Meghan Markle Is Royal Family's Unconventional Bride-to-be

CNN/ Newswire | 11/28/2017, 8:01 a.m.
The wedding engagement of a feminist American actress and the fifth in line to the British throne is yet another ...
Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle make their first public appearance after announcing their engagement on Monday, November 27, 2017.

By Judith Vonberg, CNN

(CNN) -- The wedding engagement of a feminist American actress and the fifth in line to the British throne is yet another sign the royal family is becoming a modern family.

Before she met Prince Harry, Meghan Markle had already established herself as not only a television star, but a humanitarian committed to gender equality.

High-profile members of the British royal family marrying who they want -- and not who they should -- has been a gradual process.

As Markle's relationship with the prince blossomed, the British tabloids and social media commenters fixated on the fact that she's not British, had been married before and comes from a biracial background. Her ethnicity, in particular, spurred tabloid coverage to the extent that her now-fiancé warned the media to stop harassing her last year.

Markle shrugged it off during in her first joint interview with Prince Harry.

"I'm really just proud of who I am and where I come from. And we have never put any focus on that," she said.

Their wedding will take place in spring 2018.

Early years

Markle, 36, grew up in Los Angeles to a white father, Thomas Markle and an African-American mother, Doria Ragland. Her parents separated when she was two years old, but the family remained close, eating dinners and taking vacations together, she told Vanity Fair.

"What are you?" Markle said she was frequently asked and had to constantly explain her background, according to an essay she wrote for Elle UK in 2015.

Sorry, Americans, you still can't call her 'Princess Meghan'

In 7th grade, she recalled having to complete a mandatory census and having to mark her ethnicity as either white or black.

"You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other -- and one half of myself over the other," she wrote.

"When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: 'If that happens again, you draw your own box.'"

Markle credited her parents for making her socially conscious and wrote in a 2016 essay that her mother had raised her to be "a global citizen, with eyes open to sometimes harsh realities."

Markle went to Northwestern University and became the first in her family to graduate with a college degree in 2003. She studied theater and international relations.

TV star

Her breakthrough role came in 2011 when she first appeared as ambitious paralegal Rachel Zane in the hit TV series "Suits," now in its seventh season.

She has also acted in "CSI: Miami," "90210" and "General Hospital." Her film roles include "Horrible Bosses" (2011) and "Remember Me" (2010).

In an article for Elle UK in 2015, Markle wrote about the difficulty of forging a career as a biracial actress. "I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job."