“Exclusive!” read the People magazine headline. “Her best friends break their silence!”
Plastered across the front of America’s bestselling weekly magazine, “The Truth About Meghan” was always going to be a headline set to send shock waves around the world.
Upset by the “heartbreaking” lies and bullying aimed at the Duchess of Sussex, her real friends opened up this week over nine pages of the showbiz glossy “about the woman they know and love”.
While it is not unprecedented for the royals’ closest confidantes to so brazenly brief the press (remember all those Charles and Diana “sources”?), just who in the former American actress’s circle of trust could have broken cover?
Keeping their sources tantalizingly anonymous, People describes the quintet as follows: “A longtime friend, a former co-star, a friend from LA, a one-time colleague and a close confidante.” (Another clue: it’s a female fivesome, which rules out Daniel Martin, Meghan’s wedding-day make-up artist and avocado toast fan, and Patrick J Adams, her former Suits co-star). While it may be tempting to point the finger of suspicion at celebrity friends used to handling the media, the fingerprints of the likes of tennis star Serena Williams, stylist Jessica Mulroney or actress Priyanka Chopra appear nowhere near this story.
Indeed, the only vaguely famous name being linked to the leak is Sarah Rafferty, 46, Meghan’s former Suits co-star, who attended the royal wedding last May and was among a trio of former colleagues who spilt the beans about the nuptials on NBC’s Today Show.
Like that intervention, it is thought Meghan’s mates were given HRH’s permission to speak out – although confusion still reigns over whether Kensington Palace had prior knowledge of the piece hitting US news-stands. So far, there has been “no comment” from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s spokesman on the story.
According to insiders, however, a number of Meghan’s closest female friends have been desperate to put her side of things forward for months. Some have even been willing to go on the record – yet it was felt the article would have “more impact” if their identities remained a secret.
It is understood that the article’s author, Michelle Tauber, People’s senior editor, had spent many months working the contacts and, along with Simon Perry, the magazine’s chief foreign correspondent, she has covered many recent royal stories, including the Sussexes’ tour of Australia and New Zealand.
As one source put it: “It sounds more attractive to package it as an anonymous band of five. These are women who aren’t in the public eye and barely even featured on Meghan’s Instagram feed when she had one. They represent a respectable cross-section of Meghan’s inner circle, but they are not showbizzy types. She used to be outspoken and was never one to hold her tongue. These friends feel they are giving her a voice.”
So who are they? Speculation is already mounting that if the “former co-star” is Rafferty, the other former acting colleague could be Abigail Spencer, 37, who also attended the Windsor nuptials and has previously gushed about her Suits castmate’s relationship with Prince Harry. She also used to make contributions to Meghan’s now-defunct website The Tig. “[Meghan’s] got warm elegance, though her style is hard to pin down,” Spencer told Vanity Fair in 2017. “When you’re talking to her, you feel like you’re the only person on the planet. And it’s just wonderful to see her so in love.”
It is perhaps noteworthy that Meghan’s “elegance, grace and philanthropy” was referred to in the People feature, which also attested to Meghan being “incredibly organized, diligent, focused and hard-working” and “ordering gourmet burgers” to boost the spirits of the crew on set.
One source said: “It’s definitely Sarah. She would probably have been willing to talk on the record.”
Since People magazine has previously described Lindsay Roth as Meghan’s bestie, it seems likely the TV producer and author may be the “longtime friend” quoted. Lindsay, 36, once said of their relationship: “We’re the kind of friends who can be 3,000 miles away and still be talking about or thinking the same thing, and even texting each other the same thing at the same time miles away.”
The pair met in a Toni Morrison literature class at Northwestern, the university where Meghan studied theatre and international relations from 1999 to 2003. Meghan was maid of honour at Roth’s 2016 wedding.
“I don’t know many people who are as generous and supportive as Meg,” Roth told People magazine last March – echoing the nickname and sentiments expressed in Wednesday’s article. “I think people assume that when someone gains notoriety that they change. But she’s still the same girl I met years ago, with the same values and priorities.”
She’s still the same girl I met years ago, with the same values and priorities
The expression appears eerily reminiscent of the picture painted of the “very self-service” and “grounded” Duchess who does her own make-up and styling by a heater at Nottingham Cottage.
“Except for her wedding, she does all her own make-up,” said the friend. “Dresses herself, styles herself. I said: ‘People think when you come out of the car that you went through some sort of metaphorical reverse car wash – bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! – and everyone’s doing all this stuff to you. They’re not picturing you sitting by the space heater doing your own hair and nails.” The colourful language appears in tune with Roth, who once worked in the cosmetics industry and is the author of a novel entitled What Pretty Girls Are Made Of.
Having known her since college, Roth would also have intimate knowledge of Meghan’s ups and downs with her father Thomas Markle, with whom she is described as like “ships passing”, as well as the letter she apparently wrote calling for him to stop “victimizing” her through the media.
Could the close confidante who describes feeling Meghan’s “energy” and “calm” on her wedding day be Pilates instructor Heather Dorak, 37? The hyperbole certainly smacks of someone into spiritual healing. The former dancer, who owns Pilates Platinum in Los Angeles, has been pictured hanging out with Meghan for several years now and they even holidayed together in 2016.
Another possibility is Benita Litt, who joined Meghan and Dorak on that holiday with her daughters Rylan, 7, and Remi, 6, who are Meghan’s godchildren and were flower girls at her wedding. The Californian lawyer-turned fashion entrepreneur is based in Beverly Hills, so she could qualify as the “friend from LA”.
So, too, could Janina Gavankar, 38, who has been friends with Meghan for years. She inspired Gavankar to launch her own website, AltFound. “Over our almost 15-year friendship, I’ve watched Meghan’s dedication to self-growth and generosity,” Gavankar wrote.
And why People, of all magazines? As Omid Scobie, former European bureau chief of its rival, Us Weekly, said, America’s glossy weeklies have often been the go-to place for household names to tell their stories.
“Magazines like People and Us have been working cooperatively with celebrities and politicians for years, be it on the record or through sanctioned sources. You have to remember that there are no national newspapers in the US, so these publications pack a punch… they reach at least 15 million readers across the country.”
For years, Harry’s circle of trust was known as Club H. Now it seems Meghan has a glossy posse to call her own.