To say that Meghan Markle is beautiful would be stating the obvious, but the actress is as beautifully demure, down to earth and, quite simply, kind in a way that is both refreshing and rare in our selfie-obsessed age of “me.” Best known for her role as Rachel Zane on Suits, TV viewers also may have seen her on the big screen in Horrible Bosses or Remember Me.
I meet Markle at one of downtown Toronto’s private clubs, after what she explains has been a long day of back-to-back meetings and contract signings. It’s evident the day has been trying, but she graciously allows me to select our wine and share plate options before we get down to business.
Actress, editor, daughter, friend, dog owner, UN global ambassador… her list of titles is extensive. Markle responds hesitantly as I inquire about all the hats she wears. “I don’t sit around thinking about my titles and roles, I just do what feels right,” she says. Newly appointed as ambassador for World Vision’s Clean Water Campaign, she was reluctant at first to take on another project. “They sent me the pitch. I did that gut check, and when I read the proposal—what they wanted to do in these communities in Rwanda—I had chills. How could I turn that down?”
Build a well and young girls don’t have to walk all day to gather water, making them less susceptible to trafficking and affording them the opportunity to get an education. Still, World Vision takes a step further with their water color project. After teaching the community to use the well, the children take a cup of their well water to create water color paintings of what they want to be when they grow up. It gets them thinking farther into the future to what a life of their choosing might look like.
“We have this life source that opens up such a sense of hope and creativity for these children, plus healthier lives for everyone in the community. It’s amazing,” Markle concludes with a smile.
With all of her travels and extra curriculars, it’s a wonder the actress finds down-time. “It’s a challenge, without question,” she states, pausing to close her eyes and delight in a bite of extra spicy grilled calamari. “Last year I learned the art of saying ‘no.’ Everyone tells you to strike when the iron’s hot, which is hard not to get sucked into. There comes a time when we need to say, ‘I have to take some time for me.’ I came to a point where I didn’t feel like I had a moment to breathe, so I had to learn gradually to give myself some quietude.”
What are some of the practical things this busy woman does to stay grounded and remind herself to refocus? “I love Russell Simmons’s Meditation Made Simple app. It easily encourages you to quiet your mind. From a practical sense, I’ve learned to vacate on a plane, which is huge because I travel so much.”
Avoiding flights with wifi, she allows herself a few hours of recharge time, watching movies or enjoying a glass of wine. “It’s the little things that feel like minutia, but at the end of the day, I can perform everything else so much better,” Markle muses. “At this point of my life, everything I’m doing I’m really passionate about. So even when it’s exhausting, I still enjoy it because it’s purpose driven. But I’ve also realized that if I didn’t find that inner quiet, my inner peace, I might not be able to do it all. Now, at the end of a crazy day, I can sit down with a good friend, take a load off, breathe a sigh of relief, let go and begin anew.”
L.A.-born and raised, Markle is an only child to a Black mother and White father. “My mom is a yoga instructor, 100% Black with dreadlocks,” she reveals. “And when people find out ‘that girl’ on Suits is her daughter, there is often this disconnect and sometimes disbelief. It took me a long time to find myself.”
An opinionated youth, her mother allowed her to explore the things that would bring her happiness: “Flower, you will find your practice,” she would say. Looking intense, Markle says, “There are days where I’m stressed out and think: I have to hit my mat. I need to work through my stuff and quiet my mind. The health benefits and all that other stuff comes afterward.”
A natural beauty and gifted actress, being biracial often left her in a grey place on the cusp of both worlds. But being neither “Black enough” or “White enough” while auditioning led to being turned away for roles all too often.
“I could get into twice as many rooms, but was turned down twice as often as many of my peers,” she says. “It’s that dichotomy that we can go through: ‘What are you? Where do you fit in? I want to put you in this box and I want you to stay there.’ I never want to complain. I get that so many people have it worse than I do. But it took me deep into my twenties to come to the realization that I am ‘enough’ exactly as I am, and I don’t have to be more or less of anything for other people.”
Little did Markle know so many years ago that the age of “no” was about to be turned on its head with her fortuitous appointment as Rachel Zane on the legal drama, Suits. Recently picked up for a sixth season, the role would open up a whole new chapter in her life, including relocating to Toronto, where the series is filmed.
USA Network is known for being a little darker, edgier, without relying on the typical television tropes of blue skies and picket fences, and a proven commitment to diversified casting.
“I mean, Gina Torres plays Jessica Pearson, and she’s the head of the firm,” Markle notes. “Many other networks would have cast that role as a White man.” It’s important to keep in mind this was six years ago, before Scandal and the other Shondaland shows that currently dominate our flat screens. “Rachel was cast as the dream girl, and in real life that girl didn’t look like me. She was blonde and blue-eyed, not some biracial, ‘can’t tell what she is’ girl.”
Rachel Zane is always impeccably dressed. But when asked about her own personal style, the actress seems shy, blushes and says, “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s an Instagram filter?” with a soft laugh. “With Facetune and these other apps where every bit of yourself is warped, it worries me that young girls are comparing themselves to what is often a false reality, the smoke and mirrors. I feel confident most of the time. But there are days where I meet a stranger and I have that self-doubt, thinking, ‘Oh man, they must feel really let down that I don’t look like Rachel Zane.’ ”
You’ll find much of Markle’s inspirations on her website, The Tig. Covering food and wine, fashion and travel, the site is unpretentious and accessible to everyone. “On the show, people see me in $5,000 Tom Ford skirts, but that’s not what I have in my closet at home. I never want to lose touch with reality. I won’t push $100 candles just because. I realized that I could create a hub of positivity and affirmation.”
With The Tig, Markle gets to be more than just another face on the red carpet.
“What I do for a living is say someone else’s words believably. Now I get to say my own words and I try to remain authentic in it and in the way I live my life.” Ad free with a clean aesthetic, the website feels calm. “I want Tig to be like a friend that’s always there for you; a great place that makes you feel good.”
There is a theme of pleasant quietude and gratefulness that pervades this interview. On pondering what’s to come, she lights up and confesses that she never imagined a life as amazing as hers has turned out. “To try to dream of what more it can be? I can hardly conceive of it. It’s not so much about setting goals for things, because I trust that with my temperament and my drive, these beautiful things will continue to manifest.”
We end on a quiet, somewhat contemplative note, and she says, “As my friend Gina reminds me, ‘Honey, you gotta leave room for magic.’ ”