Now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have have announced they intend to “step back” from their royal duties and divide their time between the U.K. and North America, the million-dollar question is what the couple could be doing next.
It’s not clear whether Markle will be returning to the Hollywood life she left behind when she married the sixth in line to the British throne in 2018 — the American-born actress starred in TV shows like “Suits,” “Fringe” and “The League,” as well as films like “Get Him to the Greek” and “Horrible Bosses.”
Already, “Real Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen opportunistically offered her a spot on the Beverly Hills edition of the Bravo reality franchise — “Open invite for The Duchess to join #RHOBH !!!” he wrote on the couple’s now-infamous Instagram post.
While that seems unlikely, it’s possible Markle could pursue any number of media projects, either as an actress, on-camera host or producer. One model for the couple might be Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Netflix-based Higher Ground is developing scripted and unscripted content on serious topics like race, class and civil rights.
Markle’s attorney at Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did The Gersh Agency, which previously repped the actress. The PR firm Sunshine Sachs said it no longer represents her.
But diving into content creation is not the only way Markle and Prince Harry can infiltrate the Hollywood scene — or “become financially independent,” as they stated in their bombshell Instagram announcement on Wednesday.
“I think Meghan Markle will remain a huge superstar,” Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York-based PR firm 5WPR, told TheWrap. “At this point, Meghan and Harry have the potential to get any endorsement deals in the world they may want.”
In fact, one former endorsement agent who previously worked on deals with high-profile clients told TheWrap that the “possibilities are endless” for Meghan and Harry due to their “international recognizability, which is good for international campaigns.” After all, the Boston-based marketing analytics firm SEMrush has ranked Meghan Markle’s online search volume at 3.4 million — dwarfing that of both Beyoncé (1.2 million) and sister-in-law Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge (1 million).
“They are really brand-friendly — you have to keep in mind that brands are utilizing celebrity endorsements for a broad audience so the more squeaky-clean of an image they have, the more appealing they are for big brands. Procter & Gamble and Unilever are just two examples of big brands they could work with,” the former agent told TheWrap.
“I don’t see them doing a lot of endorsements together because typically, there aren’t couple endorsements,” she added. “Harry is a good-looking guy who I could see doing a classy campaign for a watch or an airline. Meghan is a mom and there are a billion campaigns that come to mind.”
How much could they stand to make from these endorsement deals, though? “They could easily make seven to eight figures, depending on the deal,” the agent said. “It would definitely help if they had a project going on because it makes them more bankable for PR appearances, so I would assume she’d go back to acting. If I were her agent, I would try to get them to do separate branding deals and have them build out their social media presence with their own accounts and then multiple platforms because that’s more dollars.”
She added: “Honestly, they’ve probably been flooded with endorsement opportunities but haven’t been able to take them because of their position. When I worked with other high-profile clients, they were very strict on the endorsement opportunities they took and always tied them to charity — and I think that’s what Meghan and Harry would like to do.”
Charity, which has been a big focus of the couple, will most likely be a big part of their work going forward, Torossian said, especially because they previously announced they would be launching a new charitable entity after stepping away from the Royal Foundation, the charity they jointly ran with William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The agent noted that endorsement deals “can be structured so they get paid and in addition are donating to charity so it doesn’t come across as such a sellout, because they are bundling it with a donation.”
Markle previously served as a global ambassador for World Vision, the world’s largest international children’s charity. When the pair announced their engagement, they asked for donations to charity in lieu of gifts, selecting seven organizations that reflect “their shared values.” Those organizations included CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association), Crisis, Myna Mahila Foundation, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, StreetGames Surfer’s Against Sewage and The Wilderness Foundation UK.
Other ideas for Markle could be partnering up with brands for collaborations, such as Target for a home collection, or becoming ambassadors for charitable companies.
But Eileen Koch, CEO and founder of EKC PR, cautions the couple to take it slow. “My advice to them if they were sitting in front of me, would be to take a breath and to make sure they are in the right hands,” said Koch, whose clients have included Jamie Foxx, Floyd Mayweather and Carmen Electra. “They need strong management that’s looking at the entire picture, not just the moment, and that won’t take advantage of them. They also need to decide whether they want to continue in the public eye. Who knows if they even want to get into the endorsement space — I think it’d be more down the line.”
Particularly at this early stage in their transition from active royals, Koch said, it’s wise to proceed deliberately. “Everything is going to be thrown at them and they can’t accept everything — and they don’t have to,” she said.