Paparazzi Chase of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Through a Wider Lens

Meghan Markle’s and Prince Harry’s first public outing in five months was meant to be a celebratory evening, but it reportedly resulted in a car chase through the streets of New York by the paparazzi.

The Montecito, California-based celebrity couple were in Manhattan with Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, to attend the Ms. Foundation’s Vision Awards, where Markle was honored by the foundation’s founder Gloria Steinem.

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After leaving the event around 10 p.m., the SUV that the former working royals and Ragland were traveling in was chased by six vehicles. A spokesperson for Prince Harry described it to Reuters as “a near catastrophic car chase” that ensued for more than two hours and led to the threesome taking a cab to try to throw off “the ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.”

Asked for comment Wednesday, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of public information Julian Phillips said, “On Tuesday evening, May 16, the NYPD assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests.”

NYPD officials did not respond to a question asking whether the department’s assistance had taken two hours, and a media request to a Ms. Foundation spokesperson was unreturned Wednesday. Representatives at Sunshine Sachs, the publicity firm that worked on Tuesday night’s Vision Awards, did not provide comment by press time.

Markle, a mother of two, wore a shimmery strapless gold-colored dress from the little-known designer Johanna Ortiz with a CH Carolina Herrera clutch for the event. A post-event email with photos of Markle carrying the $1,850 bag was sent to press Wednesday morning by Sociedad Textil Lonia, which owns CH Carolina Herrera. Carolina Herrera New York/Puig is its parent company, but the CH Carolina Herrera collection is not designed by Wes Gordon, creative director of Carolina Herrera, according to a Sociedad Textil Lonia spokeswoman.

Gordon who is said to be friendly with Markle, declined to comment on the car-chase incident, as did Jodie Chan, vice president of global marketing and communications. Executives at Ortiz’ Coral Gables, Florida, company did not respond to media requests by press time.

Prince Harry, whose mother Princess Diana was killed in a car crash brought on by a paparazzi chase in Paris in 1997, has been publicly critical of the media.

His disdain was detailed in his memoir “Spare,” the “Harry and Meghan” Netflix docu-series and during talk show appearances.

Alexi Lubomirski, who photographed their royal wedding, declined comment Wednesday.

But the public’s interest in the couple remains robust. As of late January, 1.43 million copies of “Spare” had been sold in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Prince Harry has challenged media information-gathering practices, and on Tuesday night, was pictured in a taxi with his wife and mother-in-law filming the incident on his phone.

The events underscore larger issues in the media system, said Vanessa Diaz, an associate professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, who previously freelanced for People magazine.

”Immediately, the blame goes to the photographers individually, instead of looking at the structures that create the demands for the photos. The need to take the pictures doesn’t come from the photographers — it comes from a multimillion-dollar corporate media structure that serves to benefit corporate media and the celebrities that it represents,” Diaz said. “To make it a conversation about the problem of the paparazzi is to keep it in the same place that it’s been for decades and decades.”

She noted that while the photographers involved with the crash that killed Princess Diana were initially charged, none were sentenced or found guilty.

“Should we be jeopardizing anyone’s safety in the pursuit of celebrity imagery? Ideally, no. However, there are corporate structures in place that demand the labor of photographers that are at the very bottom of this media hierarchy and are typically the most precarious laborers in the celebrity media industry. And they get blamed for the reality that the corporations demand.”

Joshua Azriel, author of “Restricting Los Angeles Paparazzi: California’s Legal Efforts Impacting Free Rights,” said his immediate reaction to the chase was, “Oh no, it’s going to happen again, because of the way that [Princess] Diana died. This is something that both of her children have been trying to avoid. Harry has been particularly vocal about trying to protect his family.”

Prior to this incident, it seemed that the paparazzi was “starting to understand what they can and can’t do,” according to Azriel, a journalism professor at Kennesaw State University. As for how much of the interest has been sparked by the media frenzy tied to “Spare” and the Netflix series, Azriel said, “Harry and Meghan purposely made a documentary about them so that puts the spotlight on them. He wrote a book. That puts the spotlight on him. She accepted the award Tuesday night. They are asking for privacy, but then taking actions to put themselves back in the public eye. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve privacy. Of course, you do…I’m not going to go so far as to call Harry and Meghan hypocrites, but they should know better. They are not new to this.”

Aside from putting Harry, Markle and her mother in danger, “how stupid can these paparazzi be to endanger” bystanders in a crowded place like New York, he said. “They know better than this,” Azriel said. “The other thing that we can’t discount is the fear that Harry and Meghan must have felt. The fear could create the perception that it was worse than it actually was. In New York City, how crazy can the paparazzi go, considering the traffic and the lights. I’m certainly not defending the paparazzi.”

Launch Gallery: The Farewell Tour: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Return to U.K. for Final Round of Official Visits

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