Our Maori Meghan looka­like

She fi­nally meets the duchess

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Contents -

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 firstever visit to Aotearoa, that Dar­win-born, Can­berrabased 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.

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!’”

Re­turn­ing to her roots, Stephanie is de­lighted by the wel­come she got in Ro­torua. “Peo­ple have been so will­ing to teach me about my her­itage.”

You gey­sers sim­i­lar! Stephanie can’t be­lieve it when Meghan spots her in the crowd. Stephanie turns heads when she goes about her busi­ness dressed as the duchess. OUR ROYAL REPLICA

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