The first thing Erica Bethe Levin noticed about the young woman opening the sorority house door was that “she was so stunningly beautiful, it’s a little ridiculous.”
For Levin, who joined the Northwestern University chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, she knew that pretty young woman, “as the face of rush for Kappa. She was the very first person you see. And she’s equally beautiful inside.” More than 15 years later, Meghan Markle is also the face of a new era for the British monarchy.
“She made me think ‘I can be a part of this.’ Once you meet her, you can’t forget her” says Levin, 34, a Wellington native, hospitality consultant and food blogger, of her sorority sister, who marries Prince Harry on May 19.
“If you had asked me ‘Who do you know who’s the person you know who most looks like a princess, I would have said Meg. And now, she is,” says Levin, who recently returned to her hometown with husband Terry Kane, now the director of operations for West Palm Beach’s Grandview Market.
Of course, Markle, an American actress and philanthropist who just ended her long run on the USA series “Suits,” isn’t formally going to become a princess, but it’s pretty close. Last month, Levin returned to the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Ill. with other Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters for a CBS special called “Meghan Markle: An American Princess,” hosted by “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King. On the show, they discussed the charms of the woman they all called “Meg.”
Levin says that when she decided she was interested in joining a sorority in her freshman year at Northwestern in 2002, she took part in formal rush, where prospective members visit each sorority house and decide which they’d like to consider, hoping that organization will offer them a bid. Right away, Markle’s friendliness drew her to Kappa Kappa Gamma.
“For someone who’s that beautiful, they could be perceived as intimidating, but her guard is totally down,” she says. “She’s so down-to-earth, so accessible, just cool like everyone else.”
Markle went on to graduate about two years later, after being “a staple in the sorority,” Levin says. As happens with college friends, Levin’s contact with her was mostly as Facebook friends and through the sorority grapevine. But she and other sisters kept up with Markle’s professional accomplishments as she began to climb the Hollywood ladder, with roles like her part as paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachel Zane on “Suits.”
So last year, after logging in, Levin made an interesting discovery, that “Meg was no longer on Facebook.” Soon, she figured out why, when she got “a news alert on my phone” that her friend, already a celebrity in her own right, was now royally world-famous.
“All of us were texting each other like ‘Did you hear about Meg?,’” she says.
CBS contacted Levin and four other women who were part of Kappa Kappa Gamma during Markle’s time at Northwestern, to talk about their old friend. She says it was “totally bizarre” to think that someone she’d known was famous enough to justify a Gayle King news special. But as she and the others discussed, this was far from a catty tell-all full of spilled dirt “because there was no dirt to give. There was not one bad word to be said about this person.”
Given the divisive, tabloid-ready society we currently live in, Levin thinks that her college pal Meg, a well-educated, philanthropic citizen of the world who also happens to be a biracial American, is the bridge-building royal we need right now.
“I am very thrilled. The state of the world we live in, it’s good to have such a well-spoken, classy person representing our country,” she says. “She’s like the U.S. brand ambassador. She’s going to be part of history. That’s the world I want to show my son. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do. She’s always a part of us.”