Royals

Meet Janina Gavankar, the woman behind the official Sussex family’s Christmas card

The actress and Duchess Meghan’s longtime friend shot the Sussex family’s very first Christmas card photo.

This year the Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke from royal tradition to send their Christmas card – their first as a family-of-three – electronically, in a bid to be more eco-conscious.
The gorgeous black and white photograph shows seven-month-old Archie front and centre while his parents, Meghan and Harry, look on from the background, sitting in front of a tree.
But while most Christmas cards are typically taken by one of the royal family's trusted photographers, such as Chris Jackson or Matt Porteous, the Sussexes chose to turn to one of Duchess Meghan's longtime friends to capture their festive card – similarly, the Cambridges' chose to share an intimate photo taken by Duchess Catherine to wish their followers a Merry Christmas.
But just who is this long term pal of Meghan's? Meet American actress Janina Gavankar.
Janina, who has starred in a number of hit TV shows including True Blood and most recently the new Apple TV series The Morning Show, has been friends with Meghan for almost 20 years and revealed in a tweet on Christmas Day that it had been her behind the lens.
"So proud to have taken the Christmas photo for one of my best friends and her family," the 39-year-old actress tweeted.
"Here's the original that was sent out."
She also defended Meghan after some people on social media, as well as British tabloid the Daily Mailwho Harry and Meghan are in the process of suing – suggested the image had been Photoshopped, adding in a following up tweet: "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. (Image: Instagram/@meghanmarkle)
Janina has previously spoken about her friendship with the royal telling Good Morning America in 2018: "When I met her she was so effervescent and talented and clearly brilliant.
"She's just such a magnetic person," adding Meghan is "incredibly blunt" and "she'll make you crack up."
Despite living on opposite sides of the Pond, the actress says her and Meghan often "sit on FaceTime or Skype and we talk for hours – mostly about things that are intensely important to us."
Janina currently stars alongside Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in the new TV series The Morning Show. (Image: Getty)
Duchess Meghan has also spoken about their friendship, posting a snap of the two of them on her now-deleted Instagram account back in 2016.
"Oh how I love seeing my long time friend @janina," the former actress wrote at the time.
"I just did the math – did we become friends 15 years ago?!? Whoa."
Janina was, of course, a guest at Harry and Meghan's fairy tale wedding last year, a fact that she kept under wraps until well after the special day.
WATCH: Our favourite posts from Meghan Markle's deleted Instagram. Story continues below...
When asked about why she's kept her attendance low-key by Town & Country magazine, Janina said she wanted to 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 said.
"And people who know them know that this is a private moment that was not allowed to be private.
"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."
Janina looked stunning as she arrived at Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018. (Image: Getty)
She did, however, reveal some adorable insight into the star-studded reception, saying Harry's speech was full of adoration for his wife.
"The speech that Harry gave was so funny, self-deprecation, filled with love, and that guy just has her back," 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."