Actress, activist, entrepreneur — she may be best known as the Duchess of Sussex now, but before she married Prince Harry and became mother to baby Archie, Meghan Markle led an accomplished, busy life in her own right (Prince Harry may have just married up if you ask us!).
Though she was best known as an actress — most prominently as Rachel Zane in the American legal drama Suits — before she married into the royal family, Meghan also had plenty of other items in her long list of accomplishments prior to earning her royal title, including a double major in theater and international studies, a job as a freelance calligrapher, and a successful lifestyle blog! And if you're wondering what else the Duchess was up to before to finding her fairytale romance, here's what Meghan Markle's life was really like before she met Prince Harry:
1. She was a self-described California girl.
Born and raised in L.A., Meghan had a decidedly more relaxed childhood than her fiancé. Her given name was actually Rachel Meghan Markle, meaning she shares a first name with her Suits character.
Her parents divorced when she was 6, and Meghan lived with her mom Doria Ragland, a yoga instructor and social worker, after the separation. Meghan has two half-siblings from her dad's previous marriage, but didn't see them much as they were more than a decade older than her.
2. She got into TV early on.
Her dad, Thomas Markle, worked as an Emmy award-winning lighting director, and he often would bring his youngest daughter to the set. Meghan attended the private, all-girls Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, so the experience definitely contrasted with her education.
"Every day after school for 10 years, I was on the set of Married ... with Children, which is a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up," she told Esquire in 2013. "There were a lot of times my dad would say, 'Meg, why don't you go and help with the craft services room over there? This is just a little off-color for your 11-year-old eyes.'"
3. She was a feminist from a young age.
At age 11, Meghan was working on a homework assignment about commercials when she heard an Ivory dishwashing soap ad aimed solely at women. "I don't think it's right for kids to grow up thinking these things, that just Mom does everything," she said at the time.
Meghan's dad encouraged her to write to the most powerful people she could think of, including company representatives, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Allred, and Nick News anchor Linda Ellerbee. It worked: Procter & Gamble changed the slogan from "Women all over America" to "People all over America" a few days later.
4. She started doing yoga at seven years old.
Thanks to her yoga instructor mom, Meghan's love of yoga started from an early age. The mother-daughter duo started doing mommy-and-me yoga when Meghan was just seven years old. "I was very resistant as a kid, but she said, 'Flower, you will find your practice – just give it time,'" Meghan told Best Health Magazine. "In college, I started doing it more regularly." She's now an avid fan, and does yoga regularly to stay in shape!
5. She was a "theater nerd" at Northwestern University.
— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) November 27, 2017
Meghan says she always wanted to act, but "hated the idea of being this cliché — a girl from L.A. who decides to be an actress." She ended up double-majoring in theater and international relations at the prestigious school in Evanston, Illinois, but she remembers her experience as being pretty typical.
Besides joining the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, she also frequented the students' favorite late-night eats spot. "The 24-hour Burger King also definitely helped me put on the Freshman Fifteen," she told a campus magazine during a 2014 visit.
6. At one point she considered going into politics.
Ever ambitious, Meghan also secured an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina during her junior year. "Our Secretary of the Treasury at the time, Paul O'Neill, was there, so I'm 20 years old, in Buenos Aires, in a motorcade, doing that whole thing," she told Marie Claire in 2013. "I thought for sure I would still have a career in politics."
7. She was on Deal or No Deal — but she hated it.
Although she booked her first audition while still in college, Meghan dealt with the turbulence of the industry just like anyone else. She told Marie Claire she did a pilot every season before Suits. While auditioning for shows, she once worked as a briefcase girl on the game show Deal or No Deal.
"I was the ill-fated number 26, which for some reason no one would ever choose," she told Esquire in 2013. "I would end up standing up there forever in these terribly uncomfortable and inexpensive five-inch heels just waiting for someone to pick my number so I could go and sit down."
8. You can see her in movies like Horrible Bosses.
Other acting credits include the movies Get Him to the Greek, Remember Me, and The Candidate. She also appeared on the TV shows General Hospital (which was actually her very first on-screen appearance ever!), CSI: NY, 90210, The League, Castle, and of course, seven seasons of Suits.
Meghan's most recent work was a voice-over narration role in the Disney nature documentary titled Elephant, benefitting the organization Elephants Without Borders, which was also her first project after her and Prince Harry's decision to step back from the royal family.
9. She made extra money doing calligraphy.
This side gig she actually liked. "I think handwritten notes are a lost art form," she told Good Housekeeping in 2016. Apparently she "always had a propensity for getting the cursive down pretty well" and managed to book jobs like Robin Thicke and Paula Patton's wedding invitations and Dolce & Gabbana's celebrity holiday correspondence.
10. She also used to teach bookbinding.
Besides working as a freelance calligrapher, another way that Meghan supported herself between acting gigs was teach bookbinding. During her and Prince Harry's royal tour of Africa, Meghan visited Victoria Yards — a social enterprise that gives a platform to local craftsmen and start-ups — where she bought three notebooks and then revealed that she used to teach workshops in bookbinding herself!
11. She was married once before.
Meghan met her first husband, producer Trevor Engelson, in 2004. They dated for six years before tying the knot in Jamaica during a four-day beach wedding celebration. Not long afterwards, Meghan left Los Angeles to film her breakthrough role in Toronto. Anonymous sources claim that long-distance relationship at the start of their marriage contributed to their divorce in 2013.
