Meghan Markle: Activist-actress balancing refugee camps and red carpets

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Meghan Markle - best known for her role as Rachel Zane in hit US TV drama Suits - has been confirmed as Prince Harry's girlfriend by Kensington Palace.

The Californian actress, 35, is an active humanitarian campaigner - particularly on the topic of gender equality - and was this year named global ambassador for World Vision Canada.

Britain Prince Harry

Her activism started at a young age. At 11 she forced a soap manufacturer to alter an advert after she wrote a letter to then first lady Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures complaining that it implied women belonged in the kitchen.

Rumoured to have met Harry, 32, in May while he was in Canada promoting Invictus Games Toronto 2017, she has kept her romantic life separate from her social media presence.

Markle was born on August 4 1981, to a clinical therapist mother and TV lighting director father, and grew up in Los Angeles.

Prince Harry
(Team GB/PA)

She studied at a girls' Roman Catholic college before graduating from Northwestern University School of Communication in 2003, just as her acting career was beginning.

Markle first hit US screens when she featured in an episode of the medical drama General Hospital in 2002, before moving on to roles in CSI, Without A Trace and Castle.

In September 2011 she married film producer Trevor Engelson, but the pair divorced less than two years later.

By 2011 she had starred in three major Hollywood films: Get Him To The Greek and Remember Me in 2010 and Horrible Bosses in 2011.

A self-proclaimed foodie and beauty, fashion and travel enthusiast, she founded the lifestyle blog thetig.com, which has more than 106,000 followers on Instagram and 11,000 on Twitter.

She said setting up the website was an attempt to "reframe the beauty content to include think pieces about self-empowerment" and feature dynamic, inspirational women.

In a post on the thetig.com explaining how she balances her fame and activism, she said: "I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches - I've always wanted to be a woman who works."

Her socio-political activism has become increasingly important to her in recent years, with her work in Africa a passion she and Harry have in common.

She has carried out charity work in the continent after her parents exposed her to extreme poverty in countries such as Jamaica as a child. She travelled to Rwanda for the Clean Water Campaign, while Harry has recently spent time in Malawi.

Her commitment to gender equality has seen her work with United Nations Women, where she received a standing ovation for a speech made on International Women's Day.

Commenting on how she combines her glamorous lifestyle with her humanitarian commitments, she said: "While my life shifts from refugee camps to red carpets, I choose them both because these worlds can, in fact, co-exist. And for me, they must."