During the Sussexes’ Oprah interview, I was in touch with a young woman who was in Meghan Markle’s social circle back when the duchess was filming Suits in Toronto. For this friend, watching the interview re-acquainted her with an old friend. A four-legged one.
“Guy was the loveliest,” the woman said, looking lovingly at Markle’s pet beagle scampering across the screen. A regular at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, Guy often served as a conversation starter that helped Markle make new friends.
But what about the duchess herself? That’s a little more complicated. As a longtime columnist in Canada who covers the social circuit, I’ve watched the Markle saga play out for years, beginning with her early days as just another B-level actress not without talent, and with a blog called the Tig.
“Trolling for Girlfriends”
From 2011 to 2018, when Markle was starring as Rachel Zane on the television series Suits, she lived primarily in the Annex neighborhood of Toronto, which is popular with students and young professionals. She later told the Toronto Star that she had spent her first two years in town doing sun salutations at Moksha Yoga and “trolling for girlfriends.” Eventually, the pursuit was fruitful, and she befriended Jessica Mulroney, the daughter-in-law of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. The Mulroneys’ exclusive circle also included current prime minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie.
Soon, Markle was dating Cory Vitiello, a well-known chef. He was celebrated enough that, in those days, it wouldn’t be unkind to say that she was often seen as his plus-one. She also fell into the Soho House eco-system due to her friendship with one of its well-connected consultants, Markus Anderson, who opened many doors for her. This would prove to be decisive in terms of providing runway to the worlds of Hollywood and the royals. Indeed, some reports suggest that Anderson was responsible for introducing Meghan and Harry.
While the Mulroneys were front and center at the Sussexes’ 2018 wedding, passions have cooled in recent years. Rumors of a falling-out whipped the British tabloids into a minor tizzy. (Curiously, just this week, Instagram users may have noticed that Jessica Mulroney had posted a bouquet of birthday flowers, bestowed upon her by “MM.”)
“This Makes Pinocchio Look Honest”
In their interview with Oprah, the Sussexes strapped themselves hard to two pillars of the current American culture wars—namely, race and mental health. But these are issues that do not exactly resonate in the same way in Canada. While some Gen Z-ers are sympathetic to Meghan’s plight, there is generally a more nuanced understanding of the complexities at hand—the thorny topic of titles, and the financial issues around income and security, for starters.
If my D.M.’s could talk. I would hazard to say that 90 percent of the messages coming my way convey some degree of skepticism about the Sussexes’ latest antics. “I’d rather watch Coming to America 2 again,” says one man-about-town. “This makes Pinocchio look honest.” Another person, a socialite, wrote, “They say they want safety and privacy and then expose themselves on the biggest platform possible?” And a publicist added, “Meghan, who used to regularly call paparazzi on herself, says she doesn’t like the grandeur?” And finally a mutual friend wrote to say, “The woman who once emailed me her list of best restaurants in L.A. to get a chopped salad did not research the family she was marrying into?”
The Canadian press, which largely treated Markle with reverence during her royal ascent, has also cooled on her. The Sussexes’ two-month post-Megxit exile on Vancouver Island is partly to blame; there was a public outcry over the fact that Canadian taxpayers had been footing their security bill. The journalist Jen Gerson described the Oprah interview as “nothing more than a profile-building exercise for a young couple running through their inherited millions.”
A Toronto Sun columnist put it more succinctly: “This is a crock, bien sur.” At any rate, if things don’t work out in Montecito, don’t expect them to come back to Canada anytime soon.
Shinan Govani is a longtime social columnist in Toronto and the author of Bold Face Names