Meghan's maid of honour at her first wedding blames the future Royal for the mysterious end to the marriage: Friend since the age of two describes how fame changed Harry's bride-to-be
Ninaki Priddy is torn between joy and a deep bewilderment when she remembers the blissfully happy day that her best friend, Meghan Markle, married her ‘eternal love’ six years ago.
The actress was 30 years old and riding high on the success of the first series of the American TV drama Suits when she vowed to love and cherish film producer Trevor Engelson in front of more than 100 guests on a beach in Jamaica.
Such was the jubilation at the chic colonial-style hotel that the celebrations lasted several days.
‘Meg literally shone with happiness,’ says Ninaki, who was maid of honour. ‘We’d been like sisters since we were two years old, so I knew she’d always wanted to get married.
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Meghan at her prom night after she and her best friend Ninaki Priddy (pictured together) graduated from Immaculate Heart High School in LA in 1999.?Ninaki is torn between joy and a deep bewilderment when she remembers the blissfully happy day that Meghan married her ‘eternal love’ six years ago
Meghan at Ninaki's ninth birthday party in 1990 at her home in Los Angeles. The pair went to the same school together - ?the Little Red School House, in Hollywood - from the age of two
‘To see her finally doing that was . . . well, it was a big deal. It was such a moving wedding. I started crying the moment I saw her in her dress. We had the ceremony on the beach. It was so beautiful to watch, beautiful to be a part of. They each wrote their own vows. They loved each other so much.
‘Meg had just finished the first series of Suits [in which she played the bewitching paralegal Rachel Zane]. It was a big part for her — her first full-time role.
‘She’d hustled for years to get there, so that was huge. Trevor was so supportive. He travelled back and forth [from Los Angeles to Toronto, where Suits is filmed] and there was a lot of Skyping and FaceTiming going on.
‘It was an exciting time. This was the man she wanted to have children with.’
Fast forward six years. That marriage is over and Meghan has just become engaged to Prince Harry. Many of the friends who celebrated with the newlyweds on that beach are no longer speaking to Meghan.
Her first love: ‘Meghan said she couldn’t imagine a life without husband Trevor Engelson,’ says her former friend Ninaki. Above, the couple on their wedding day in September 2011
Meghan and her mother, Doria, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica - for Meghan's wedding to producer Engelson six years ago - but the married couple's busy, demanding careers led to a break-up after only two years
Talking about Meghan's marriage to Engelson (above), Ninaki says: ‘It was such a shock when she told me they were getting divorced. After about three seasons of Suits, she called me and said she wanted me to know because it was going to come out in the papers'
Running her finger over this picture of Meghan - the day before she made her vows to Trevor, now 41 - Ninaki says: ?‘Look at her. She was so ecstatic,’ Ninaki smiles fondly. Then her face hardens. ‘The person I knew is not there any more’
Meghan and Ninaki supported each other through their parents’ acrimonious divorces and their own love affairs. Together, they shared their secrets and dreams as each of them set out to make their mark upon the world. (Above, on a roadtrip after graduating)
During their European tour as teens, Meghan and Ninaki made the most of a visit to a diamond house
After Meghan left university, she and Ninaki drove back to LA via Colorado and stopped off at the Hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas
Ninaki says her own falling out with Meghan came after she disapproved of the manner of Meghan’s break-up from Trevor.
But there is no doubt Ninaki misses Meghan as she tells the story of their friendship.
The girls were inseparable from their first days at Hollywood’s private Little Red School House, which they both joined at the age of two, before moving on together at 11 to the Immaculate Heart girls’ high school in Los Angeles.
Their extraordinary bond spanned 31 years of sleepovers, a holiday in Europe as 15-year-olds — including a picture opportunity for Ninaki and Meghan outside Buckingham Palace — and road trips across the United States.
They supported each other through their parents’ acrimonious divorces and their own love affairs. Together, they shared their secrets and dreams as each of them set out to make their mark upon the world.
Ninaki runs her fingers over a photograph of Meghan in a tiny yellow polka dot bikini taken the day before she made those wedding vows to Trevor, now 41.
At primary school graduation, at the age of 11, with Ninaki and a teacher from Little Red School House in 1992
Chilling out: Drenched after a rainy day of sightseeing in London, Meghan poses at her Kensington hotel during her Europe tour — today, she and Prince Harry live just a stone’s throw away
Meghan and Ninaki enjoy a roller-skating trip together circa 1994 when they would have been aged around 13. This collection of candid photos was shared by Ninaki
It’s one of many from Ninaki’s revealing album that charts a 31-year friendship and is published exclusively in today’s Daily Mail.
‘Look at her. She was so ecstatic,’ Ninaki smiles fondly. Then her face hardens. ‘The person I knew is not there any more,’ she says. ‘Meg used to tell me she couldn’t imagine a life without Trevor. She said if anything were to happen to him she wouldn’t be able to go on.
