Meghan Markle's Road to Royalty Is No Rags-to-Riches Story

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: USA Network/IMDb

Many a young girl's dream is to wake up one morning and be told she’s actually next in line for a throne. While some may wait, forever dreaming of the day, others make it happen on their own. Meghan Markle, an American actress who made countless headlines as the newest addition to the British royal family, came from interesting beginnings of her own. Read about her professional, personal and philanthropic endeavors and get to know England's new sweetheart.

Before She Was Meghan, She Was Rachel

Rachel Meghan Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles by mother Doria Ragland and father Thomas Markle Sr. Her parents divorced when she was six. Markle has two older paternal half-siblings but didn't grow up with them. She was raised Protestant but attended Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girls private Catholic school.

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images

In an essay for Elle in 2015, she said that after so many years "on both sides of the fence," she came to embrace her mixed heritage (her mother is African-American and her father is Caucasian). She voices "[her] pride in being such a strong, confident mixed-race woman."

Little Miss Hollywood

Growing up in Hollywood, Markle attended private schools, including Hollywood Little Red Schoolhouse. Her father, a then-television director of photography and lighting director, often brought her onto the set of Married… With Children, where she was exposed to the hustle and bustle of television.

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Photo Courtesy: Entertainment Tonight/YouTube

Though she'd later become an actress on a show of her own, Markle joked with Esquire in 2013 that her time on set was "a funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up." Her dad often sent her to help with craft services.

A Feminist From the Start

When she was 11, Markle was alarmed to see a commercial for Ivory dish soap aimed solely at women; she viewed it as sexist. Her father encouraged her to use her strongest weapon — her pen — and write to powerful figures such as Procter & Gamble, Hillary Clinton, lawyer Gloria Allred and Nick News journalist Linda Ellerbee.

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Photo Courtesy: Inside Edition/YouTube

A month later, the letters worked: Procter & Gamble changed its slogan from "Women all over America" to "People all over America." Markle was featured on Nick News for her successful efforts, saying, "I don't think it's right for kids to grow up on these things."


A Sorority Girl Like No Other

With her background in Hollywood, Markle always wanted to become an actress but wasn't pleased with the cliché of a girl from Los Angeles who wanted to be an actress. She split her interests and double-majored in theater and international affairs at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

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Photo Courtesy: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

For the most part, Markle had a typical college experience. She joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and attributed her freshman 15 to the 24-hour Burger King near campus. Throughout her time in university, she participated in charity projects. She even studied abroad for one semester in Madrid during her junior year.

Making It Count

While Markle always held onto her love for acting and theater, she once seriously considered going into a career in politics. Her personal history is full of charitable acts and community service, and she was even able to secure an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires when she was 20.

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She was "so sure she'd still have a career in politics," she told Marie Claire in 2013. Plans changed when a friend saw a student film Markle was in and helped her land her first acting audition when she came home to Los Angeles for Christmas.

Queen of Calligraphy

Early on, when she wasn't spending evenings on set with her father, Markle was working on her rigorous schoolwork. One such lesson was cursive writing, a skill that has since been tossed and forgotten by today's education system. Markle always showed impressive calligraphy potential and used it to her advantage later on in life.

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Leal-Olivas/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Claiming to always have had a "propensity for getting the cursive down pretty well," she used her skill as an extra income source. Between acting jobs, Markle worked as a freelancer and booked jobs like Robin Thicke and Paula Patton's handwritten wedding invitations and Dolce & Gabbana's holiday correspondence.


Unlucky Number 26

In the beginning of her acting career, Markle booked a few contract acting and modeling jobs but had difficulty landing major roles. One such gig was on the U.S. game show Deal or No Deal as a briefcase girl, but she hated it. She recalls that she was Number 26, "which for some reason no one would ever choose."

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She also appeared in small roles on television shows like General Hospital, Century City and CSI: NY. Markle told Marie Claire that she used to film a pilot every season before her big break on Suits and remembers having difficulty being casted.

