Tuesday, May 22, 2012

By Dyra Agus Prasetyo

Born on 24 May 1985, Nana Meriwether, Miss Maryland USA 2012, is an accomplished athlete, student and humanitarian. Nana grew up in Maryland and attended the prestigious Sidwell Friends School that has on its record alumni and current students: Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore Jr, the Obama daughters, the Biden’s grandchildren, and the Roosevelt and Nixon children. In high school, she participated in Varsity Volleyball, Basketball and Track and Field. Nana is one of a few Sidwell students to ever earn 12 varsity letters, having played a varsity sport all throughout her high school career.

1. If you would like to describe your self in one word, and what word would it be, and why? Dynamic! I am a very ambitious, self motivated, hard working multitask-er who has aspired to and succeeded in conquering some pretty major goals in life. For example, when I attended UCLA (which is academically now ranked the 11th best university in the WORLD, Go Bruins!), I did not just work hard and excel in the classroom as an honor roll student, but I earned NCAA All American Volleyball honors 2 years in a row! After college while simultaneously running the international non-profit I co-founded, I played professional volleyball overseas in Puerto Rico and trained for the 2008 Olympics in Colorado Springs. Today, I am not just running for Miss USA, but I am concurrently finishing premedical science classes and applying for admission to medical school.

2. How many time have you participated in the state pageant? 
I began my journey in 2006 when I ran for Miss California USA 2007. Placing as high as 1st Runner Up in 2010, I tried 4 times in California. In 2011 after I completed post graduate studies at The University of Southern California, I moved back home to Maryland and decided to compete for Miss Maryland USA 2012! I tried a total of 5 times to finally represent my beautiful home state of Maryland!

3. What are the aims / goals / your motivations so that you were trying hard to conquer your title and win a right to represent the state to Miss USA pageant? 
When preparing for my state title I broke the competition down. Every day of training I would focus on certain parts like interview, working out, walking etc in order to make the journey a little less intimidating. To help motivate myself to work hard and prepare, I kept in mind certain goals. For example, I really wanted to win my state title so that I could help leverage my non-profit The Meriwether Foundation, to more national recognition. I am passionate about helping better rural communities in Southern Africa and winning the title of Miss Maryland USA meant I could more greatly bring awareness to the plight of those less fortunate overseas.

4. Now, everybody knows that you are the queen of your state in the USA system, do you think that winning the state pageant is a gift or a responsibility? 
From following the Miss USA system year after year, I have come to find the role of a titleholder to be a full time job. You have several appearances weekly and now because of the growth of social media outlets where fans and supporters have more access to titleholders, you find yourself fulfilling responsibilities as a titleholder even on your “time off”. Although it is a lot of hard work, it is a job I never want to give up! It is a gift that 51 women out of millions get to experience each year and I am truly humbled and count my blessing everyday that I am Miss Maryland USA 2012!

5. What is the biggest changing of your self between before your were crowned and after the crowning?
The biggest change I have gone through is I have grown more mentally tough. I think people expect titleholders to turn a blind eye to the negative and plain hurtful comments that are posted about us everyday, but they are hard to ignore. Although I have used all the negativity said about me to help motivate me on my journey, I still urge people before you press enter to bash and bully anyone of my fellow contestants and I, please remember we are human beings just following our dreams. You never know what someone has been through and how damaging a comment can really be. So in all the biggest change I have gone through is I have learned how to use negative comments to help drive me to the crown!

6. We know that the swimsuit round is apart of the MUO pageant, meanwhile there are some countries a woman isn't allowed wearing swimsuit in a public cause they think that it can demean women. Do you think so? 
We must all be more sensitive to other cultures. It is not my place to judge other people and countries who based on culture, personal or religious beliefs do not allow wearing a swimsuit. I instead look to embrace such differences in opinion and use them to learn and broaden my global outlook.

7. You know, this year will be tough year for Miss USA pageant, so many beautiful contestants, do you get any pageant training from your state director? would you like tell us a lil bit about your preparation to the Pageant? 
My team is simply the best!! My directors have been doing this for years and also direct New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Delaware. I have full confidence I will be most expertly prepared come Miss USA. I have a decorated coach (Michelle Holmes) and meet frequently with my state directors to ready the little details that come with competing. I am also beginning to up my workout regime and clean out my diet. I played volleyball for UCLA and ended up leading my team to the NCAA Final Four. The discipline and work ethic needed for competing at such an elite level in volleyball mirrors my preparation for Miss USA. I am excited for this journey and for the hard work to come with my experienced team!

8. Which one is more important, winning the Miss USA crown or making friendships with the other 50 contestants? 
I don’t think you have to pick. I think you can cherish both. I am always turned off by contestants who are not humble and respectful of others. Even in my volleyball days playing for UCLA, in Puerto Rico and training for the Olympics, I have always respected my opponents. To take on a harsh competitive agenda where you vilify your opponents only hurts you. I take on the mindset that I am not competing against the 50 other contestants, I am competing against myself and working hard to put the best version of myself out there. As a result, I am very focused on winning the Miss USA crown and on the way I know I am going to make the friends that will last me a lifetime. These are the women who will be at my medical school graduation, my wedding, my children birthdays

9. What is the biggest present that you have ever received? 
The best present I ever received was the gift of education from my parents. They grew up segregated against but used education a route to a better life. My dad is now a doctor my mom has na law and business degree and she is a CPA. I was blessed to go to the same school as Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore Jr, the Obamas etc then I went to UCLA for undergrad and did postgraduate work at University of Southern California.Now I'm applying to medical school.

Special thanks to the State Director of Miss Maryland USA and Nana herself for making this interview is possible. We wish Nana the very best of luck at Miss USA 2012 :) 
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