‘He cherished her, too. You should have seen the way he used to hold her face in his hands. We all felt he was her eternal love.
‘It was such a shock when she told me they were getting divorced. After about three seasons of Suits, she called me and said she wanted me to know because it was going to come out in the papers.
‘I knew they fought sometimes, but it wasn’t anything huge. The only obstacle was the distance because she was living in Toronto and Trevor was based in LA.
Note perfect: Meghan — aged five and already an actress — sings The Wheels On The Bus in 1986 at an end-of-year show at the private Little Red School House she went to in Hollywood
Little Meghan (pictured, far right) attended the school, in Los Angeles, from the aged of two until 11
This incredible collection of more than 50 unseen photographs tells the story of the real Meghan Markle - charting her life from her early school days and college years through to her first wedding. She is pictured third from right
Clowning around: At her schoolfriend Ninaki Priddy’s ninth birthday party. A children’s entertainer helps the girls with face painting
Meghan and her best friend are seen hanging out together in LA in 1991, at the age of ten
‘But I thought that they were manoeuvring through it as best they could. Trevor would take his work to Canada to be with her and run his office remotely.
‘I wasn’t aware there were any problems in the marriage.’
She shrugs. ‘I had to accept what she said, but then . . .’
Ninaki hesitates. She has loved Meghan dearly for most of her life and is not the sort of person to easily betray somebody.
Choosing her words carefully, Ninaki says she no longer recognises the girl with whom she shared her childhood.
Alongside Ninaki, another friend, and actor David Faustino on the set of US television show Married... With Children in 1991
Starstruck: Meghan’s dad, Tom, was a lighting director on the TV series Married... (Pictured with actor Ted McGinley)
Young Meghan is seen here with another member of the show's cast, Amanda Bearse
Inspirational: At her junior school graduation dinner, Meghan, 12, poses with Debbie Wehbe, her headmistress at the Little Red School House in Hollywood
More to the point, she feels desperately for Trevor, for whom the ignominy of seeing his former wife now lovestruck with her very own Prince Charming is almost too much to bear. He truly believed they would grow old together.
‘A month after the divorce, I wanted to see how Trevor was doing,’ says Ninaki. ‘We met and talked. It’s not up to me to speak for Trevor, but I know he was travelling to Toronto every few weeks and would have walked the earth to make their marriage work.
‘I don’t believe she gave him enough of an opportunity. I think there was an element of “out of sight, out of mind” for Meghan.
‘The way she handled it, Trevor definitely had the rug pulled out from under him. He was hurt.’
Meghan reportedly began dating dashing celebrity chef Cory Vitiello who also lives in Toronto, in 2014, a few months after her separation from Trevor.
‘I tried to get details from her, but she wouldn’t tell me. What came to light after Trevor and I spoke ended my friendship with Meghan. I think everybody who knew them both was in shock.
Miss Markle ?is seen above with friends in her mother Doria's garden in Los Angeles around 1993, aged approximately 12
Larking around with with school friends at all-girls' school Immaculate Heart High in LA circa 1993
Look who’s in London: It’s 1996 and Meghan, 15, and Ninaki pose in front of Buckingham Palace during a European trip with her friend’s family
Alongside Ninaki, at the Louvre in Paris during a European trip with Ninaki's family in June 1996; right, in Bath, during their summer vacation
Just visiting? With Ninaki at a historic touristic site in Bath in June 1996
Together, Meghan and Ninaki shared their secrets and their dreams as each of them set out to make their mark upon the world. (Above, in Bath)
‘All I can say now is that I think Meghan was calculated — very calculated — in the way she handled people and relationships. She is very strategic in the way she cultivates circles of friends. Once she decides you’re not part of her life, she can be very cold.
‘It’s this shutdown mechanism she has. There’s nothing to negotiate. She’s made her decision and that’s it.’
Ninaki says this not with malice, but sadness, for she and Meghan were ‘like sisters’ for decades.
Her earliest memory is of Meghan reaching out to touch her hair. ‘She loved it because it was so long and straight. She had this amazing curly mane. I always cherished her hair and she mine.’
Ninaki smiles as she thumbs through photographs of the two of them on stage at an age when they were too young for joined-up writing, let alone to sign autographs.
‘Meg always wanted to be famous,’ says Ninaki. ‘She just loved to be the centre of attention. We used to imagine her receiving an Oscar. She used to practise announcing herself.
‘In a way, she was nurtured on a stage. She knew no other life. Her dad, Tom [a lighting engineer], was a great coach in that respect. He’d take photos of her on stage right from a young age.
