Very few people can say their lives changed forever while they were watching television; Nana Meriwether can.
While sitting in a restaurant with friends December 19th, 27-year-old Nana watched as the then reigning Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, advanced through the Miss Universe competition and eventually claimed the title. By the end of the telecast all eyes in the restaurant were on Nana who, as the first runner-up of the 2012 MISS USA® Competition, assumed the title of Miss USA, a lifelong dream for this beautiful, accomplished woman.
For Nana, extraordinary accomplishments are not considered over-achievements because in her family, it’s simply the natural order of things.
Her Mother, Nomvimbi, grew up in Soweto, South Africa under apartheid and despite the obstacles, became one of the country’s first black, female lawyers. She went on to earn her CPA and MBA.
Her Father, Delano, was the first African-American to be accepted to Duke University Medical School, where he graduated with honors. At 27, he took up competitive running and was subsequently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and holds a World Record for the 100-yard-dash.
Nana was born in South Africa while her Father was there as a medical missionary and lived her first years in rural villages with the country’s poorest population.
Upon returning to the United States, Nana attended the Sidwell Friends School, best known as the current and former school of the Obama daughters, Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore Jr. She began her college career at Duke University but soon transferred to UCLA where she was a member of the Women’s Volleyball team.
By the time she reached her senior year, Nana had helped lead the team to the NCAA Final Four, broken three NCAA records and was a two-time NCAA All American. These accolades earned her a feature in Sports Illustrated in 2006. She graduated from UCLA with honors and a degree in Political Science. In 2009, Nana was admitted to the University of Southern California where she completed post-graduate premedical sciences studies in their Post Baccalaureate Program.
Nana is proud of her South African heritage and visits the country regularly. Inspired by the pro-bono volunteer work her parents did in the early 80s, she helped co-found the non-profit group, The Meriwether Foundation. The organization is based in several rural villages in five countries of Southern Africa and has initiated HIV/AIDS programs, opened several schools and clinics, started orphanages, and developed organic agricultural and water projects.
Since becoming Miss USA, Nana has already taken advantage of the title and attended the famous Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and multiple Super Bowl XLVII activities in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nana has attend South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX, and was honored by the Maryland General Assembly for her work as Miss USA. She also participated in LAFEST – the first annual soccer game that brings entertainment, media, advertising professionals, etc. together to raise money for the Mia Hamm Foundation and Grassroot Soccer. During her reign, Nana will continue her work for The Meriwether Foundation as well as working with some of the official cause alliances of the Miss Universe Organization including the USO, the Same Sky Trade Initiative, Best Buddies, Gilda’s Club and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
When I found out that Nana had become Miss USA, I was overjoyed. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, but she radiates internal beauty with her generous heart. Beauty Buzz 411 features individuals that have that something special, that go over and above to give back and lend a hand. With all the philanthropy work Nana is involved in and believes in, it was only fitting to want to feature her. She is the perfect role model for all girls, an inspiration to live your life in the moment and to be the best person you can be. It is an honour to share this feature with all of you on someone that’s going to leave a big mark on this world! Photographer credit to Fadil Berisha
NM~ It took me five tries to win a state and finally compete on the Miss USA stage. I won Miss Maryland USA the last year I could compete before I aged out. It was a dream of mine to become Miss USA and despite doors closing, negativity and people telling me I should stop competing, I persevered, continued on and eventually became Miss USA.
BB411~ What do you hope to accomplish with your title and what do you want to be remembered for?
NM~ I hope to bring the 501 c 3 non-profit organization I co-founded to more national and international recognition. I started The Meriwether Foundation in 2006 and I hope to be remembered for the medical and community work I currently do in five countries of southern Africa.
BB411~ What do you plan on doing after your title is passed on (Career Wise)?
NM~ I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Political Science. I was then admitted to The University of Southern California where I did post-graduate studies in premedical sciences. I took my MCAT’s as well and I am eligible to apply to medical school. I will probably pursue medicine but I am keeping my options open.
