Ahead of her wedding to Prince Harry, sixth-in-line to the British throne, on Saturday, much has been said about the now-former actress soon to be also formerly known as Meghan Markle. She’s been called a social climber, a “pushy princess,” any number of racial epithets, a stain on the royal bloodline and undeserving of a happily-ever-after—if it was shady, you name it.
But at least one person has nothing but complimentary things to say about the Duchess of Sussex: In an essay penned for Glamour, women’s health activist, entrepreneur and royal-wedding guest Suhani Jalota talks about the Meghan Markle she’s known since the two met and began working together two years ago, after meeting at Glamour’s 2016 College Women of the Year Awards luncheon (where Jalota was being honored).
In her essay, titled, “The Meghan Markle I Know,” Jalota confirmed Markle’s reputation as a humanitarian deeply concerned about international and women’s issues and defended her friend against accusations that she’s in any way pretentious or disingenuous in her charitable interests:
The Meghan Markle I know prefers to be called Meghan instead of Ms. Meghan Markle. The Meghan I know does her research. The Meghan I know is grounded and loves to get her hands dirty. The Meghan I know is true to herself, and true to the causes she cares about.
It’s a little-known fact, but one of the major challenges and dangers women in poverty face is hygienically dealing with their monthly menstrual cycle, particularly in areas where there is no running water or direct sunlight to effectively wash and dry even reusable methods. For instance: Before the efforts of Jalota’s organization, the Myna Mahila Foundation, in India, 50 percent of women were using unhygienic methods, like old rags and leaves, to manage their cycles.
Following their initial meeting, Jalota says, it was Markle who reached out, wanting to know more about Jalota’s organization, which employs women living in the slums of Mumbai to make their own menstrual pads and educate other women on the importance of menstrual hygiene. To date, they’ve produced over 500,000 pads and are helping 10,000 women in the area.
But according to Jalota, Markle took her interest one step further, traveling with the organization to Mumbai, where she directly engaged with local women and strategized about solutions for this often overlooked issue:
Meghan sat on the floor of our headquarters talking to the community. She ate the food made by local women in the slum without hesitation; she spoke with young girls who miss school days during their cycles; she met with female vegetable vendors to learn about how they started their own businesses and how they deal with their cycle while working ... I was surprised to find that Meghan already had in-depth knowledge about the challenges in this low-income community. She made it clear that she wasn’t visiting to just talk about the problems; she was interested in figuring out solutions.
And while it was no doubt a major publicity opportunity for the future royal to show off her philanthropy, Markle purportedly lobbied to instead highlight the hope of the women in the program, as Jalota recalled:
My respect for Meghan only grew after I witnessed an interaction between her and a photographer who wanted to take a photo of her standing in her sari in front of a contrasting image of a garbage dump. At Myna, we are skeptical of people coming in to make what is bad look even worse, but Meghan suggested instead that the photographer take photos with the women and girls, and capture all their laughter and joy. It was an unusual and refreshing change.
It’s worth noting that last year, Jalota received the Queen’s Young Leader Award at Buckingham Palace. And for their wedding, Markle and Prince Harry, who have asked to receive charitable donations in lieu of gifts, have chosen Myna Mahila as one of the seven recipients. Much to the excitement of Jalota and several of the women she works with, they will also be attending the now-notoriously-private nuptials, as Jalota told Glamour:
When I told my grandparents I’d be attending the royal wedding, they cried and told all their friends; getting invited to a royal wedding in the U.K. is a big deal for Indian families, especially for those that lived under British rule. I’m more excited for the women going from the slum than myself: They have never even left India before, and most have not even stepped out of Mumbai. This is a chance for their worlds to get a little bigger.
In keeping with Markle’s relative silence on the prewedding drama over whether or not her own father would show up to walk her down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel on Saturday (he won’t), there has been no word on Markle’s response to Jalota’s gushing over her to Glamour. But since it’s neither a tabloid-friendly tell-all nor a staged paparazzi shoot, we’re guessing she probably has bigger issues to focus on than this one.
Only time will tell if Markle turns out to be a too-good-to-be-true fairy-tale princess, but since we really do believe that black girls (of all hues) deserve happily-ever-afters, too, we’re genuinely rooting for her—and hoping that she will be part of the change we wish to see in the world.
The Glow Up tip: You can read Jalota’s entire essay on Glamour.com. Are you a royal-watcher? Have no shame; we’ll be up at 5 a.m. EDT with a live thread of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on our Facebook page. Join us!