Duchess of Sussex: LA actress with fairy tale role

Thursday May 9 2019

Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, once struggled for roles but the former actress has taken centre stage in one of the world's biggest shows, giving birth to a boy who is seventh in line to the British throne.

Amid enduring global fascination in the country's royal family, Prince Harry's 37-year-old wife has appeared determined to do things her own way, including the birth of her first child.

They showed their newborn baby to the public on Wednesday at Windsor Castle, where they tied the knot last May.

Since marrying Harry, Meghan has quickly had to get used to the strictures and criticism that comes with the monarchy.

It is a long way from her former life as a television star.

Meghan made her name as savvy paralegal Rachel Zane in the US legal drama series "Suits", but cultivated a high profile for herself outside the show.

She became a United Nations advocate for women's empowerment and a global ambassador for the World Vision Canada relief agency.

The Los Angeles-born actress had more than two million followers on her now-closed personal Instagram account and ran a successful lifestyle blog, The Tig.

'ANONYMOUS BLOGGER'

Meghan was also revealed as the anonymous blogger behind The Working Actress, which chronicled the struggles of hustling for parts in Hollywood.

"She's very focused and someone who has been very ambitious," said royal writer Andrew Morton, who has penned a biography of Meghan.

"Her great phrase is 'make the change'," he told AFP.

Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981 to Thomas Markle, a white, Emmy Award-winning television lighting director who worked on top US shows like "Married With Children", and Doria Ragland, a black social worker and yoga instructor.

On her mother's side, her ancestors were slaves on cotton plantations in Georgia. Her mother's surname is taken from a slave owner.

Meghan's parents split when she was two and divorced five years later. She is now estranged from her father and his other children, her older half-sister and half-brother.

Meanwhile her father set himself up for staged paparazzi photos which backfired, then suffered chest pains and needed heart surgery, causing him to miss her big day.

The leaking to the press of a handwritten letter from Meghan pleading with him to stop serially leaking to journalists seems to have done irreparable damage to their relationship.

BROKEN-HEARTED

His actions had, it said, already "broken my heart into a million pieces".

Meghan went to a private Catholic girls' school where she was remembered for her strong sense of right and wrong.

Aged 11, her letter-writing campaign got the consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble to change a washing-up commercial, referring to people rather than just women.

Determined to give herself options, she studied theatre and international relations at Northwestern University.

The future duchess graduated in 2003, after which she landed a six-week internship as a press officer at the US embassy in Argentina.

Returning to Los Angeles, in 2004 she fell in love with go-getting film producer Trevor Engelson, who helped her get on the acting ladder as she struggled for bit parts.

They married in Jamaica in 2011.

Soon after their engagement, Meghan had landed her signature role in "Suits".

While she filmed in Toronto, her relationship with her then husband became a long-distance one. A series of flops followed for Engelson while the struggling actress became a star, and the marriage collapsed in 2013.

Through a mutual friend, she met Queen Elizabeth II's grandson Harry in July 2016 while visiting London.

Their romance quickly blossomed on a whirlwind camping trip to Botswana.

After their engagement was announced in November 2017, Markle immediately began accompanying Harry on public events, with a focus on women, youth empowerment and the Commonwealth.

Since their glittering wedding, seen as a moment of renewal for the royal family, media coverage had become increasingly negative.

Reports have appeared of a rift with her sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, of her staff quitting in droves, Meghan pushing her weight around and a "Me-Gain" nickname emerging.

The vastly expensive, celebrity-laden New York baby shower also attracted criticism.

Surviving in the royal spotlight may be her toughest role yet.

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