Let’s be real for a sec. The dreams you have for yourself as a child
rarely become reality, and sometimes that’s for the best. Other times, however, the hopes you had way back then — say, wanting to be on TV or even be a princess — are meant to come true, and these photos of Meghan Markle through the years show dreaming big is never a bad thing.
A former Hollywood actor and current royal fave, Meghan, aka the Duchess of Sussex, is the type of woman you can’t help but love. The 39-year-old
philanthropist is kindhearted, intelligent, ambitious, pretty... the list goes on. When she joined the royal family after marrying Prince Harry in 2018, she brought an energy that, unfortunately, wasn’t appreciated and led to her and Harry retiring from their senior roles in 2020 so they could escape both the red tape of the royal family and the British press’ racism.
To say the least, Meghan
is British history in the making. She’s not only a mixed-race American woman — inspiring Black and mixed-race girls and women everywhere — but she’s also a highly independent boss lady with a wildly successful career in Hollywood. She starred in hit legal drama Suits for seven long years before crossing paths with the love of her life. (That’s you, Harry!)
As someone who
grew up in L.A. with a cinematographer father, she aspired to act from an early age. She had other interests, too, though. At Northwestern University, she studied international studies along with theater. Thanks to her love of international relations, she studied abroad in Spain, interned at the U.S. embassy in Argentina, and was a sorority woman, too.
But no matter if Meghan is an actor, a duchess, or a full-time humanitarian, she’s forever slaying the fame game — all while looking ah-mazing. From the early aughts to the present day, these photos of the Duchess will give you so much life!
She kicked off her TV career in 2002 in
Meghan didn’t get her big acting break until the 2010s, but she was putting in the work
looong before then. Way back in 2002, the then-20-year-old actor appeared as a hospital employee on General Hospital. Work those scrubs, Meg!
Her acting career started picking up in 2005.
Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage/Getty Images
From 2002 to 2005, Megan landed a few more small roles in major-network TV shows like
Century City (a legal drama starring Viola Davis, hello!) and sitcoms like Love, Inc., and Cuts.
With her slowly-but-surely budding career, she also began appearing at more Hollywood events — naturally, she rocked some of the most nostalgic Y2K ‘fits, too. (Who knew layered tees and a baseball cap could look so effortlessly cute?)
She looked bomb as a briefcase girl on
Deal or No Deal in 2006.
I don’t know about you, but growing up in the early 2000s, watching
Deal or No Deal with my fam was a standard weeknight activity. So, you, too, might be surprised to learn that, for 34 episodes of the beloved game show, Meghan was a briefcase girl.
From 2006 to 2007, she opened her briefcase to reveal contestants' big and little cash wins — all while wearing colorful cocktail dresses. Sounds like a great gig to me!
When she was off the
Deal or No Deal stage, she *defined* Y2K chic.
Meghan looked trés stylish in all her
Deal or No Deal party dresses, but even when she wasn’t matching 25 other briefcase girls, she stayed dolled up. BRB, running to Goodwill so I can grab a babydoll dress as 2000s trendy as this one.
In 2007, Meghan served red-carpet looks left and right.
Amy Tierney/WireImage/Getty Images
One thing about Meghan is that she’s going to *give* at all times — even during the early years of her career, in which she described herself as v broke. At one point, she
couldn’t even afford to get her car’s key fob fixed despite not being able to open the doors without it, according to Grazia magazine.
Still, her black-and-white bubble dress at this 2007 red carpet event is no disappointment!
She played a car-selling queen in 2008.
After her stint on
Deal or No Deal, Meghan continued landing one-off roles on TV shows. In 2008, she appeared in popular programs like teen drama 90210 and Fox sitcom ‘TilDeath. In the latter, she played a sassy car salesperson, which is high-key iconic.
In 2009, Meghan stayed in her bag.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Another year, another look served by the future Duchess of Sussex! By 2009, Meghan’s name was becoming increasingly recognizable in the Hollywood TV scene, and she earned her first two-episode drama role in J. J. Abrams science fiction show,
Naturally, more jobs meant more events – and more events meant more casually chic outfits. If you claim you
didn’t own a pair of sandals that looked just like Meg’s at one point, you’re lying!