Casting Difficulties

Though she was able to land minor roles on various television shows, Markle didn't break into a full-time role right away because of the racial preferences and divides that consume the casting process in Hollywood. Many producers and casting directors unfortunately turned her down because she was "ethnically ambiguous."

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Though she could audition for any role she wanted, she wrote in 2015 that "sadly, it didn't matter. I wasn't Black enough for the Black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job."

A Show Here and a Movie There

Aside from booking television pilots, Markle was also cast in a few major motion pictures that helped her build credibility in the tough acting world. She was paid $187,000 for her role in Remember Me and $171,000 for her role in the short film The Candidate.

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Photo Courtesy: Fox Broadcasting Company/IMDb

Some of Markle’s acting credits also include minor roles in A Lot Like Love and Dysfunctional Friends, and she appears in Get Him to the Greek and Horrible Bosses. She's been featured in more than 20 television shows and eight films altogether, including her famous breakout role as Rachel Zane in Suits.


The Big Gig

In July of 2011, Markle landed a role on the USA Network television show Suits. In her biggest role to date, she played Rachel Zane, a smart, unapologetic paralegal-turned-attorney with a desire to "crack both racial and gender glass ceilings."

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She completed work on the seventh season in 2017, and Fortune magazine estimated that she made about $50,000 per episode, resulting in a hefty $450,000 annual salary. The role vaulted her into Hollywood-starlet status. Markle truly connected with her go-getter character, actively repositioning the character to become "the show's moral conscience," according to a critique in The Irish Times.

Behind the Scenes of Suits

During her time on Suits, Markle spent nine months of the year in a rented three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the Seaton Village neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. She befriended some of Toronto's "royalty," including Jessica and Ben Mulroney.

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A self-proclaimed "adopted Canuck," Markle became quite close with her castmates. She recalls that they spent time playing board games like Apples to Apples when they weren't filming. A glass of Scotch (or three) later, they often found themselves still playing late into the night.

A Wedding on the Beach

When she wasn't with her castmates or filming an episode, Markle spent time with her then-boyfriend, actor and producer Trevor Engelson. The two began dating in 2004 and spent six years as a couple before tying the knot in Ochos Rios, Jamaica, on September 10, 2011.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Kovac/WireImage

Two years after the four-day wedding celebration, the two filed for a no-fault divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Anonymous sources claim that the long-distance relationship between the two contributed to the divorce, as Markle spent most of the year filming in Toronto and Engelson worked in Los Angeles. Markle later dated chef Cory Vitiello.


A Girl With a Great Appetite

Aside from Markle’s passions for acting and politics, she's also a true foodie at heart. Some of the home chef's favorite dishes include kale chips, chicken adobo, fish tacos and green juice. One of her essential home items is her Vitamix, which she swears she cannot live without — she even lugged it to Toronto in the back seat of her car.

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Photo Courtesy: Ben Birchall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

A wine enthusiast, Markle developed a taste for red wine and started to pay attention to the different tastes as her palate changed when she got older. She even named her renowned blog after the red wine Tignanello.

The Birth of The Tig

Before she was prohibited from endorsing anything outside of philanthropic causes, Markle started a lifestyle blog called The Tig. The website covered a range of topics like food, fashion, beauty and travel. As the blog's popularity grew, she profiled inspirational women and featured fitness, beauty and lifestyle experts.

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Photo Courtesy: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for ShopStyle

As a successful lifestyle blogger, Markle brought in about $80,000 in annual sponsorship revenue and endorsements and always reinforced a positive message to readers. She shuttered The Tig in 2017, deleting every post and social media account, but her sweet farewell message to readers still exists on the homepage.

A Designer Dressed to Impress

With the successful peaking of her blog and role on Suits, Markle even dabbled in fashion design, following her recognition as a put-together fashion appreciator in real life. The busy career woman was asked to collaborate on a collection with Reitmans, a Canadian retailer, which worked perfectly while she was filming in Toronto.

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She collaborated on two collections in 2015 and 2016. Though she's always had that relaxed California-girl style, Markle’s fashion tastes have evolved. Her pieces with Reitmans were inspired by her personal style and her character on the show, described as "aspirational girl next door." The collections quickly sold out.


