WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and The Duchess of Sussex share a kiss after their wedding at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.

The Duchess of Sussex, A.K.A. Meghan Markle’s Past Is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of. So, Why Is it Being Treated as Such?

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There’s been a lot of talk about what the newlywed Duchess of Sussex, a.k.a. Meghan Markle, will be giving up as she joins one of the most famous and powerful families in the world, like much of her privacy, her career as an actor, and the ability to express herself without her every word needing to be filtered through an entire team first.

Now, she’s a grown woman choosing this life, and it certainly comes with plenty of perks, not the least of which is being married to a man she clearly adores, so I’m not crying for her, Argentina. Yet the drawbacks are real, and they’d likely be a lot harder to deal with if she weren’t already at least somewhat familiar with being in the spotlight, thanks to her previous career as an actor. That career not only prepared her for the intense glare of the spotlight, but gave her a platform from which she could be of service to others long before she became a royal.

So it should be no surprise that she would fit right into the world of high-profile philanthropy and choose worthy and female-focused charities upon which to shine a spotlight with her wedding. The Sussexes asked that instead of gifts, that donations be given to one of seven charities they selected reflecting their values. For example, as reported by Teal Mango, Markle selected a charity called the Myna Mahila Foundation, which is the only selected charity of the seven that serves an area outside of the UK. The organization “manufactures and distributes affordable sanitary supplies to Mumbai’s slums.”

As the above Twitter thread explains, The Sussexes chose charities that reflect their values in areas like “sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”

Prince Harry has long combined his passion for sport for social change and his support of the Armed Forces through the Invictus Games, while Markle has been involved in the area of women’s empowerment through her work as the UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership as well as homelessness, getting involved in volunteering at soup kitchens from the time she was a young girl. Clearly, these charities reflect the couple’s longtime devotion to helping others.

As I mentioned above, in addition to having always cared about these issues, it was her platform as an actor that has given her the experience of doing more on a larger scale and using her platform to make things happen. So it’s a shame, then, that it seems like the Royal Machine wants to edit any mention of her former career out of any mention of her.

As pointed out by Jezebel, the Duchess of Sussex’s official “About” page not only makes no mention of her largest career achievement, her role on the show Suits, but doesn’t even mention that she was ever a professional actress. It rightfully places a large focus on her charitable work, considering that is a lot of what she will be doing in her new role, but it completely erases a huge part of her life and the thing that has likely helped her to prepare to embark on this new adventure.

The page begins:

The Duchess of Sussex, born Meghan Markle, married Prince Harry at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in May 2018. The couple’s official residence is Kensington Palace. As well as undertaking royal duties in support of The Queen, both in the UK and overseas, The Duchess devotes her time to supporting a number of charities and organisations.

From a young age, The Duchess had a keen awareness of social issues and actively participated in charitable work. Aged 11 she successfully campaigned for a company to alter their television advert that had used sexist language to sell washing-up liquid. Her Royal Highness also volunteered at a soup kitchen in Skid Row, Los Angeles from the age of 13-17. She continued to volunteer at the soup kitchen when she would return home to Los Angeles until the age of 22.

These early experiences helped to shape her lifelong commitment to causes such as social justice and women’s empowerment.

While filming in Toronto, The Duchess actively volunteered at a Canadian soup kitchen from 2011-2013. She also established the program at her place of work to ensure that leftover meals from the set were donated to local homeless shelters.

It talks about her “filming in Toronto,” but doesn’t say why. It talks about her establishing a program at “her place of work,” but doesn’t say what her work was. This might not seem like a huge deal, but not only is it a huge part of her identity that’s being erased, but I think it diminishes just what she accomplished. Getting a Hollywood production to get it together enough to donate their meals to homeless shelters is no easy feat. It’s also a testament to the fact that, while shooting in Toronto, she wasn’t satisfied to just do her job and leave, but she wanted to leave the city she was temporarily calling home a little better than she found it.

I’ve certainly never been a royal, and I’m sure there are reasons I just couldn’t possibly get as to why, for example, the Internet had to be scrubbed of any past personal photos of her, or why she can’t express individual political opinions publicly, or why the fact that she used to be an actor needs to be treated like this unmentionable thing, even though we can all watch old episodes of Suits if we want to.

Markle’s past is nothing to be ashamed of, but this required scrubbing of any mention of her former life, save the most palatable details of her service, makes it seem like it should be. Women’s empowerment is something the new Dutchess of Sussex hopes to use her new platform to forward. Here’s hoping she can take steps toward alleviating the pressure put on women who marry men in power (be they royalty or First Ladies) to erase everything they were before their marriage, instead reminding the world that it’s their pasts and what they did with them that made these women so appealing to these men in power in the first place.

(image: Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.