In 2010, she looked stunning per usual.
Charley Gallay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Two words: bronze beauty. In the 2010s, Meghan was working a layered cut, a summer glow, *and* her natural freckles. We love to see it!
Meghan got her big break in 2011 with
Suits. Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Perhaps one of the biggest years in her career, 2011 treated Meghan well. Not only was this the year she rose to fame after landing her regular role as Rachel Zane in
Suits — a gig she rocked for seven impressive years — but she also married her first husband, film producer Trevor Engelson. The two divorced in 2013, but it was cute while it lasted.
In 2012, she hits it off with her
Suits castmates. Stephen Lovekin/USA/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
By 2012, Meghan was living her best life. After a decade of grinding as an actress,
Suits was her big break, and her big ol’ smile during those days was EVERYTHING.
Meghan’s delivers next-level looks in 2013.
Michael Kovac/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Around 2013, it became increasingly clear Meghan was on her way up — not only in the acting world but in fashion, too. With a dress this gorgeous and hair so freakishly perfect, you’re probably wondering if Meghan did her own makeup and styling for this red carpet event. (I am, too!)
While it’s unclear who, exactly, was on Meghan’s glam team during her Hollywood days, I wouldn’t be surprised if she styled her own outfits;
she was a former fashion blogger, after all!
She starts sitting front row at fashion shows in 2014.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
She landed her first Hallmark movie lead role in 2014.
TV show star? Check. Next up: Hallmark movie fave. In between playing Rachel on
Suits and being a total fashionista, Meghan landed the lead role in Hallmark’s When Sparks Fly. The film was as sappy as all Hallmark flicks are, but Meg’s acting was top-notch, per usual.
In 2015, Meghan’s style is more adventurous than ever.
Mireya Acierto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Honestly, do I even have to say anything here? Just look at her. Like, who else can pull off grey pumps, a blue pencil skirt, and a fur vest this cohesively? I, personally, would look like an overstuffed duck if I wore this, but Meghan! Meghan looks like the editor in chief of a fancy, Parisian fashion magazine. Goals!
She was the star of
Dater’s Handbook in 2016.
One Hallmark movie down, another to go. In 2016, Meghan returned to the Hallmark channel as Cassandra Brand, a woman looking for love in
Dater’s Handbook. Clearly, the tips her character utilized in the film rubbed off on Meg IRL — just one year later, the actor was engaged to Prince Harry. Swoon!
She’s all smiles in late 2017.
Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
Leading up to her engagement with Harry in November 2017, Meghan was obviously thriving. In September of that year, she was seen wearing an edgy, yet classy, monochrome outfit at Harry’s Invictus Games, and by this point,
the duo had been ~publicly together~ for just about a year.
She said “yes” in fall 2017.
Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
Ah, don’t you remember November 2017 like it was just yesterday? Meghan def would — because that’s when her prince charming proposed! While some couples’ engagement photos are often focused on the bride-to-be’s ring, Meghan’s beautiful smile shined brighter than a diamond that day.
Meghan ties the knot with Harry in May 2018.
WPA Pool/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
By Meghan’s wedding day, her ~official~ princess vibes were in full effect. Donning a tiara and a twinkle in her eyes, Meghan’s royal wedding look was both traditional and unforgettable. If her time as Duchess taught us anything, it’s that Meghan can pull off any look — no matter if it’s modern or classic.
She looks beautiful at every occasion in 2019.
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Even on the bleakest of days, Meghan has used her iconic fashion sense as a vehicle of expression. In commemoration of 2019’s Remembrance Sunday — a UK holiday that honors Commonwealth military and civilian service people — she wore an all-black ensemble featuring sophisticated leather gloves and an elegant wide-brimmed hat. An outfit can say a thousand words.
She continued catching eyes in 2020.
Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images
Dressed up in one of her most memorable outfits *ever*, it’s impossible to look at this photo and not wonder what Harry is thinking. He has to realize how lucky he is, right? And no, I’m not just saying that because Meghan is dressed in shamrock green — although knowing Meghan’s understanding of ~style~, some color theory might be at play here. Just sayin’!