Having fun with Ninaki and other school friends after their High School Christmas dance in 1998, at the age of 17
Best friend Ninaki Priddy and another friend all dressed up for the High School prom at Immaculate Heart in 1999
Meghan’s date for the night was fellow student Gian Carlo (also pictured), but it was strictly platonic — they weren’t dating!
Meghan sparkles in a beautiful white gown on prom night with her date for the occasion in 1999
Her mum, Doria, was very cool. She was this free spirit who’d dance around the house telling Meg to loosen up. She’d say: “You’ve got to have fun, but keep working at it.” Meg was the star with her parents.
‘She was tough, too. If you rubbed her up the wrong way, she’d make it known with the silent treatment. There was a time, when we were about seven, and I’d collected a bunch of insects. She didn’t want to play with them.
‘We spent two hours sitting at opposite ends of the garden with our backs to each other in silence. I’d always be the first to apologise. I just wanted to be besties again. She was stubborn. She digs her heels in the ground.’
Today, Ninaki is a stylish young woman who works as a designer in LA. She oscillates between raging against Meghan and feeling a deep visceral hurt.
‘We had the kind of love you have for a sister. The end of our friendship was like a death,’ she says. ‘I mourned it for quite a while.
Changing rooms: As a student at Northwestern University, Chicago, in 2003, Meghan gave her rented apartment a ‘Bollywood’ makeover, painting the walls bright colours. Before she left, she painted them white again
Viva Las Vegas! Meghan and Ninaki dressed to impress at Hotel Bellagio in 2003. Meghan chose the hotel because it featured in the George Clooney movie Ocean’s Eleven
On her roadtrip, Meghan made a fun pit-stop at Keenesburg - the 'home of 500 happy people'
Stunning in sky blue: To celebrate graduating from Northwestern University in 2003, Meghan, 22, heads off for a night out in Chicago with her friends
What a lucky guy! Meghan strikes a pose with a handsome chap believed to be the maitre d’ of a bar
Meghan looks coy as she is photographed at a fast-food drive-through
No more exams! After years of studying, Meghan earned a joint BA in Theatre and International Relations
Here, Meghan and a friend keep the graduation party going in Chicago, in 2003
Heads together: Meghan with Ninaki (far right) and a fellow student in Chicago. ‘We were like Siamese twins... we did everything together,’ says Ninaki
Meghan would have been 22 when she enjoyed this night out on the town with her pals
‘Even now I’ll pass by a magazine stand and see a face staring out at me that was such a big part of my life.
‘It was always Niki and Meg. We were so close-knit we came as a two,’ says Nikani. ‘We were both honorary daughters in each other’s homes. We were like family.’
‘Family’ is a word that crops up throughout this interview, which provides the most revealing insight to date into the woman who’s captured Prince Harry’s heart.
‘The idea of having a family was something Meg very much wanted, particularly because she was from a family that felt very disjointed,’ says Ninaki. ‘I think when you’re an only child in that situation your friends do become your family.’
Trevor became part of that family, too. For this was no brief, marry-in-haste-repent-at-leisure fling, but a committed ten-year relationship; one that also gave Meghan something of a helping hand in her acting career.
Meghan and Trevor met within 18 months of her graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in theatre and international studies. She was 23. Trevor, a tall, handsome man, was five years her senior and already flourishing in the film industry.
Harry's future fiancee is seen here meeting up with Ninaki and a friend for brunch at Toast in LA in 2003
Meghan and Ninaki have fun at the photo booth at Soho House in Los Angeles in 2010
In the coming years, Meghan would become even more accustomed to cameras - starring on the world stage
‘They met on a night out in LA. He was managing film industry writers,’ recalls Ninaki. ‘At first, I didn’t like him because it was that thing of, “Oh my God, he’s stealing my best friend”. I met him at a birthday party he threw for her — her 24th, I think.
‘Meg had beautiful handwriting and was supplementing her income as a freelance calligraphy artist. He was very focused with great connections.
‘It was an opportunity for her to establish relationships with agents. She loved it — being at his side and going to those dinners.
‘Trevor was big for her. She loved him. He was very doting. They were a great support system for each other through difficult times, like the death of her grandma, her father’s mother, Grandma Markle. Meghan was really close to her.’
Within a year, Meghan and Trevor were living together. ‘She was definitely a curator of a beautiful life,’ says Ninaki. ‘She liked to throw dinner parties with beautiful menus that complemented flavour profiles with amazing wines.
‘She had a very specific style. She loved her hotel-style bedding — beautiful, contrasting black piping detail on crisp, white duvets. She loved everything white. Meg was a perfectionist.’
Bring on the bling: While Meghan (left) made her name as a TV star in the hit legal TV show Suits, Ninaki (right) became a jewellery designer. Here they are four years ago enjoying a video call on a phone with friends
Meghan is seen with her suits co-star Rick Hoffman during the video call in Canada
As well as keeping all things domestic well ordered, Ninaki says Meghan possessed incredible powers of diplomacy. She says Meghan learned from a young age to keep the peace between her parents following their divorce.
