Lead Story West Edition

A CINDERELLA STORY: African-American women rise early to see one of their own join royalty

By Cynthia Gibson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Twenty-nine million Americans rolled out of bed early on the morning of May 19 to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. African-American women, in particular, felt a sense of pride and kinship with Markle, the new Duchess of Sussex.

Her entry into the British monarchy marked a historic first. She is divorced, American, Catholic-raised and bi-racial — Markle’s mother is African American and her father is white.

Around the nation, African-American women gathered to celebrate the majestic occasion at royal wedding watch parties. In Los Angeles, business owner, journalist and “Collar Greens and Caviar” food blogger Veronica Hendrix hosted a British-themed party to watch the royal nuptials.

It all started when Hendrix reminisced with her friend Ann Dunn about watching the wedding of Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, almost four decades earlier. Hendrix told Dunn that no matter what time it started, she was going to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Dunn replied, “Can I come over and watch it with you?”

After confirming the 4 a.m. broadcast time, Hendrix invited her sister, Roxanne, followed by an official evite to a dozen other friends. She immediately received 11 RSVPs. The party was on.

“This is like watching history happen,” Hendrix said. “What’s so significant about this is that she is a woman that is very relatable to us as African-American women. She’s talked about sexual harassment and the racism she’s dealt with. And then her mother is an African-American matriarch.

“We were all raised by an African-American matriarch. We know what that’s means. We know what that entails. We know the struggle.”

Women gathered at the home of Veronica Hendrix to watch the royal wedding, which started at 4 a.m. local time. Hendrix prepared a breakfast for her guests that included British fare with an African-American touch. (Photo by Cynthia Gibson)

Another point of significance is the fact that Markle grew up in Windsor Hills, just a few miles from Hendrix’s home. Markle’s mother Doria Ragland still lives in the area.

“I go by her house every Sunday when I take my walk,” Hendrix said. “It’s the story of a local girl who does something amazing. She falls in love with a man who just happens to be a prince and she becomes a princess.”

When the ceremony began, the women watched attentively as celebrity guests arrived and Markle made her long solo procession up the stairs into St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

For Hendrix’s sister, Roxanne Washington, seeing Markle enter the chapel alone was striking.

“That was my favorite part,” said Washington, who was admittedly nervous as Markel ascended the stairs by herself. “But she was so graceful. It was just beautiful.”

Markle’s bi-racial identity is a point of fascination for Jackie Marriot, who was a child when Princess Diana married Prince Charles and thinks the royal family is very “white-washed.”

“I’ve never been into them, but I wanted to see the impact Meghan would have on this wedding, being bi-racial,” Marriot said. “This was more than I could have expected. You’ve got a reverend up there talking, all the dashes of color that were involved. I don’t think it’s ever been that way in history. It was wonderful to see.”

Marriot also confessed that the food was a major incentive for coming to Hendrix’s watch party.

“Veronica is a wonderful cook. She burns. Whenever she invites me over to eat, I’m there.”

Hendrix, a Food Network finalist, did not disappoint her guests. In addition to the champagne and mimosas, Hendrix prepared a breakfast that included British fare with an African-American touch: mint chocolate chip teacakes, crab and garden vegetable tea sandwiches, grilled chicken and garlic sausage, breakfast potatoes, chicken drumettes and lemon cupcakes with elderflower liquor topped with a British flag.

Hendrix said the food preparation was easy.

“I convene people around food all the time,” she said. “It’s what I do. This was a no brainer for me.”

Some of the women looked far beyond the delicious food and the excitement of the day, to the future for the Duchess of Sussex.

Dunn thinks that unlike President Obama’s accomplishments that are being dismantled by the current administration, Markle will be able to have a lasting impact.

“Obama had term limits and then a new administration came in and is taking apart everything he did,” Dunn said. “Meghan is part of a dynasty now. Her impact is going to stay forever and they cannot destroy her legacy, not in that way.”

After the ceremony, the women gathered around a table and discussed the historic event and rising before the crack of dawn to witness it live.

“I woke up early because this is like a Cinderella story,” Kathleen Allison said. “Meghan’s from L.A. She’s from the community. Her mother still lives over here. I feel like there’s a part of me involved in this.

“I’m all about people that change the status quo. Princess Di changed the status quo. Her son is now changing it. Look at all the black people that were in that wedding. It was just worth it. It was totally worth getting up at 3 a.m.”