How confused cutie Meghan Markle was torn between her two halves when she had to complete a census at school 'forcing her to choose one parent over the other'

When she was just 12 years old, Meghan Markle had to complete a mandatory census at school. The boxes to indicate ethnicity were labelled white, black, Hispanic or Asian.

‘There I was,’ she has said, ‘my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race, looking down at these boxes. You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other – and one half of myself over the other.

‘I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said to me, “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”’

The Markle Sparkle: Meghan's love affair with the camera started early, as this photo from her LA childhood shows. Pictured: Meghan  aged one

The Markle Sparkle: Meghan's love affair with the camera started early, as this photo from her LA childhood shows. Pictured: Meghan aged one

Meghan aged three sitting on a bed at her mother's house in LA 

Meghan aged three sitting on a bed at her mother's house in LA 

Living life on her own terms is something she has been doing ever since, and it has made her a formidable woman who has combined stardom with a social conscience and a keen entrepreneurial zeal. It may yet take her to the heart of the Royal Family. What an astonishing journey that would be.

If Kate Middleton – daughter of a former air hostess descended from mining stock – brought a breath of fresh air to the Windsors, then Meghan’s arrival on the scene is even more enlivening.

She was born in Los Angeles on August 4, 1981. Her mother Doria, an African-American, is a yoga teacher and therapist. Her father Thomas, an Emmy Award-winning TV lighting director, is Caucasian. For most of her childhood the family lived in ‘The Valley’ area of LA. It was leafy and affordable but not diverse. Neighbours often assumed Doria was the nanny.

Meghan’s parents did all they could to protect her from prejudice. She has said: ‘When I was about seven, I had been fawning over a boxed set of Barbie dolls. It was called The Heart Family and included a mom doll, a dad doll, and two children. This perfect nuclear family was sold only in sets of white dolls or black dolls. I don’t remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one.

Meghan aged five wearing a Canada sweatshirt in a photo posted on the star's Instagram account

Meghan aged five wearing a Canada sweatshirt in a photo posted on the star's Instagram account

Meghan aged 12
Meghan aged 14

All smiles: Meghan Markle aged 12 (left) and sitting on a swing aged 14 (right)

‘On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family. A black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.’

When Meghan was six, Doria and Thomas divorced. So, like Harry, she knows what it is like to come from a broken home.

Despite this, she had an apparently happy childhood attending first the private Hollywood Little Red Schoolhouse and then an independent all-girls Catholic school, Immaculate Heart High, in LA.

She went on to take theatre and international relations as a double major at the Northwestern University School of Communication, Illinois. By the time she graduated in 2003, she had already made her screen debut in the US soap General Hospital. Bigger parts on TV shows such as cult crime series CSI, and finally in Hollywood, began to trickle in. For a time she was on the American version of Deal Or No Deal as a ‘briefcase girl’ – holding the equivalent of the British TV game show’s red boxes.

But Meghan still remembers the days when she had just $40 in her bank account and could barely arrange an audition. Between acting jobs she supported herself as a freelance calligrapher and is still a passionate devotee of the handwritten letter.

Family ties: Tom Markle, with daughter Meghan Markle aged 11 and baby Thomas Dooley Markle

Family ties: Tom Markle, with daughter Meghan Markle aged 11 and baby Thomas Dooley Markle

Nailing the part of paralegal Rachel Zane in Suits in 2011 changed everything. Meghan has described it as her ‘Goldilocks role’, the one ‘where finally I was just right’.

The job required a move to Toronto, where Suits is filmed. Some young actresses would miss the buzz of LA, but Canada has its benefits. It’s a far less crowded marketplace than California for stars eager to promote their enviable lifestyles. It was an opportunity that, characteristically, Meghan seized. In 2014 she launched a blog called The Tig (named after her favourite Italian wine, Tignanello), with content ranging from politics to her grandma’s apple butter toast.

The Tig was a showcase for Meghan’s off-screen passions – travel, food, learning and dogs. She has a beagle called Guy and a labrador/German shepherd named Bogart, both rescued animals. Blog posts and her Instagram account show her squeezing ‘every ounce of happiness’ (her words) out of her life, dancing carefree in a miniskirt and a trilby or eating raspberries ten at a time from the ends of her fingers.

Meghan Markle and her mother Doria Radlan, an African-American yoga teacher and therapist

Meghan Markle and her mother Doria Radlan, an African-American yoga teacher and therapist

Meghan is a fitness fanatic who regularly attends yoga classes and drinks healthy juices. Yet she is also a fearless cook with a weakness for chilli sauce and red wine, which she splashes into hot chocolate to make a winter warmer.

She remains close to old friends but her social circle now includes her former Suits co-star Gina Torres and her stylist Jessica Mulroney, daughter-in-law of Canada’s former prime minister Brian Mulroney. Bollywood megastar Priyanka Chopra and tennis ace Serena Williams are also in her contacts book.

If such a glossy existence seems almost too perfect, then life has not been without its complications. Thomas Markle Jr, 50, one of two half siblings from her father’s first marriage, was arrested in January for allegedly drunkenly pointing a gun at his girlfriend. Meanwhile, her half-sister has broken ranks in the media. Samantha Grant, 52, is reputedly planning a tell-all memoir. (Still, the Royals know plenty about tricky relatives.)

As details of her romance with Harry emerged, Meghan closed her blog, apparently accepting it was an open window on a life that must become increasingly private. A similar fate befell her fledgling career as a fashion designer last year.

Meghan Markle as homecoming queen pictured at her high school prom when she was age 17

Meghan Markle as homecoming queen pictured at her high school prom when she was age 17

Meghan Markle in Senior Year in 1999 at Immaculate Heart High School, Los Angeles

Meghan Markle in Senior Year in 1999 at Immaculate Heart High School, Los Angeles

Where she is most visible now, other than on screen, is in the political and campaigning arena. She cites Madeleine Albright, America’s first female Secretary of State, as an inspiration. A veteran of a troop visit to Afghanistan – Meghan flew to the war- torn country in 2014 a year after Prince Harry’s tour as an Apache helicopter pilot – she has also been to Rwandan refugee camps and visited India in her capacity as global ambassador for the children’s charity World Vision Canada. In addition, she is a UN women’s advocate.

Meghan has always been unafraid to speak truth to power. When she was just 11 she campaigned against a detergent manufacturer because it targeted its advertising solely at women. The company caved in. ‘Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases where this is not available, they need to create their own table,’ she has said.

It’s the same attitude her father instilled in her when he told her all those years ago to draw her own box, to create an identity for herself. Right now she’s becoming a bit more British. She loves tea and looks great in Hunter wellies and a Barbour. Her dogs even wear Union Jack coats.

So far, Meghan’s life story has been more about shattering glass ceilings than wearing glass slippers. If she marries Prince Harry, then she will, of course, achieve both at the same time. 

Grown-up glamour: A stunning Meghan Markle is pictured in a portrait taken at the 2016 Canadian Arts and Fashion awards in Toronto

Grown-up glamour: A stunning Meghan Markle is pictured in a portrait taken at the 2016 Canadian Arts and Fashion awards in Toronto

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