When I met Meghan Markle in the fall of 2015 at Soho House in Toronto, she was a vision in white – a hint to her future with Prince Harry! The former actress married into the royal family on May 19th. (This is how Meghan is prepping for her wedding.) As I introduced myself, she complimented my outfit and we immediately shared some of our favourite places to shop. And the conversation was so natural, it’s easy to forget that she is a TV star with a huge social following (Meghan Markle’s Instagram account had amassed more than 1 million followers before she closed her account). In fact, Markle comes across as genuine, relatable and oh-so-polite – you’d think she was Canadian!
Born Rachel Meghan Markle in Los Angeles – coincidentally, the name she shared with her character, Rachel Zane, on the breakout television series Suits. Acting isn’t Markle’s only love, though. After graduating from Northwestern University with a dual major in theatre and international relations, she spent some time working for the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and is now active in international affairs as the UN Women’s advocate for political participation and leadership.
That passion for sharing information and female empowerment is something Markle carried over to her lifestyle website, The Tig, which profiled inspirational people and covered topics like self-image, food, travel and decor before the site was shut down in April 2017.
For our May 2016 cover story, Markle and I caught up a few times to chat about all things life, work and wellness. Here are the highlights.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Toronto filming Suits since the show premiered in 2011. What do you love about the city?
[Toronto] is like my home. At the onset, I didn’t know what to expect, but everyone has been so welcoming. The people are so kind, I love the food scene, and I really love exploring little nooks around the city with my two dogs. (Markle has two rescue dogs, Bogart and Guy, and it was actually Ellen DeGeneres who convinced her to adopt!) We’ll explore new ravines and jaunt through new areas. I love how much green space there is tucked away – you wouldn’t expect that, and it reminds me of LA in a lot of ways.
What do you do to stay in shape? Is there a workout or activity you do regularly?
Yoga is my thing. My mom is a yoga instructor, and I started doing mommy-and-me yoga with her when I was seven. I was very resistant as a kid, but she said, “Flower, you will find your practice – just give it time.” In college, I started doing it more regularly.
I used to run all the time, but I typically get picked up for work at 4:15 in the morning on a Monday, so there isn’t much time for jogging and I would rather have that extra hour of sleep. Now, I change it up: I’ll do yoga a couple times a week – hot yoga, specifically – with Duncan Parviainen (see “Duncan Dos!” below). He is so positive and, especially in my industry, it’s so important to surround yourself with people who are grounded and really optimistic. (This was another one of Meghan’s favourite Toronto workouts.)
As I’ve gotten older, running has become hard on my knees, so I can’t run outside the way I used to, but I’m still planning to run a marathon!
Is “Flower” a nickname from your mom?
Did I say that? How funny. Yes, my mom calls me “Flower.” She has always called me “Flower.” It’s really funny because I don’t even think about it when I’m describing how we chat.
As you get older, how are your health and wellness priorities shifting?
As I’m getting older, my approach to aging is quite different. I make sure that I take care of my skin and body, especially with the work hours I have. And I don’t just take care of myself for aesthetic reasons but because how I feel is dictated by what I’m eating, how much rest I’m getting and how much water I’m drinking. If I don’t have time for a long workout, I’ll grab my dog and go for a quick run. Being active is my own moving meditation.
Are you a foodie? How did you cultivate your passion for food?
I love to cook. I grew up on the set of a TV show called Married with Children, where my dad was the lighting director. Because of the content of the show, my dad would have me help in craft services, which is where they make all the food and nibbles – that’s where I started to learn about garnishing and plating. After being there every day after school for 10 years and seeing the appreciation of food, I started to learn the association between food and happiness and being able to entertain – I think that’s where the seed was planted. Beyond that, we travelled a lot when I was young. My mom was also a travel agent, so with the exposure to different cultures and different flavours and with LA being such a melting pot – much like Toronto – I think that all developed my fascination [for food].
What’s your healthy eating philosophy? Do you have a kryptonite?
French fries – I could eat French fries all day. And I love pasta. I love carbs – who doesn’t love a carbohydrate? But of course, when I’m filming, I’m conscious of what I eat. I try to eat vegan during the week and then have a little bit more flexibility with what I dig into on the weekends. But at the same time, it’s all about balance. Because I work out the way I do, I don’t ever want to feel deprived. I feel that the second you do that is when you start to binge on things. It’s not a diet; it’s lifestyle eating.
The same goes for wine. Of course I’m going to have that glass of wine – it’s delicious and I enjoy it. Do the things you enjoy within reason. Know your body and what works for you and you’ll be fine.
The Tig also covered travel, living, fashion and beauty. How did you come up with the concept for a lifestyle site?
The concept was really to have a hub for all the things I find exciting. There’s no strategy to it, which is perhaps the reason for its success. It just organically comes from me about the things I want to share. The think pieces I write about empowerment and self-identification are the real heart of the site. Maybe [readers] come to the site because they’re in search of the perfect blowout, but they end up walking away from it thinking, ‘I’m enough. Wow, that’s a great reminder.’ For me, that has been the real joy.
It’s great if they like my clothes or my hairstyle, but at the end of the day, when all that stuff is gone, let’s talk about what’s really important. Thankfully, The Tig is an outlet for me to start that conversation candidly. (Meghan once modeled for Canadian fashion retailer Reitmans.)
What does your perfect day look like?
I love to work, to be honest. On my perfect day, I would wake up late, take my dogs for a walk, do some yoga and have a great sashimi lunch. And, because I love to work, if I was able to go and shoot one scene, then that would be fantastic for a little creative impulse. Then I would have a really great dinner with friends. I love to cook. I’m pretty low-key. I travel so much that, in my downtime, I really relish the quiet.
What’s next for you? Do you have some bucket-list items?
We are confirmed to film two more seasons of Suits, so I’ll be here [in Toronto] for at least a couple more years. And really the hiatus [between filming] is so brief that I just want to use that time to grow The Tig. I’m so grateful for how it’s taken off. And I love doing comedy (In the winter of 2016, Markle filmed a romantic comedy in Vancouver). Other bucket-list items: I want to travel more and I can’t wait to start a family, but in due time.
Meghan Markle frequently works out with Toronto’s Duncan Parviainen, who has been teaching yoga for nine years. On shoot day, he was on hand to help her warm up. Here’s his take on the beauty of the practice.
What are some of the benefits of yoga?
There are so many benefits that come with the practice of yoga. A few benefits of vinyasa yoga include increased flexibility and muscle strength, greater happiness, increased mental focus, a greater ability to relax, decreased anxiety and better sleep.
What does yoga mean to you?
At this moment in my life, I would define yoga as the balance between desiring more and being content with what is.
Can you tell us how Meghan has evolved with her practice since you met?
I remember helping Meghan with some of her first inversions. They can be fun yet terrifying if you aren’t comfortable going upside down. I remember Meghan being quite timid yet coming into handstand anyway. Her ability to trust, feel fear and then move beyond it speaks volumes about her as a person.
Photography: Geneviéve Charbonneau; Styling: Ingrie Williams; Makeup: Sheri Stroh/Plutino Group; Hair: Anna Barseghian/Judy Inc.