Pajamas and cheers: Meghan's school joins royal wedding festivities

Los Angeles (AFP) –


When Meghan Markle kissed Prince Harry on the steps of St. George's Chapel in London, loud applause and delighted shouts echoed through a gymnasium in far-away Los Angeles, where the brand-new duchess once studied.

On the same stage where Meghan began her acting career at Immaculate Heart girl's school in Hollywood -- a journey that took her to Canada and a fateful meeting with her future husband -- was a giant screen, and the 60 people present could not take their eyes from it.

Given the ridiculously early hour, most dressed comfortably -- sportswear, shirts, even pajamas -- although some, in the spirit of the occasion, added ties, hats and other "royal" touches.

Carol Dance and daughter Olivia wore handmade outfits decked in flowers and colorful ribbons. Sandra Ponce opted for a black tie. Stacey Johnson's yellow floral arrangement, she thinks, was left over from the recent Kentucky Derby horse race.

"We are trying to have the spirit," said a smiling 46-year-old Sandra, sharing a blanket with daughter Micaela, 13.

Americans are not the most fanatical followers of the royal family, but most follow its general outlines. Many of the mothers in the gym remembered the 1981 wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to Charles, Prince of Wales.

- 'Childhood dream' -

Markle graduated in 1999 from Immaculate Heart, a private Catholic school whose alumnae include supermodel Tyra Banks and actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Many of the girls sitting in the gym Saturday were not born when Meghan was a student here. But her engagement to Harry -- making her the first biracial member of the British royal family in modern times -- seized their attention.

"It's an inspiration," said Micaela, an eighth grader who is a Latina.

"As a woman of color," added her mother, "we are really happy to see this happening."

"I'm happy to go to Immaculate Heart," added Tulsa Johnson, Stacey's daughter, a red rose adorning her blonde hair. "She left an impact here."

Markle -- whose California roots were reflected in her observation that "most things can be cured with either yoga, the beach or a few avocados" -- is the second American to marry into British royalty. She follows Wallis Simpson, another divorcee whose 1937 marriage to Prince Edward led eventually to his abdication.

So, would these young girls, so fascinated by today's royal wedding, like to follow in Meghan's footsteps?

"I dreamt it as a little girl," said Micaela, adding that she has to set her own goals, and "if it happens, then it's fate."

For Tulsa's part, "I'd rather be a mathematician or a designer." Added her sensible-sounding mother, "That kind of lifestyle is a lot of work."

- 'Princess or president' -

In the gym, a British flag stands next to the American flag. School administrators have not decided whether to leave it in honor of their famous graduate.

Principal Naemah Morris, who graduated from the school shortly before Meghan arrived, said she began following the young woman's career even before all the royal commotion.

"We show our freshmen the video clip of her giving her speech at the United Nations" in 2015, Morris said. The school highlights graduates "who are making a difference in the world."

"That's what really inspires them."

Middle-school principal Gina Bonino Faner said she has faith in all the school's graduates.

"CEOs, doctors... I wouldn't be surprised if they end up being princesses," she said.

Or, she added, "if they end up being president."