Once merely a two-time NCAA All-American at UCLA and a USC graduate student, Nana Meriwether can now add Miss USA to her incredible résumé. In December, the original Miss USA 2012, Olivia Culpo, won the Miss Universe pageant, leaving first runner-up Meriwether to take over her crown and responsibilities.
After attending high school at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School (where the Obama girls currently attend and where Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore Jr., and the Nixon children graduated from), Meriwether went on to play volleyball at Duke and was named to the 2003 Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman Team. The 6'1" middle blocker then transferred to UCLA where she also competed in the high jump for a season and in her senior year (2006) led her Bruin volleyball squad to the final four. She then went on to play volleyball professionally in Puerto Rico before beginning her graduate studies in USC’s pre-medical sciences program.
The new Miss USA’s family has a history of incredible academic and athletic achievement. Her father, Delano, graduated with honors from Duke’s medical school after being the first African American to gain admission to the program. At the age of 27, Delano decided to pick up competitive running. In the 1971 AAU Outdoor Track and Field Championships, he ran the 100-yard dash in nine seconds, a time that would have named him the world record holder had the wind not been blowing harder than the allowed strength for the race to count for record contention. Sports Illustrated featured him on their cover that same year, with the headline “The Amazing Dr. Meriwether.” Meriwether’s mother, Nomvimbi, grew up in South Africa where she became one of the first black female lawyers in the country.
These days, Meriwether is trying to decide which parent’s footsteps to follow in. She has taken the MCAT and the LSAT, but is leaning towards pursuing the medical path. With her father, she co-founded the Meriwether Foundation, a non-profit geared toward improving lives in the countries of southern Africa. The organization creates HIV/AIDS programs, opens schools and orphanages, and works to improve water quality and agricultural practices.
Originally published in March/April 2013