. Black people in Britain and beyond connected to the kindness of this person whose world often didn’t, and doesn’t still- give them a second glance. We start with examining who Camilla is and was, and then Diana as the mother of her children. Which Sow takes in a direction that I don’t think gets looked at often enough. The first few episodes she is talking with various Black women from across the world about what Diana meant to their communities and families. This was honestly my favorite part of this six episode series. It was educational, and overall I felt like it was an observation of the power of connection and kindness for a global community - not just on a personal level but on a higher level of symbol and representation. Diana was far more than The Princess of Wales and Future Queen of England to a lot of people. Looking at that in particular, I feel, is missed in these conversations about this woman who no longer has a voice of her own.
We move forward from this examination of the powerful, personal connection, to a more traditional viewpoint of Diana. The Diana of style, fashion, glamor, and subtle power. While we do see much of the same ideas- kindness and sensitivity that radiated from her person- this slips into the more traditional observations of Diana. Who she was as a style icon peppered in with kind stories from people who knew her personally. Her hair dresser and the designer who took on the immense pressure of the wedding gown are incredibly protective of Diana’s image, which is good. However, I feel as though the second half of When Diana Met turns into almost what we already knew. Of course Diana would personally call the woman who designed her wedding dress after hearing the designer was worried she offended the Princess. Everyone speaks of her kindness and personal touch.
Personally, I want to hear more about the woman whose classroom, as children, created a “welcome” sign for the princess. The sign that was presented to her when Diana visited a hospital in her city. I want to hear about how Princess Diana was a spark for people as a Princess, as a celebrity, and as a private person. When Diana Met achieves this, and I do believe in having conversations about the person who was instead of the person we imagine, but I almost feel like Sow was told to “wrap it up” and “get on track”. It went from an incredibly interesting examination through a multicultural lens to a familiarly worn narration.
It’s taken me a moment to write this review because I do love this podcast. It is well produced, written, and is a consumable length. I just am disappointed because I feel like it was stunted in what it could have told given us. I’m not surprised as it was produced by CNN, and we are having intense conversations around “hit podcasts” and marketing these days. I think there’s a chance it was cut short for not having the draw that a lot of “Diana Things” do lately. We are in a bit of a “Princess Pit” if you ask me, content wise. The first few episodes felt fresh, and important for a dynamic legacy- and I think this podcast could have done more had it been given the opportunity.