12. Canada became her second home.
When Suits got picked up, her role as paralegal Rachel Zane helped vault Meghan's star status. Since the filming took place in Toronto, she spent about eight months of the year in Canada — hence why she's called herself an "adopted Canuck."
The actress rented a modest three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the Seaton Village neighborhood during her time there, and became friends with Toronto "royalty." Her circle included power couple Jessica and Ben Mulroney, the former a fashion adviser to Justin Trudeau's wife and the latter the son of a former PM himself.
13. Her Suits cast members used to hang out all night.
Meghan told Esquire that everyone on Suits was really close, spending holiday weekends at Patrick J. Adams's vacation home on the Georgian Bay. "Off-camera, there we are just playing Apples to Apples and drinking Scotch into the wee hours of the night," she added.
14. One of her favorite shows was Mad Men.
When she wasn't on TV, she liked watching it as much as the rest of us. Back in 2013, she counted the Jon Hamm drama, Girls, and The Newsroom as part of her "must" list.
15. She published a lifestyle blog called "The Tig."
The royals avoid publicly endorsing anything outside of their philanthropic endeavors, but before she became a Duchess, Meghan used to share her thoughts on food, travel, fashion, and beauty via her former lifestyle blog "The Tig." The posts ran the gamut from recipes to celeb interviews to "an insider's guide to London" during its three-year lifespan. Visit the homepage now and you can still see Meghan's sweet goodbye message to her readers.
16. She's a total foodie.
Meghan has dubbed herself a foodie in multiple interviews, even writing a blog post dedicated to her favorite dishes. On the list? Green juice, fish tacos, chicken adobo, cioppino, and kale chips. The home chef also loves "an Ina Garten–level roasted-chicken recipe." It's rumored that's what she made with Prince Harry when he proposed!
17. Her Vitamix went with her everywhere.
This is a girl who loves her blender. "When I had my car brought out [to Canada], I shipped my Vitamix in the backseat. It was one of the things where I was like I cannot travel without my Vitamix," she told Esquire. "It's like a commercial at this point. But I use it every day for pestos or shakes."
18. And she LOVES wine.
"At the end of a long day, there is nothing I enjoy more than a glass of wine," Meghan wrote on a Today blog post. "I used to be of the 'it doesn't matter, so long as it's red' persuasion, but then I grew up, and so did my palate." The red wine Tignanello even inspired the name of her old blog.
19. She designed clothes on the side.
Behind The Scenes 📽 - #MMxReitmans Dress Capsule Collection. Watch the full video – Link in bio! #ReitmansReally // 🎥 En coulisses - MMxReitmans collection capsule de robes. Regardez la vidéo au complet- lien en bio! #ReitmansVraiment
A post shared by Reitmans (@reitmans) on Apr 11, 2016 at 8:50am PDT
Meghan kept up with a number of jobs. Besides covering travel, food, fashion, and beauty on 'The Tig," the career woman also had a side hustle with Canadian clothing brand Reitmans, becoming a brand ambassador for the brand in 2015 and putting out a collection with the label in 2016.
20. She adopted two rescue dogs.
Years before she met Prince Harry, Meghan, a known animal lover, adopted two dogs from a rescue shelter — a Labrador-shepherd mix named Bogart and a beagle named Guy. In fact, Bogart's adoption happened thanks to talk show host Ellen and her wife Portia, whom Meghan ran into at the dog shelter! Ellen apparently persuaded the actress to adopt Bogart, as Meghan recalled in an interview with Best Health: "It’s sort of like if Oprah tells you to do something ... And so I brought him home. Because Ellen told me to."
Later, Meghan adopted another dog, a black Labrador, with Prince Harry in 2018.
21. Her BFFs include Serena Williams and Priyanka Chopra.
Before she met Prince Harry for the first time in July 2016, Meghan already had some very famous friends. In addition to hanging out with Toronto elite, she befriended the tennis legend Serena Williams at DirecTV's Celebrity Beach Bowl in 2014.
They "hit it off immediately, taking pictures, laughing through the flag football game we were both playing in, and chatting not about tennis or acting, but about all the good, old-fashioned girly stuff," she wrote on the Tig, Buzzfeed reports. "She quickly became a confidante I would text when I was traveling, the friend I would rally around for her tennis matches, and the down-to-earth chick I was able to grab lunch with."
Quantico star, Priyanka, met the fellow actress at the annual ELLE Women in Television dinner. "We bonded as actors," she says of their friendship. "We just became friends, like two girls would." Both Serena and Priyanka attended Meghan's wedding in 2018 as well as other notable celebs like Oprah and Amal Clooney.
22. Many men before Prince Harry tried to woo her.
According to the Daily Mail, English football player Ashley Cole was one of the several men who was interested in dating Meghan back in the day. He followed the actress on Twitter, asking her on a date while she was in London. Meghan was reportedly warned by friends that Ashley was a bit of a womanizer, so she decided "leave it alone."
23. She spent a ton of time volunteering.
Before her philanthropic efforts with the royal family, Meghan helped in soup kitchens in both Los Angeles and Toronto, according to her official biography. She also worked with the youth empowerment nonprofit One Young World, the UN's Women’s Political Participation and Leadership initiative, and the humanitarian organization World Vision. On a visit to India on behalf of World Vision, Meghan was so struck by her experience she wrote an op-ed published by Time in 2017.
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