Dubbed the "Maori Meghan" because of her striking resemblance to the Duchess of Sussex, Stephanie Murray has travelled Australia as a royal lookalike and even been offered a job in London working as the brunette beauty's doppelgänger.
But it was right here in New Zealand, on her first-ever visit to Aotearoa, that Darwin-born, Canberra-based Stephanie saw her "dream come true" when she actually met Meghan during a walkabout in Rotorua.
Naturally, their similarity was the first thing Stephanie, 28, who is of Ngapuhi descent, mentioned when she caught the eye of the former Suits actress and grabbed her hand, blurting out, "I'm your Maori lookalike!"
Her eyes widening, Meghan replied, "It's lovely to meet you." Stephanie laughs, "I could tell by her raised eyebrow, she was surprised. She was very poised, genuine and so beautiful in real life. I still can't believe I got to meet her."
The meet-and-greet was a highlight of the retail manager's first visit to her ancestral homeland, where she also brushed hands with Meghan at her Auckland walkabout and was mobbed by royal fans wanting selfies.
And there was more excitement to come when she experienced traditional Maori culture and the geothermal wonders of Rotorua at Whakarewarewa village.
"I've had the most incredible welcome," Stephanie smiles. "I've never been somewhere that's embraced me so warmly. I really feel at home and there's definitely a connection. The people are so friendly and have been so willing to teach me about my heritage."
Ironically for someone who looks so similar to a royal, the bubbly brunette is a descendant of none other than Hone Heke, the famed Ngapuhi chief who opposed British rule and kicked off the Battle of Kororareka by cutting down the flagpole at Russell in 1845.
"My nana's surname is Heke," tells Stephanie. "I know he was a political rebel with a strong stance on the direction of Maori. It makes me proud because he stood up for his beliefs."
That's something Stephanie also admires in the duchess. The vegetarian tells, "I'm all for Meghan's stand on feminism and animal rights, but I definitely wouldn't be able to live the royal life she does because I need my freedom."
After recently copping grief for posting a bikini pic on Instagram while on holiday in Europe, the royal lookalike says, "People messaged me and said it wasn't very duchess-like, but I was like, 'I'm not a princess – I'm Stephanie!'"
Laughing, she confesses her partner Danny Saarikko doesn't look anything like Prince Harry. Instead, he's a burly 1.96m-tall builder with Finnish-Fijian roots.
She beams, "When I first saw him at the gym, I thought he was Maori. He didn't know who Meghan was until I showed him!"
Beyond the young royals, Stephanie has another celebrity connection in her best friend and flatmate Emily Dibden, who made the top five on the most recent season of The Bachelor Australia, which had Nick "Honey Badger" Cummins as the leading man.
"Emily said he's a good guy, but the experience was really hard and definitely changed her."
While Stephanie's enjoying an exciting year that's included various media appearances and crazy fan encounters, she credits her Maori father and Australian mother for being her biggest supporters.
"Dad moved from Northland to Aussie at 20, where he met Mum, but he hasn't been back," she tells.
"He's proud that I'm learning about our culture here in New Zealand, but he doesn't really see the resemblance with the duchess. He told me, 'You don't like that Princess Meghan – you look far prettier!'"
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The Australian Women's WeeklyFeb 17, 2019