Ninaki continues: ‘She is very poised. A natural mediator. For almost as long as I knew Meghan, her parents weren’t together. It could be hard for her. Sometimes she felt she had to pick sides. She was always trying to make sure each of them was happy.’
Ninaki says she has always admired Meghan for handling her parents so skilfully from such a young age.
‘She’d have to relay messages. It was literally stuff like, “Tell your mother . . .” or “Tell your father . . .” Controlling her emotions is something she learnt back then.’
Meghan has always maintained her parents’ separation was about as easy as a divorce can be for a child. But Ninaki, who spent many childhood weekends with Meghan, recalls things differently.
‘Sometimes, one parent needed a little more attention, so Meghan would devote herself to that parent,’ she says.
‘When she was younger, she spent most of her time with Doria. Doria used to dance around the house and have girlie evenings with us. Then, when Meg got to Junior High — around 13 or 14 — she began living with her dad.
‘Tom allowed her more space. Doria was very mothering. She set more boundaries. Tom let us get away with things. He provided a less strict household.
‘As a teenager, who doesn’t want that? But as Meg got older she had to parent Tom a little more and she couldn’t do that.’
Ninaki refuses to elaborate further on Meghan’s father or their relationship. Today, he lives in Mexico and has not featured in the story of her romance with Prince Harry.
‘I think she’s protecting him,’ is all Ninaki will add.
Despite being the child of divorced parents, Ninaki says Meghan always wanted a family of her own. ‘She was definitely looking forward to having children. She really wanted to be a mum. She’d see a baby and just . . .’ Ninaki hugs an imaginary child to her breast.
She continues: ‘Trevor asked her to marry him the year before Suits. They were on holiday in Belize, I think. She called me immediately. She was ecstatic and sent me some beautiful pictures.
‘Meghan came to show me the ring when she got home and was so excited. She asked me to be maid of honour. We were hugging each other and crying.
Meghan with Prince Harry after they announced their engagement - with the wedding planned for next May
‘Then, after the wedding, it was like a light switched off. There’s Meghan Before Fame and Meghan After Fame. After three seasons of Suits, she called me to say the marriage was over.
‘Maybe she had started to change before then, but I was refusing to see it. The tone of her voice, her mannerisms, the way she laughed didn’t seem real to me any more.
‘Even by season two of Suits, she was turning down lunch with us because she said she’d be recognised. I felt if I questioned her behaviour, I’d be left on the outside. Sometimes the truth is not always what you want, is it?
‘Her time became increasingly important. When she was in town, she’d want you to drop everything to see her. If I was busy, it would be, “Why don’t you want to see me? I’m here. Let’s hang out!”
‘There were instances when I felt she developed a sense of entitlement because she was on the show. The breaking point for me came when she wanted to adopt a dog.
‘She’d fallen in love with it, but found someone else wanted the dog, too. So she emailed the pet adoption people and explained how she could provide a great life for it.
‘She spoke of what a great time the dog would have in the Suits Family. I felt that she was playing the Suits card to try to get what she wanted.
‘She included me and the other bridesmaids in the email chain because she wanted our moral support, I think.
‘I didn’t respond to it. It left a sour taste in my mouth. We began to talk less. It was shortly after that I spoke to Trevor about the divorce.
‘I phoned Meghan to speak about it, but she wouldn’t confide in me. It was obvious to me she wasn’t the friend I’d grown up with any more. She had a new circle of friends.’
The friendship ended before Meghan began seeing Prince Harry. All Ninaki has heard about it is gossip. But she has her own views on the life path that Meghan has chosen.
‘I think it’s a very fanciful dream to believe that you just walk into a Prince Charming.
‘I know the Royal Family was something she found fascinating. She had one of Princess Diana’s books [Diana: Her True Story] on her bookshelf, and even when she was with Trevor she told me she wanted to go and stay in London for at least a month.
‘I can’t remember exactly when this was, but she was married to Trevor and starring in Suits. She mentioned about wanting to go to London a couple of times.
‘I wasn’t shocked or even surprised to hear about Prince Harry. I know she used to love The Princess Diaries — films about a commoner who becomes part of a Royal Family. She was very taken with that idea.’
Our interview is reaching an end. Ninaki must head back to work. Before she goes, I wonder what’s happened to poor Trevor.
‘It took a long time, but he’s put it in the past now,’ she says. ‘Of course, everyone’s looking at him to see how he’s reacting since the engagement has been announced, but I think he’s handling it quite well.
So well, in fact, he is reportedly working on a film about a girl who is whisked away by a handsome prince. True? Ninaki smiles enigmatically. ‘Trevor is my family now. We’re still friends.’
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