For real, this time.
Now, as she prepares to formally join the British Royal Family, her visibility is on the rise. Her photos are going to be everywhere.
Meghan Markle is a successful actress. She’s beautiful. She’s American. And, through her mother, she’s black.
Which brings us to a controversy surrounding a magazine accused of whitewashing away her racial features.
While American women marrying into British nobility is nothing new (it was actually something of a trend, a hundred years or so ago, as noble families found themselves short on cash and sought wealthy American brides for their male heirs), this situation is still noteworthy.
Markle’s mixed-race status is a milestone for the British Royal family in the modern era, and has already made plenty of headlines.
Honestly, the fact that her (white) father is partially of Irish descent might have ruffled some feathers in the not-so-distant past.
And that’s not even a racism issue, that’s just a standard Europeans-hating-each-other-out-of-habit issue.
For anyone who managed to believe that racism was somehow over, the last couple of years – Nazis marching openly in the streets in the US and in Europe, Brexit, the election of Trump – have made it abundantly clear that racism is alive and well.
But not all racism takes the form of obvious hatred.
Sometimes, it’s our beauty values and cultural norms that are more informed by white supremacy than any of us would like to believe.
The sorts of noses that people like, the types of hairstyles, the eye shapes, the lips — for centuries, the entire Western world’s beauty values have come from European standards.
A lot of traits associated with people of color have been considered less desirable, or even “ugly.”
So, when people noticed that Meghan Markle looks a little different on this Elle cover, they had to ask: did someone airbrush away to make her look “less ethnic?”
It’s easy to immediately recognize that something about the soon-to-be Duchess looks different here than in other pictures.
And no, we don’t just mean that her hair is up.
Her skin tone looks the same as usual, which is good — because so often using airbrushing to “whitewash” a person of color includes digitally lightening their skin.
Her lips, her nose, her eyes, all look how we’re accustomed to them looking.
It took a little while, but we were finally able to put our finger on what’s different:
Her freckles appear to be gone.
Either the makeup for the photoshoot or some airbrushing after-the-fact (but probably both) erased her freckles.
The good news is that this was probably not racially motivated. Magazines usually remove blemishes, and it’s very often that freckles get caught up in the mix.
Meghan Markle is gorgeous with or without her freckles, so it wasn’t immediately apparent.
There are some actresses who would be almost unrecognizable without their freckles, but Markle’s distinctive beauty is unmistakable.
The bad news is that this will probably happen again, which is not going to be encouraging to young women.
Particularly for young women of color – who have freckles and are excited about a “princess” (she’s marrying a prince, folks, even if the title will technically be duchess) who also has them – this is likely to hit a nerve.
And it might be a little sad that we’re feeling relieved that nobody radically transformed her appearance.
But we’ve seen world-famous black women whitewashed. Dark-skinned black women made to look light-skinned. Light-skinned black women made to look white.
Maybe the fashion world and the publishing world are making progress.
Or … maybe they’re just extra careful with how they edit the photos of a woman who is about to become royalty.
We cannot tell you how heartwarming it has been to see black women on our social media timelines celebrating Meghan Markle’s engagement.
Just because her title won’t actually be “princess” doesn’t preclude anyone from getting excited about the “black princess.”
(Incidentally, though interracial relationships and marriages are on the rise in the UK, they’re still less common than in the US, where nearly 20 percent of recent newlywed couples are interracial.)
And it doesn’t hurt that she’s from the US.
So as we all look forward to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding date, we should remember that they’re also making history.
In a way that still matters to a lot of people.
And let’s keep a close eye on how Markle is photographed and discussed in the coming weeks, months and beyond.