Profile: Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Kensington Palace has confirmed that US actress and campaigner Meghan Markle is in a relationship with Prince Harry

Prince Harry released a statement from Kensington Palace confirming Meghan Markle as his girlfriend in November 2016.

After confirming the relationship, the actress who was not a familiar name to British audiences, became the most googled actress of the year.

Markle who plays Rachel Zane in US TV drama Suits, was born on 4 August 1981 and grew up in Los Angeles but now lives in Toronto.

The area in which she grew up has been described as the 'Black Beverly Hills' with the median price of home there costing $771,000.

She attended a private primary school before studying at a girls' Roman Catholic college and later graduating from Northwestern University School of Communication in 2003, just as her acting career was beginning.

Between auditions, she has told of making money by doing calligraphy for wedding invitations, using skills developed in handwriting classes at school.

Equality campaigner

Her father was a cinematographer on the hit 80s show Married...with children and her first television appearance in the US was in an episode of the medical drama General Hospital in 2002, before moving on to roles in CSI, Without A Trace and Castle.

Markle then began appearing in major Hollywood films, including Get Him To The Greek, Remember Me and Horrible Bosses.

She has also appeared in the sci-fi series Fringe, playing FBI special agent Amy Jessup, and is perhaps most famous for her role in Suits, which is shown on the Dave channel and Netflix in the UK.

In September 2011, she married film producer Trevor Engelson after dating for seven years, but the pair divorced two years later.

Her ex-husband is now producing a new TV show which is based on a man's custody battle with his ex-wife who marries into the British royal family.

Image copyright Tasos Katopodis
Image caption Markle is also well known as a campaigner for gender equality

After being the editor-in-chief of her own lifestyle website and brand The Tig for three years Markle closed it in April 2016, with some speculation that she is preparing for a royal engagement.

The Tig covered topics such as food, beauty, fashion and travel and also spoke about strong women.

Markle said setting up the website was an attempt to "reframe the beauty content to include think pieces about self-empowerment" and feature dynamic, inspirational women.

In a post on The Tig, she explained: "I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches - I've always wanted to be a woman who works."

She has also grown a large social network following, with 1.9 million people following her posts on Instagram and over 350,000 Twitter followers.

Markle became the Global Ambassador for World Vision Canada, which campaigns for better education, food and healthcare for children around the world.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Markle was the editor-in-chief of lifestyle website The Tig

As part of her role, the actress travelled to Rwanda for the charity's Clean Water Campaign.

As well as her humanitarian work, she is known for campaigning for gender equality.

Aged 11, she forced a soap manufacturer to alter an advert after she wrote a letter to then First Lady Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures complaining that it implied women belonged in the kitchen.

Markle's commitment to gender equality has seen her work with the United Nations, and she received a standing ovation from an audience including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a speech she made on International Women's Day 2015.

Commenting on how she combines acting with her humanitarian commitments, she said: "While my life shifts from refugee camps to red carpets, I choose them both because these worlds can, in fact, co-exist. And for me, they must."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Markle has written about her pride in her mixed racial heritage

Markle, whose father is white and mother is African American, has been subjected to some racial profiling with one newspaper labelling her as "(Almost) Straight Outta Compton".

Following the headline, the royal family delivered a rare statement condemning the comment which they described as "racist" and "sexist"

In an article for Elle magazine Markle discussed her racial heritage.

She wrote: "While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that.

"To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman."

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