British Royal Family

Meet Duchess Meghan's friend, actor Janina Gavankar, the woman behind the official Sussex family Christmas card

Meghan's longtime pal took the Sussex family's very first Christmas card photo!

By Rebecca Sullivan
It's not uncommon for members of the royal family to enlist the services of professional photographers to take their official royal Christmas cards at the end of each year.
The Cambridge family has previously used renowned royal photographers Chris Jackson and Matt Porteous to capture their annual family portraits, but this year they unveiled a gorgeous, intimate photo taken by Duchess Catherine herself, featuring Prince William and children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
And now it's been revealed that the wonderful black-and-white photo of Duchess Meghan, Prince Harry and baby Archie that the Sussex family chose as their official 2019 Christmas card, which was released earlier this week, was taken not by a professional photographer, but a friend of Meghan's, American actress Janina Gavankar.
Janina, who has starred in dozens of hit TV shows, including True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and the new Apple TV series The Morning Show, has been friends with Meghan for almost 20 years, and was a guest at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018.
The 39-year-old revealed herself as the woman behind the gorgeous Sussex family Christmas card photo in a tweet on Christmas Day.
She also defended her longtime royal pal after some on social media - and an article in British tabloid the Daily Mail (yes, the same outlet Harry and Meghan are currently suing), suggested the image had been Photoshopped.
"Here's the original that was sent out," Janina wrote on her social media accounts, alongside the original image she took.
And addressing the criticism head on, she added: "And to The Mail, I see your campaign against my friend continues. Nice photoshop of my non-photoshopped image. Now may we all get back to the spirit of Christmas and not the spirit of maliciousness."
Meghan and Janina have known each other for almost two decades. Instagram
Janina, who is professionally trained as a pianist, vocalist, and orchestral percussionist and was part of an all-female singing group called Endera, has previously gushed about Meghan and the special relationship the two women share.
"When I met her, she was so effervescent and talented and clearly brilliant," Janina revealed on Good Morning America in 2018.
"She's just such a magnetic person," she said, while adding that Meghan is "incredibly blunt" and "she'll make you crack up."
And despite the distance between them, with Meghan based in the UK and Janina in the US, the actor said they often "sit on FaceTime or Skype and we talk for hours—mostly about things that are intensely important to us."
Janina is currently starring alongside Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in the new TV series The Morning Show. Getty
Meghan has previously written about her friendship with Janina, in a now deleted 2016 post from her defunct Instagram account.
"Oh how I love seeing my long time friend @janina," Meghan posted on Instagram at the time.
"I just did the math — did we become friends 15 years ago?!? Whoa."
Janina was also a guest at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018, and stunned in a gorgeous bright coral dress, with a matching fringed cape and chic black hat, while attending the grand nuptials in Windsor.
She was also spotted sitting in a covetable spot in the chapel, just a few seats away from A-list stars such as Amal and George Clooney.
Janina looked stunning as she arrived at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018. Getty
You can see Janina to the right of this photo, in the orange dress and black hat, sitting among Harry and Meghan's closest friends. Getty
When asked about her attendance at the wedding, which she kept under wraps until well after the event had occurred, Janina explained she wanted to keep her appearance low-key and respect her friend's privacy.
"In the end, this was a wedding, an actual wedding, between two people, who are real people that fell in love," she told Town & Country magazine.
"And people who know them know that this is a private moment that was not allowed to be private," she said.
"It wasn't a priority for me to have my publicist announce I was going. My priority will always be my friend. I'm not there for you, I'm there for her."
WATCH BELOW: Meghan Markle's 10 most fashion-forward moments. Story continues after video.
She also gave some glorious insights into exactly what happened at the star-studded affair, revealing Prince Harry's speech was filled with adoration for his new bride.
"The speech that Harry gave was so funny, self-deprecating, filled with love, and that guy just has her back. I left feeling so solid for them," Janina revealed.
"I walked away feeling so confident that these two will put their combined power into the world for good. They did it apart. They've done it apart their entire lives. Imagine what they can do together."
She added that she hoped the couple would get "as much privacy as possible."
"As much as the world will allow them, I hope for more. Truly."

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