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Personal identity in the age of the internet can be a complicated thing for the best of us – but for a modern princess, the challenges are on another level. One minute you’re trying to navigate a new role as a member of the royal family, the next people are nattering about your appearance on a game show. Whatever you do, your past choices remain clear for all to see.
Unless, that is, they don't. According to the new book Finding Freedom, the Wikipedia entry for Meghan Markle was altered days before her relationship with Prince Harry was made public. The changes involved removing a reference to her work as a model, and altering her occupation from “actress, fashion model and spokesmodel” to “actress, activist and humanitarian.”
Which is not to say that anyone was trying to hide the future Duchess's past work – it hardly takes an internet sleuth to discover she spent a year working on the US version of Deal or No Deal – but that her role in the public eye was about to shift and clearly someone thought her online profile needed updating. When you've visited Rwanda for a water charity, worked with The United Nations Women and visited Afghanistan to entertain troops, all before becoming associated with a prince, perhaps it is only fair that the Wikipedia record states as much.
Today, the Duchess's philanthropic interests are well established – though they're far from the sum total of her transformations...
From Aspiring Actress to TV model
It might have disappeared from Wikipedia briefly (it's back on there now), but in the wider realm of the internet it's common knowledge that Meghan was once a television model.
The princess-to-be undertook a role as a ‘briefcase model’ on the US version of Deal or No Deal between 2006 to 2007. Essentially, the role is as it sounds. The show employed 26 glamorous women to hold up numbered briefcases (Markle's was number 24), with the contestants selecting a case one by one.
Then a struggling actress, it was a role that paid well, with Meghan earning £609 per episode. But it seems she didn't entirely enjoy her time on the show. Speaking to Esquire, she said: “Definitely working on Deal or No Deal was a learning experience, and it helped me to understand what I would rather be doing. 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.”
From TV Model back to Actress
Meghan's long-term goal was to be an actress, so her on-screen transformation from Deal or No Deal to Suits signified an early achievement in her career. In a letter for Glamour magazine written in 2017, she credited the actress Julia Roberts as the reason she pursued a career in acting. “She was the first person I saw on-screen and thought, 'That looks like so much fun; I wanna do that'. When I was younger, someone once told me, “You kind of look like Julia Roberts in profile.” It was the best compliment of all time.”
In 2011, she landed the role that made her career; starring as Rachel Zane in the US legal drama, which she held up until the show’s seventh season in 2017. Meghan played a sassy paralegal who had dreamed of attending Harvard Law School only to get stuck in a rut of paperwork and research. During her time on Suits, her two year marriage to film producer Trevor Engelson came to an end, in 2013.
While Suits was her biggest acting gig, she also had minor roles in Get Him to the Greek, Remember Me and Horrible Bosses, to name a few.
From Actress to Lifestyle Blogger
Meghan's blog was ‘The Tig’, named after the time she tried a wine called Tignanello and experienced what she termed as “unbridled joy.” In the competitive world of lifestyle blogs, it was largely considered a success. Far more down to earth than Gwynnie’s Goop, but with an appropriate amount of star-studded references (one post is a tribute to her pal Sophie Ellis-Bexter), the posts were a mixture of favourite recipes, travel and intimate hints at her personal life.
The content was varied. One recipe referred to Grandma Markle’s Apple Butter Toast, “made in the crockpot to truly let you set it and forget it.” Other posts hinted at a more introspective side to the princess. On turning 33 in 2014, she wrote about the merits of leaving her 20s in the past: "My 20s were brutal – a constant battle with myself, judging my weight, my style, my desire to be as cool/as hip/as smart/as “whatever” as everyone else."
Eagle-eyed readers might have even been able to spot some references to her blossoming relationship with Prince Harry, too. Indeed, when Meghan decided to discontinue the blog in 2017, it prompted widespread speculation that Prince Harry might be about to propose, and that her transformation to a Princess was underway. In a statement posted online, she wrote: “What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity. You've made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy.”
From Lifestyle Blogger to Princess
The transformation that we'd been waiting for. In May 2018, Meghan Markle married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex, an event that propelled her into a spotlight far different from that which she'd inhabited before.
The bouncy curls of her previous life were replaced by streamlined hairstyles, while breakfasts on LA boulevard gave way to official engagements in Blighty. The raw honesty of her lifestyle blog was replaced by the Sussex Royal account, which offered carefully curated insights into the couple’s life.
However, the transformation wasn't without its complications, leading Meghan and Harry to 'step back' from their role as senior royals. Finding Freedom touches on some of these struggles, alleging that a senior royal once referred to her as “Harry’s showgirl.” It claims that one adviser was reportedly overheard telling another colleague that “there’s just something about [Meghan] I don’t trust.” The book alleges a third staffer said the former actress “comes with a lot of baggage.”
From Princess to Mother
On 6th May 2019, Archie Mountbatten Harrison Windsor entered the world at the Portland Hospital in London. And Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, model, actress and humanitarian, also became a mother.
As any mother knows, the transformation into a parent is never completely smooth. Meghan has been honest about the difficulties she's encountered. When asked how she was coping in an ITV documentary, she said: "Look, any woman - especially when they are pregnant - you're really vulnerable and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a new born - you know?
"And especially as a woman, it's a lot..."
And throughout it all, Humanitarian
While the word may have entered her Wikipedia entry late in the day, Meghan's philanthropic interests date back to her childhood. Aged 11, she was angered by a television commercial for dishwasher soap which proudly asserted that “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” In protest, she wrote to Hilary Clinton, the then-first lady, and feminist lawyer Gloria Allred to protest against the ad. Shortly after, the slogan was amended to: “People over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”
Since then, the Duchess has worked as a global ambassador for the aid organisation World Vision, been a counsellor for Young World and worked with the United Nations in Rwanda. More recently, she used her royal status to further promote humanitarian work. In November last year, she celebrated the opening of the Luminary Bakery, which supports women who have escaped abuse, poverty and trafficking.