Meghan Markle Opens New Chapter on Complicated Subject of Her Upbringing

Meghan Markle's letter to Congress on her upbringing comes after disputes with her father and the media about how her childhood has been depicted.

The Duchess of Sussex delved into a past of economic difficulties, in which for special occasions her family would go to the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler.

The open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called for paid leave for all and said Meghan's experience would have been felt by many Americans who dream simply of "stability."

However, the impassioned plea touched on a subject that has been controversial right from the start of her relationship with Prince Harry—her childhood and upbringing.

The Daily Mail online described her in 2016 as "(Almost) Straight Outta Compton"—a headline referenced during her Oprah Winfrey interview as evidence of British media racism.

The news outlet was criticized at the time and Meghan would later be scathing of its coverage in a privacy and copyright lawsuit she brought against sister title The Mail on Sunday.

Her lawyers said in a court filing: "The statement that [Meghan] lived or grew up in Compton (or anywhere near to it) is false.

"The fact that the [Daily Mail Group] chose to stereotype this entire community as being 'plagued by crime and riddled with street gangs' and thereby suggest (in the first few days of her relationship being revealed) that [Meghan] came from a crime-ridden neighbourhood is completely untrue as well as intended to be divisive."

The Daily Mail had suggested she grew up in Crenshaw when in reality her family lived in the more upmarket View Park-Windsor Hills area, the BBC reported at the time.

Meghan's objection focused more on crime than class or wealth. The backlash against the news website that followed publication affirmed the more middle class aspects of her past.

The duchess went to a private school, Immaculate Heart, where in 1998 she was crowned homecoming queen.

Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, was a Daytime Emmy award winning Hollywood lighting director and her mother a yoga instructor.

However, she has also spoken about having to join a work-study program to pay her way through Northwestern University.

Her father says he took out substantial loans to fund her tuition there and she was also given money by her mother, Doria Ragland.

Funding a University Education

In 2018, Meghan told the University of South Pacific, in Suva, Fiji: "As a university graduate, I know the personal feeling of pride and excitement that comes with attending university.

"I am also fully aware of the challenges of being able to afford this level of schooling for many people around the world—myself included.

"It was through scholarships, financial aid programs, and work-study where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition...that I was able to attend university. And, without question, it was worth every effort."

The duchess also opened up about her childhood during her speech for Immaculate Heart graduates last summer when she backed Black Lives Matter.

In a moving video message days after George Floyd's death, she said: "I was 11 or 12-years-old when I was just about to start Immaculate Heart middle school in the fall and it was the L.A. riots, which was also triggered by a senseless act of racism.

"And I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and on that drive home seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings.

"And seeing people run out of buildings carrying bags and looting.

"And I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles and I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree that had always been there completely charred.

"And those memories don't go away."

Elsewhere, she has been praised for campaigning as a child through her school and Nickelodeon for a better depiction of women in Procter & Gamble advertising.

Meghan Markle Discusses College Education
Meghan Markle described paying her own way through college during a visit to the University of the South Pacific on October 24, 2018, in Suva, Fiji. She described economic hardship during her upbringing in a letter to Congress. Chris Jackson/Getty Images