A quick Google search for actress and humanitarian Meghan Markle results in a bombardment of DailyMail and BuzzFeed articles covering her relationship with Prince Harry, her clothing choices, and her workout regimen. During the recent Invictus Games that were held here in Toronto, articles that mentioned Markle mostly focused on her outfit at the games or the excitement of sighting her with the prince.
Like the rest of the world, I can’t help but be slightly envious of Markle’s fairytale-like love life and beauty. But I am even more enamoured with her work both on- and off-screen. In the popular television series Suits, Markle plays the hardworking paralegal Rachel Zane, who has an incredible drive to help others through her work. It’s clear that Markle shares these traits with her character, because she dedicates much of her free time to working with a number of humanitarian organizations on a variety of projects worldwide.
As a feminist, it makes me cringe when a woman as talented and successful as Markle is recognized only by virtue of her connection to a famous or successful man. Since the start of her relationship with the hunky Prince Harry last year, you’d be hard-pressed to come across an article about her that doesn’t include a mention of her relationship. Markle was the subject of the cover story of Vanity Fair’s October edition. The words plastered across the front page: “She’s Just Wild About Harry!”
While I found the piece to be a well-written and entertaining read, its focus was less on Markle and more on the royal family. Her humanitarian efforts were alluded to a few times through small details about her recent trips overseas, and the article did refer to her as a philanthropist a few times. Yet there was no mention of her recent accomplishments in the 2016 World Vision Clean Water campaign in Rwanda or her piece in TIME regarding menstruation health in areas such as India, Iran, and sub-Saharan Africa. These endeavours are impressive and require a great deal of dedication, intelligence, and hard work. They should have been a main topic of conversation in the interview. Vanity Fair received backlash for this reason, and rightfully so.
In a speech addressing the United Nations in 2015, Markle related a story about her advocating for women’s rights at just 11 years old: she wrote letters to Proctor & Gamble and Hillary Clinton addressing a soap advertisement that implied that women were meant to stay in the home, cleaning. The ad was later altered to eliminate the sexist implication. This anecdote demonstrates the power of Markle’s social advocacy and humanitarianism, which are an integral part of who she is. The career she has built for herself in this field should be discussed and celebrated more often in media coverage.
Markle went on to attend Northwestern University for both theatre and international relations, combining both her passions. There, she gained the skills to both act on television and film as well as to take on roles such as Global Ambassador for World Vision Canada, UN Women advocate, and One Young World Summit counsellor.
Those of us near the end of our undergraduate careers often find ourselves evaluating what we want in life, what we want to accomplish, and to what we want to dedicate our work. Being able to look up to hardworking and accomplished women such as Markle, who use their voices to better the world with strength and poise, can provide clarity and motivation in this confusing and intimidating time in our lives.
When I’m up to my knees in assignments and grad school applications, and I feel like tossing in the towel, it’s Markle and women like her who inspire me to move forward. Not because of her royal boyfriend, but because of her hard work and accomplishments in the entertainment industry and as someone working to make the world a better place.