Meghan Markle: Actress, Campaigner, Blogger, and Then a Duchess

Illustrated by Jeannette Khouri
Illustrated by Jeannette Khouri

Meghan Markle: Actress, Campaigner, Blogger, and Then a Duchess

Those who dislike Meghan Markle have joked that the American should be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for her performance in the Netflix documentary about her and Prince Harry's estrangement from the Royal Family.

The Netflix series premiered earlier this month and has been watched by millions of people, including those who admire the couple and respect their decision to leave London, as well as those who despise Markle.

The series tells new stories about Markle's dissatisfaction while the couple lived in the royal quarters and how the British tabloid press hounded her for every minor detail of her life.

Markle rose to prominence as an actress, campaigner, and blogger before marrying Prince Harry and becoming Duchess of Sussex in May 2018.

Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981, in a prosperous area of Los Angeles. Her mother's home is in an area known as the "Black Beverly Hills."

Meghan attended a private primary school in Hollywood and began advocating for gender equality at a young age.

At the age of 11, she wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton, the then First Lady of the United States, complaining about a dishwashing liquid commercial's tagline: "Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans."

She began volunteering in soup kitchens at the age of 15 while attending a girls' Roman Catholic college, and she graduated from Northwestern University School of Communication in 2003, near Chicago.

Her father worked as a cinematographer on the hit 1980s show Married... With Children, and she made her US television debut in an episode of the medical drama General Hospital in 2002, before moving on to roles in CSI, Without a Trace, and Castle.

She had leading roles in TV movies such as When Sparks Fly and Dater's Handbook, as well as bit parts in Hollywood films including Get Him to the Greek, Remember Me, and Horrible Bosses. She was also a "briefcase girl" on the US version of the game show Deal or No Deal.

In between auditions, she has mentioned making money by doing calligraphy for wedding invitations, which she learned in school handwriting classes.

She also played FBI special agent Amy Jessup in the sci-fi series Fringe, but her most famous role was in Suits.

Meghan had been on the show since its inception in 2011, but she was written out in the seventh series finale. Perhaps fittingly, she left after her character married.

Meghan Markle's marriage to Prince Harry was not her first. She married film producer Trevor Engelson in September 2011, but the couple divorced two years later.

It was reported in September that her ex-husband was working on a new TV show about a man's custody battle with his ex-wife who marries into the Royal Family.

On her lifestyle website The Tig, she began writing about food, beauty, fashion, and travel, as well as her own story, in 2014.

Meghan explained that she created the website to "reframe the beauty content to include think pieces about self-empowerment" and to feature dynamic, inspirational women.

"I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches - I've always wanted to be a woman who works," she explained in one post.

Her media career has coincided with her advocacy for causes close to her heart.

In March 2017, she addressed the issue of menstrual health stigma in an article for Time magazine, and she was a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, which campaigns for better education, food, and healthcare for children all over the world.

The actress traveled to Rwanda for the charity's Clean Water Campaign as part of her role.

Meghan's dedication to gender equality has led to her involvement with the United Nations, where she received a standing ovation from an audience that included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a moving speech on International Women's Day in 2015.

Meghan, who has a white father and an African-American mother, has also spoken about figuring out her racial identity.

“While my mixed heritage may have created a gray area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that," she wrote in an article for Elle magazine.

She became a mother in May 2019, but within a year she and Prince Harry had left the Royal Family to start a new life in North America.

Lilibet "Lili" Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, her second child with Prince Harry, was born in June 2021.

Meghan became a princess of the United Kingdom after marrying Prince Harry, and she was given the title Royal Highness. She was styled "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex" after her marriage. She is also known as Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness Kilkeel. She is the first Duchess of Sussex.

Following the Duke and Duchess' decision to step down from royal duties in 2020, the couple agreed not to use "Royal Highness" in practice, but they retain the title legally.

On March 7, 2021, CBS aired the television special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry.” Meghan discussed her personal and royal lives, as well as public pressure. She spoke about contemplating suicide during her time as a working royal and a perceived a lack of protection for herself and her son while a member of the royal institution. The interview elicited a diverse and polarized response.

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