Long before Meghan Markle had even an inkling she’d wind up starring on a hit TV series and would later give up her acting career to marry Prince Harry and become a senior member of the British Royal Family, she was a college grad with a lot hustle. After she graduated from Northwestern University with degrees in both international relations and theater, she had to decide whether to pursue a career in the diplomatic corps or to try to make it in Hollywood. She chose the latter and was undaunted by the challenges that lay ahead, knowing it was going to take plenty of hard work to be successful. As she told Elle magazine in 2016, «I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches. I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works.» And work she did. She opted to try her luck as an actor and like many a Tinseltown tale, Meghan’s was one that involved taking on several side gigs while waiting for her big break. One of the most interesting jobs Meghan Markle took during the lean years? Freelance calligraphy. Keep reading to learn more about who she worked with, and for insight on the duchess’ post-royal life, check out The Powerful Messages Behind Meghan Markle’s Post-Royal Wardrobe.
It turned out the duchess-to-be’s perfect cursive handwriting, which she learned as a student at Immaculate Heart in Los Angeles, was worth decent money—especially when working for the rich and famous in Hollywood. «Freelance calligraphy is super-lucrative,» Meghan told Esquire in 2013 because «there [were] so few people doing it.» She added: «What’s funny is I probably still have some calligraphy business cards floating out in the world and I can’t wait for someone to call me in a month or something, and say, ‘Can you do these for my son’s bar mitzvah?'»
The struggling actor would pass the time waiting for her agent to call about auditions addressing party invitations with great flourish while wearing tube socks with the toes cut out covering her forearms so the ink on her envelopes wouldn’t smear. Her most high-profile assignments at the time were doing celebrity correspondence for Dolce & Gabbana and addressing the 2005 save-the-dates and wedding invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton. «I just thought Meghan did a beautiful job,» Patton told Town & Country in 2018 of her custom invites done by the duchess.
In fact, she even taught classes on the subject. Keep reading to find out where, along with Duchess Meghan’s other gigs before she hit the big time. And for more on the Sussexes, check out The One Thing Meghan and Harry Are Really Looking Forward to in 2021.
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In addition to her work as a calligrapher, Meghan taught classes at the Paper Source in Los Angeles on how to wrap gifts, bind books, and yes, how to do calligraphy. (She obviously inherited her mother’s artistic streak—Doria Ragland makes and sells her own jewelry.) And for more surprising celeb starts, check out 15 Celebrities You Never Knew Starred in Infomercials.
In a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan said she took «all the odds-and-ends jobs to pay my bills.» She added, «I was a hostess at a restaurant—and all those things that actors do.» And for more celebrities’ pre-Hollywood gigs, check out Awful Jobs Celebrities Had Before They Became Famous.
While searching for roles that might lead to bigger things, Meghan made a brief appearance in several mediums including the Tori Amos video for «1000 Oceans» where she is quickly seen in part of the crowd. She later auditioned for a Shakira music video, but didn’t get a callback. The future duchess also did a Tostitos commercial in 2009.
In addition, she landed walk-on parts on General Hospital (her father, Thomas Markle, was the soap’s lighting director) as an «under five,» meaning the actor has five lines or less.
Meghan also appeared for less than a minute in the film A Lot Like Love, where she was seated next to Ashton Kutcher on a plane. She was credited as «Hot Girl» in the rom-com, which was a box office flop. And for more stars who appeared in ads, check out 25 Stars You Didn’t Know Got Their Start in Commercials.
Meghan was a «briefcase girl» on the NBC hit Deal or No Deal, where she stood on stage with a bevy of young women dressed in short dresses and high heels holding a numbered briefcase (hers was «24») waiting for a contestant to select her luggage. Meghan appeared in 34 episodes from 2006 to 2007. Later, she characterized the experience «in the category of things I was doing while I was auditioning to try to make ends meet.»
The show’s host, comedian Howie Mandel, admitted he didn’t remember the duchess. «In all truthfulness I can’t remember her,» Mandel said during an appearance on Dr. Oz in 2018. «That’s an awful thing to say. She’s very talented but I only know her from watching Suits. I did not know she was on my show.» And for more regular updates on the royals, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Before she was cast as Rachel Zane on the popular USA show Suits in 2011, Meghan got a feel for the small screen with guest appearances on a slew of series. Her roles ranged from a two-episode arc on the Beverly Hills 90210 reboot where she played another «hot girl» who was caught with another character’s boyfriend in the school’s parking lot. Years later, Meghan revealed she was «hesitant» about shooting the scene but added, «struggling actresses can’t be picky.»
In Nov. 2006, Meghan appeared on the crime series CSI:NY as a maid who cleaned apartments of businessmen while dressed in revealing lingerie. She was a prime suspect in the murder of one of her clients but it turned out, she didn’t do it.
In Feb. 2009, she appeared on the reboot of the classic ’80s hit Knight Rider as a soldier who joined a fight club to avenge her drill sergeant’s murder. For the role, Meghan got physical with some super intense scenes in the ring.
But one of the most interesting roles Meghan ever played was on an episode of Castle, which chronicled the adventures of a writer and a detective who solved crimes together. In Meghan’s episode, titled «Once Upon a Crime,» the duo were on the trail of a killer whose victims are found dressed as fairy tale characters. Meghan was Sleeping Beauty, who the crime stoppers thought was to be the next victim—SPOILER ALERT—only to discover she was far from being a helpless princess. Meghan’s character turned out to be the killer who was silencing friends who knew secrets about her past. And for the latest happenings with the Sussexes, check out Harry and Meghan Signal They May Be Ready to Give Up Their Royal Titles.