Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry has earned her new royal status.
Now, after stepping down as a senior royal, she has surrounded herself with some of Hollywood’s most elite power players to position her for success, both within her charitable world and also her continuing career in the entertainment industry.
“Since Meghan Markle’s move to California, we’ve seen an uptick in her high-power celebrity friend base. Like any person that moves to a new area, you tend to make friends with people in close proximity to you, such as neighbors or through mutual friends,” networking and branding expert Kathy Fielder told Fox News Digital. “With Meghan Markle’s status, although no longer a part of the royal family, she is sure to attract people of equal status within her community.”
“Although they don’t know the ins and outs of being a former royal family member, they do understand the scrutiny of a high-status position in their respective industries.”
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The Duchess of Sussex and her royal husband were recently spotted stepping out for sushi near their home in the affluent area of Montecito, California. They reportedly met up with two other famous couples for their date night: Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Brad Fulchuk, and Cameron Diaz and her husband, Benji Madden.
“For all that seems upside down about 2023, an old axiom still rings true: Your network is your net worth,” PR expert and Achilles founder Doug Eldridge told Fox News Digital. “In other words, the company you keep – and especially your inner circle – can either lift you up or drag you down.
“When it comes to Markle, it’s hard to determine who’s really in her circle or on her side. She’s fallen out with her own family and has seemingly become persona non grata with the royal family,” the PR expert added. “Instead of paparazzi chases … star-spotting and generally spreading herself too thin, Markle might be better served by narrowing her focus and doubling down on only two groups: her husband and home life, and her business management team at WME.”
Criticism is a “prevalent part” of celebrity culture, according to Fielder. And while these celebrity friends could help pump up Markle’s image as a power player, it could be risky for the stars.
“I suppose it’s up to the individual to decide if they can handle the pressure that may come with aligning themselves with someone of this magnitude who is both beloved and hated,” she told Fox News Digital. “Haters are going to hate, so if they find a friend in Meghan and value their connection, that’s what should matter over the latest gossip.”
“The saying ‘If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen’ is right on the money when it comes to potential friendships with Meghan Markle.”
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Here’s a look at Markle’s new inner circle as she establishes her brand in Southern California.
Oprah Winfrey and the royal couple have reportedly been close friends since Markle and Harry moved to the United States after stepping back from their royal roles in 2020. Winfrey lives near Prince Harry and Markle in Montecito.
After relocating, Harry and Markle sat down for a tell-all interview with Winfrey to talk about their reasons for leaving their senior roles in the royal family.
During the interview, Markle revealed to Winfrey that she had contemplated committing suicide while a working member of the royal family.
“I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially because I know how much loss he suffered,” she said. “But I knew that if I didn’t say it that I would do it. And I just didn’t, I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Before stepping back from their royal roles, Winfrey attended Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018.
Ellen DeGeneres and Meghan Markle met in 2017 at a dog shelter. The talk show host spoke about their friendship and how she met Markle while announcing the royal couple’s engagement on her show.
“You just looked at me and said, ‘Are you getting that dog? … You have to take it home,’” Markle told the audience, recalling the two bumped into each other at a rescue shelter. “And I said, ‘Well, if Ellen says I have to take it home, I’m getting this dog.’”
Markle has appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” a handful of times, most recently in November 2021.
DeGeneres was also a neighbor of the royal couple in Montecito at one point.
The trio is seemingly still close as Prince Harry and Markle attended DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s surprise vow renewal in February. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Carol Burnett, Courteney Cox, Melissa Etheridge, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom also attended the event while Kris Jenner officiated, according to People magazine.
Tyler Perry and Markle had never met when the filmmaker sent the actress a letter to express his sympathy over the estrangement between Markle and her father.
“I’d never met him before,” Markle explained in the Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan.” “He said he was praying for me, and if I ever need anything, he would be there.”
Markle confided in Perry about the hardships she said she was experiencing within the royal family and from the media.
“I was just crying and crying,” she recalled. “Sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone who knows nothing at all, and that was that moment with me and Tyler.”
Without ever meeting in person, Perry offered his home in Beverly Hills to the royal couple after Markle and Harry chose to leave their jobs as working royals. “We were there for six weeks, and no one knew,” Harry recalled in the docuseries.
Perry has remained close friends with the couple and eventually became the godfather of their daughter, Lilibet.
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Markle and tennis legend Serena Williams have been friends for years.
Following her U.S. Open finals loss in 2018, Williams said she and the Duchess of Sussex “are relying on each other a lot” when it comes to dealing with daily media scrutiny.
“We were actually just texting each other this morning,” she said. “We have known each other for a long time, but we really are relying on each other a lot recently.”
Markle and Williams met at the 2010 Super Bowl and have remained friends ever since. The tennis ace was in attendance with her husband, Alexis Ohanian, at Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry.
“I felt like we were literally watching history,” Williams said about Markle and Prince Harry’s nuptials. “I feel like in a few years, when I look back at that moment, it’s just going to be so historic. It’s going to be something people never forget.”
“The whole service was really wonderful, and most of all, I just wanted to see my friend be happy, and I think that’s what happened,” Williams recalled.
In July 2018, Markle and her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, now the Princess of Wales, were in the royal box to watch Williams compete at Wimbledon. The following year, Markle was back in the stands to support her friend as she vied for another title.
After winning Wimbledon, Williams praised Markle: “I didn’t know there was negative media out there, anytime I see her name attached to anything, I don’t read it,” Williams said. “She couldn’t be a better friend to me. Low moments, high moments, she’s always there, and that’s all I want to be to her.”
When Markle launched her “Archetypes” podcast in 2022, her first guest was the champion tennis player.
Beyoncé and Markle met in July 2019 at the London premiere of “The Lion King.” The A-list musician and “Suits” actress were joined by their respective husbands, Jay-Z and Prince Harry.
At the time, Markle had recently given birth to her first child and Jay-Z offered advice to the new parents, saying, “Always find some time for yourself,” according to “Entertainment Tonight.”
After Markle and Harry’s interview with Oprah aired, Beyoncé shared her support for the Duchess of Sussex.
“Thank you Meghan for your courage and leadership,” the musician wrote on her website. “We are all strengthened and inspired by you.”
Gwyneth Paltrow and Markle haven’t had any apparent connection until their reported sushi date on May 12.
“Meghan, Prince Harry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Falchuk, Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden all enjoyed dinner at Sushi by Scratch Restaurants: Montecito,” a source told “Entertainment Tonight.”
The ladies do have a shared interest though: lifestyle websites. Paltrow runs her Goop empire while Markle previously had her blog “The Tig.”
Markle shut down “The Tig” months after she began dating Prince Harry in 2017. The now-defunct site was reportedly “inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow,” Kinsey Schofield, host of the “To Di For Daily” podcast, told Fox News Digital in February.
The site – aimed to share Markle’s personal reflections as well as her passions for food and travel – was created in 2014.
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Fox News Digital’s Larry Fink contributed to this report.