BB411~ How did your parents influence the person you are today?
NM~ My mom has a law and business degree and she is a CPA. My father was the first African-American to go to Duke University and he is now a medical doctor. My parents have really stressed academics in my life and it has inspired me to aspire to higher education.
NM~ Walk the walk before you talk the talk.
BB411~ You were born in South Africa, what was your childhood like?
NM~ I was born in South Africa and moved when I was 3. I grew up in the Washington DC area and went to the Sidwell Friends School. Sidwell is the current and former school of the Obama daughters, Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore Jr., The Nixons, Roosevelt’s etc. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was such a blessing to be raised and educated with some of our country’s political elite.
BB411~ Have you always been athletic?
NM~ Yes, but it was a lot of hard work to play for UCLA, professionally and at an Olympic level.
BB411~ What do you do to stay fit and healthy?
NM~ I do a lot of juicing. My favorite is a mix of kale, cucumber, ginger, apples and beets. I also do a lot of cardio and yoga.
BB411~ What did it mean to you to be featured in the 2006 sports Illustrated?
NM~ I played volleyball for UCLA. By my senior year I had led my team to an NCAA Final Four, broke 3 NCAA records and I was a two-time All American. Despite all these accomplishments, being in Sports Illustrated made me realize I was doing something right. My father was also on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1971 so it was great following in his footsteps.
BB411~ Have you always been in love with fashion and beauty?
NM~ Yes, but I also have an athletic and studious side to me. In college I designed and made my own evening gown collection for the annual UCLA Spring Fashion Show.
BB411~ Describe your style?
NM~ I would describe my style as resort chic – lots of flow, lots of comfort.
NM~ It means knowing who you are and being confident about it!
BB411~ What inspires you personally and professionally?
NM~ What inspires me is proving people wrong.
BB411~ Are you involved in any charities that are close to your heart?
NM~ Yes I cofounded a non-profit, The Meriwether Foundation. We have medical and community based projects in southern Africa. We have opened schools, clinics, orphanages and we have started agricultural, water and HIV/AIDS projects.
BB411~ What does it mean to you to give back?
NM~ I think when people give back they think they are changing other people’s lives when it is the opposite. Giving back gives you a great perspective on life.
BB411~ If you could tell your younger self something you have learned and know now what would it be?
NM~ Things will get better!
NM~ Ambitious, tall, multifaceted
BB411~ What is your skin care regime?
NM~ I make sure to remove all of my makeup before I go to bed and I always moisturize.
BB411~ What are your go to hair products?
NM~ Hot rollers!
BB411~ Top Beauty Brands you love for Makeup?
BB411~ 3 beauty products you carry with you always?
NM~ Lip color, powder and blush.
BB411~ #1 beauty product you could not live without?
NM~ Contour powder
BB411~ Do any certain scents remind you of your childhood and what is your favorite fragrance?
NM~ Elizabeth Taylor perfume. My mom always wore it and still does.
BB411~ Do you have a best kept beauty secret that has been passed down to you (say from your Mother or Grandmother)?
BB411~ Fun fact that your fans may not know about you?
NM~ I grew up a vegetarian.
BB411~ Favorite quote?
NM~ “The middle child has more to prove” -written on the wall at a burger joint on 22nd and 6th Ave
BB411~ Favorite food?
NM~ I love Indian food. My favorite dish is Saag Paneer.
BB411~ #1 thing you want to cross off your bucket list?
NM~ Running a marathon.
BB411~ What has been your biggest Aha Moment so far in life?
NM~ I’m still waiting.
BB411~ What advice would you give entrepreneurs (young girls) starting out that are following their dreams?
NM~ Never give up even when negativity stares you straight in the face.
BB411~ Where do you see yourself in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years?
NM~ What’s great about the Miss USA title is it opens so many doors and reveals so many opportunities. I have an interest in medicine and I definitely want a family, but I am going to see where the title takes me a year to 10 years from now.
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