Inside Meghan Markle's Road to American Royalty

By
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Meghan Markle was destined to be a royal!

The 36-year-old actress and Prince Harry announced their engagement this week, and she will soon be by his side to work together on causes dear to their hearts.

Markle may be known for her role as Rachel Zane on Suits, but the brunette beauty has also been giving back to the community and fighting for women's rights long before her ties to Prince Harry and her expected soon-to-be royal duties.

Her humanitarian and philanthropic work began prior to her becoming an actress. It all began with her mother, Doria Ragland, who has a master's degree in social work and works as a psychotherapist. In an interview with Glamourearlier this year, Markle listed her mom as one of the women who changed her life.

"My mom's a yoga instructor, but she does social work, as well, and she works specifically with the geriatric community," she stated. "For me to watch this level of life-long sensitivity to nurturing and caregiving, but at the same time my mom has always been a free spirit. She's got dread locks and a nose ring. She just ran the L.A. Marathon. We can just have so much fun together, and yet, I'll still find so much solace in her support. That duality coexists the same way it would in a best friend."

As a child, she also traveled to Mexico and enjoyed visiting foreign countries with her parents.

"[Traveling] really shapes you from a young age and makes you really empathetic of people of whatever culture, wherever they're from," she told theChicago Tribune in 2013. "It made me much more courageous to take myself out of a sheltered bubble. I moved to Argentina at 21 and worked for the U.S. Embassy. And then I went to Madrid."

She graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in theater and international studies.

"When I was young, I knew I wanted to try something else. So it was wonderful to be in the foreign services and live in Buenos Aires," Markle expressed in that same interview. "Traveling gives you some perspective of what the rest of the world is like. I think that having the courage to step out of the norm is the most important thing."

Additionally, Markle has always prided herself in making a difference in the world and has previously stated that she's been an advocate for women since the age of 11 when she saw a dishwashing liquid commercial that she felt was sexist. She wrote many letters to then-first lady Hillary Clinton, journalist Linda Ellerbee and attorney Gloria Allred. Months later the dishwashing liquid company changed their commercial.

“It was at that moment that I realized the magnitude of my actions. At the age of 11 I had created my small level of impact by standing up for equality,” Markle explained during a moving speech on behalf of UN Women in 2015.

Markle's father, Thomas W. Markle, is an Emmy Award-winning lighting director and she knew that she would be involved in the entertainment industry, though she wanted more than just fame.

Her first role was a minor appearance on General Hospital in 2002 and had small guest roles on series like Century City, Cuts, Love Inc. and The War at Home. She was also a briefcase model on Deal or No Deal from 2006 to 2007.

She steadily continued to act, appearing in episodes of CSI: NY, Fringe,The League, CSI: Miami and Castle, among others. She also landed roles in the movies, A Lot Like Love, Remember Me and Horrible Bosses. Markle's big break came in 2011 when she got cast in the USA series Suits, which is in its seventh season.

Markle's character, Rachel, begins as a paralegal and eventually becomes an attorney. She strikes up romance with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) and the two become engaged. Through their ups and downs, she remains loyal to him.

"[Rachel] has really grown up quite a bit over the last seven years," Markle told USA Network, describing her seven-year journey with her character -- whom she will leave behind after the current season ends -- as "amazing."

While on the show, Markle made sure to be involved in more than just the industry. In 2014, she was a counselor for international charity One Young World and spoke at the 2014 annual summit in Dublin, Ireland, about gender equality and modern-day slavery.

In 2016, she became a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and traveled to Rwanda for the Clean Water Campaign.

Markle also worked with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women as an Advocate.

“I spoke about this in a speech I gave for International Women’s Day with UN Women just two years ago. It is a testament to the fighting spirit I had as a young girl, and the responsibility I now feel as a grown woman; and even more so as an actress," she wrote on The Tig last year. "The moment Suits became successful and I realized people (especially young women) were listening to what I had to say."

And there's no doubt that Markle will bring that special something to the royal family.

"The general impression I'm getting from the people on the streets is that she's a breath of fresh air, she's going to help to rejuvenate the royal family and everyone is really wishing them very well," royal expert Katie Nicholl told ET this week. "There's a real sense of happiness about this engagement announcement."

Markle herself is excited about taking on her royal duties. During her first interview with Prince Harry on the BBC, she spoke about how she's ready to focus on the next chapter of her life and leaving her acting career behind.

“I think what’s been really exciting -- as we talk about this as the transition out of my career -- is that the causes that have been very important to me, I can focus even more energy on,” she expressed. “You realize that as you have access, or a voice that people are willing to listen to, [it comes with] a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously.”

“In these beginning few months and now being boots on the ground in the U.K., I’m excited to really get to know more about the different communities here and smaller organizations that are working on the same causes that I’ve always been passionate about,” she added.

It's as if Markle has been preparing for this role her whole life.

For more on the actress, watch below.

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