Meghan on a Mission

A known philanthropist, Markle was a counselor for One Young World, an international charity. She spoke at the 2014 summit in Dublin about gender equality and modern-day slavery. She also toured Afghanistan and Spain with the United Service Organizations in 2014.

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Photo Courtesy: D. Myles Cullen/Wikimedia Commons

As her charitable efforts increased, Markle also became a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and visited Rwanda and India for various campaigns. She was so touched by the trips that she wrote a piece for Time magazine concerning stigmatization of women's menstrual health in third-world countries.

A Routine Fit for Any Princess

Though she's been on the road for the majority of her life filming and traveling, Markle has always prioritized fitness and health. She approaches exercise with self-love. Her favorite forms of keeping in shape are running, pilates and yoga, especially hot yoga.

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Photo Courtesy: Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

She calls running her form of "moving meditation" and often took her dogs with her. Considering that Markle’s mother is a former yoga instructor, she claims that the practice is in her blood. She prioritizes inner health rather than outer beauty, saying, "being happy with your size and being kind to yourself — that's part of being in shape, too."

A Girl's First Puppy Love

With her lovable, do-gooder personality, Markle is a strong advocate for the "adopt don't shop" pet movement. When she was browsing at an animal shelter in Los Angeles, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi walked in while Markle was looking at a beagle.

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Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Markle jokes that Ellen made her adopt the dog, saying, "It's sort of like when Oprah tells you to do something." DeGeneres pressed Markle to rescue the dog, eventually succeeding. Markle adopted the beagle and a Labrador mix but only took her beagle to London after marrying now-husband Harry. Her Lab, Bogart, is reportedly staying with a close friend.


Meghan and Serena: A Match Made on the Court

Markle surely had a slew of A-list friends picked up throughout her time on sets and in Hollywood, but one of her closest is tennis star Serena Williams, whom she met at DirecTV's Celebrity Beach Bowl in 2014. They immediately hit it off and became fast and close friends.

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Photo Courtesy: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for DirecTV

The pair bonded over their ability to surpass people's expectations. Both women, now mothers, are passionate about travel and current events. They also joke about their addiction to hot sauce. "She couldn't be a better friend to me," gushed Williams about Markle to Elle. Williams even attended Markle’s wedding in 2018.

Meghan and Priyanka: A Complicated Friendship

Another close friend of Markle’s is Quantico actress Priyanka Chopra. They've bonded over their acting careers and became friends "like two girls would," Chopra said. The only strain on their friendship is having to keep confirming that the two are in fact still friends!

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Photo Courtesy: Joan Hernandez Mir/Flickr

The two met at a dinner for women in television and have been friends ever since. Chopra has said Markle was "meant for great things." While the two confirm their friendship, rumors continuously pop up concerning so-called catty exchanges between them, such as Markle skipping Chopra’s wedding to Nick Jonas and Chopra missing Markle's baby shower.

A Good-hearted Cookbook for All

As an avid food connoisseur, Markle blended her appreciation and respect for different dishes from around the world and published her first cookbook in 2018 — "Together: Our Community Cookbook." Not all are her personal recipes, however, as she was greatly inspired by the Hubb Community Kitchen and different cooking styles from various cultures.

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Photo Courtesy: Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The cookbook includes recipes from diverse women who cooked for their community after the Grenfell Tower fires in London. Each recipe comes from a different region of the world, and all of the proceeds and profits from the cookbook go to charity.


A Non-neutral Duchess

Members of the royal family are expected to remain politically neutral, but before she was royal, Markle was particularly vocal about politics. In 2016, she backed Hillary Clinton during the U.S. presidential election and described then-candidate Donald Trump as "misogynistic and divisive."

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Markle was named "the most leftwing member of the royal family" by Emile Sar, and Markle’s "feisty and spiky" personality was compared by historian Robert Lacey to that of her grandfather-in-law Prince Philip. She openly posted her political affiliations and opinions on her now-deleted Instagram page but is expected to follow the royal tradition of being politically neutral.

