Just weeks ago, Prince Harry – in an unprecedented move – released a public statement condemning some of the media’s sexist and racist treatment of his new girlfriend, Meghan Markle.
They had attempted to reduce the talented Suits actor to nothing more than a divorced older woman (she is 35 – and, as such, just three years older than the prince), making loaded comments about her race (she had a black mother and a white father), her financial background, and her ‘motives’ for dating a member of the royal family.
What they failed to realise, however, was that Markle is – to put it lightly – one hell of a woman.
An acclaimed actor, philanthropist and feminist icon, Markle has 1.1 million followers on Instagram and counting – but she doesn’t take fame lightly. The ambassador for World Vision Canada has even gone so far as to turn her back on the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, to ensure that she stay true to the causes that she’s most passionate about.
In a new essay for Elle UK, Markle recalls returning from a Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda, which she had visited as part of her work as an advocate for UN Women.
During the journey, she received an email from her manager, asking her whether she’d like to attend to BAFTAs – and have a high-end jewellery company provide fashion, accessories, transportation, and more.
“My brain, heart and spirit couldn't shift gears that quickly, from the purpose-driven work I had been doing all week in Rwanda to the polished glamour of an awards show,” writes Markle. “'No,' my heart said. And it wasn't a soft whisper; it was a lion's roar.”
She continues: “I looked out the car window and saw a world of verdant beauty that had been riddled with genocide and unrest only 22 years ago, but had recovered with a decisive choice to overcome. The rolling fields, the goats and thump-thump of the ground as we drove – to me, it was bucolic bliss. It was love at its core.”
Markle explains that her “gut said no because, while my two worlds can coexist, I’ve learned that being able to keep a foot in both is a delicate balance.”
The Suits actor adds that her philanthropic pursuits and the “Hollywood fantasy” are not mutually exclusive, but that it can be “challenging” to experience both simultaneously, particularly if you want to remain true to your heart – and grounded in reality.
Markle’s family have, as we all know by this point, been dragged into the public eye by some media outlets. As Prince Harry explained in his statement, ““some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”
However, in her new essay, Markle allows fans a chance to understand her parents as they really are, and her relationship with them, as opposed to the falsities being peddled by the tabloids.
Read more: Why Meghan Markle is a feminist game-changer
Markle credits her mother – a clinical therapist – and her “hard-working father” for raising her to be a “global citizen”, explaining that, while they “came from little”, they “made a choice to give a lot” to those in need.
From donating food to homeless shelters, to visiting with the elderly in hospices, to simply giving change to those asking for it on the street, Markle’s parents opened her eyes to the sometimes harsh realities of the world. And, in doing so, they encouraged her to do her best to help those in need.
“[I grew up to be] a young adult with a social consciousness,” she writes, adding that she has been instilled with the desire to “do what I could and speak up when I knew something was wrong.”
It’s easy to see what Markle and Prince Harry have in common; both have campaigned for charities, and used their position in the spotlight to raise awareness about important issues. Just last week, in fact, the prince spent a day at a London sexual health clinic called NAZ, which aims to help minorities “accept their diagnosis and live life to the fullest.”
And, while there’s no denying that their combined celebrity status will see their privacy mocked by certain media outlets, it may also grant them even more opportunities to share their philanthropic pursuits with the rest of the world.
“With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings,” concludes Markle. “And, if I'm lucky enough, to inspire.”