Catching the Travel Bug

Markle’s former job as an actor included a lot of traveling, instilling in her a passion for seeing new places and experiencing new things. She's accumulated a few tips as a seasoned traveler. For one, she prefers wearing sneakers for air travel.

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She drinks wine and watches movies to pass the time, saying it's like "a vacation in the sky." Her essential travel item is tea tree oil, which she describes as her ultimate cure-all. Some of her favorite spots are New Zealand, Croatia and Vietnam.

More Than Just a Pretty Face

The world seems to have always had a crush on Meghan Markle. From her cute school days to her sophisticated styles on Suits to her royal events as the Duchess of Sussex, she's carried herself with poise and dignity.

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Say what you want about Markle, but search results don't lie. In 2016 and 2018, she was the most-Googled woman. Plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen T. Greenberg says he used to get endless requests for Kardashian features, but as of late, Markle has the most-requested face in terms of plastic surgery. E! News reported that her nose was incredibly popular.


Get the London Look

Though she has the world's best makeup artists at her fingertips, Markle occasionally does her own makeup and tends to stick with the cult classics. Some of her favorite products include NARS blush, Diorshow Iconic mascara and Make Up For Ever’s HD Powder.

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She claims that her character Rachel Zane on Suits was much more polished than she is and attributes it to the HD effects of television. Markle describes her makeup styles as very lowkey. She doesn't wear foundation on an average day and has a very simple routine that she calls her "five-minute face."

Happy Tunes for a Happy Heart

Markle’s music taste might just be as wonderfully eclectic as her food tastes, but she's admitted to being drawn to indie music the most, usually preferring "happy" music. In a post on her old blog, Markle shared a playlist of her favorite tunes.

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Photo Courtesy: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

A pretty positive person overall, she said she wanted to boost her fans' moods in the cold winter with her music suggestions. Some of the artists included on the playlist were Crystal Fighters, Maggie Rogers and Janelle Monáe. "There's no winter cold that can block out the warmth of happy hearts," Markle wrote.

A Royally Romantic Blind Date

Before they walked down the aisle in the second royal wedding of the century, Markle and Prince Harry met in a classic way: a blind date. Brought together by Ralph Lauren's publicist, Violet von Westenholz, the two met for a quiet dinner.

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Photo Courtesy: Mark Jones/Flickr

Though Harry had been quietly seeing model Sarah-Ann Macklin, he broke it off and was immediately smitten with Markle. They chatted over chilled wine in a private room at Soho House in London, and Harry was drawn to her confidence and charisma. He has since said that "the stars aligned" for the pair, resulting in his proposal.


Blood Runs Thicker Than Water

While Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been portrayed as coming from two opposite ends of the world (literally and figuratively), they have more in common than meets the eye. If their records are traced back to the 15th century, the two share some family blood.

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The couple are distant cousins, related through an ancestor of the Queen Mother, according to one genealogical study. Another study found that all of today's Europeans are related to the same set of ancestors who lived 1,000 years ago, so it's not a dramatic case of incest for the couple.

Barrier Breaker in a White Dress

The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was held on May 19, 2018, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom. Upon their marriage, Markle was given the title Duchess of Sussex. Unlike the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, this wedding was not declared a bank holiday.

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Photo Courtesy: Tone'o/Flickr

The overall cost of the wedding was estimated at about £32 million. The wedding also took place on a Saturday, an untraditional choice; royal weddings have typically taken place on weekdays. Celebrities in attendance included Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, and David and Victoria Beckham.

Actress-Turned-Rule Follower-Turned-Rule Breaker

As part of the royal family, it's no surprise that Markle was under strict supervision at all times. Life as a royal isn’t easy, especially when it comes to following rules. With her new status as a duchess, she faced more restrictions than ever before.

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Photo Courtesy: Marco Polo Production/IMDb

It’s also no surprise that Markle has become the topic of many media stories, including those about her isolation as a new mother and the "Megxit" decision she and Harry made to step back from their duties as senior members of the British royal family. How their new life will pan out is anyone’s guess, but Markle’s generous, go-getter spirit will likely take her far.