Sidwell Friends has produced Nobelists, politicians, Pulitzer winners and a lot of fancy lawyers and professors. Fair to say it’s not your typical beauty pageant feeder.
But yes indeed, that was a Sidwell alum who went almost all the way to the top at the Miss USA pageant Sunday night. Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether, who was named first runner-up in the flashy Donald Trump-owned competition, graduated from the elite private school in 2003. (**Updated 5:45: Interview with Nana Meriwether**)
Miss Rhode Island, 20-year-old Olivia Culpo, was crowned the winner of the annual pageant, in part for the way she finessed a tricky-by-pageant-standards question about whether Miss USA should allow transgendered contestants.
But let’s talk more about Miss Maryland!
The Potomac native, 27, strutted a Las Vegas runway in short shorts, a pale blue bikini and a diaphanous white gown — but when she opened her mouth, you could tell she wasn’t your typical Miss USA contestant.
While other tiara hopefuls gushed about how much they love horses or dancing or videogames, Meriwether worked the conversation around to her past as an NCAA All-American volleyball star and her plans for med school. And in the televised on-stage interview portion of the competition, her answers had the polished ring of someone who’d prepared a few high-level college admissions essays.
Why does she admire Angelina Jolie? “I was born in a rural village in South Africa while my parents were donating eight years of pro bono medical and community work,” Meriwether explained. “I admire Angelina Jolie because she’s exposing her children to the way I grew up, and I really connect to the way she’s raising her kids to be more globally aware.”
At Sidwell — where she graduated six years after Chelsea Clinton and six years before Sasha and Malia Obama enrolled — Meriwether broke school records in track, lettered in basketball, and was the Washington Post’s Player of the Year in volleyball. She started at Duke before transferring to UCLA, and was invited to train and try out for the 2008 U.S. Olympic volleyball team. During the pageant broadcast, she said she also played professionally in Puerto Rico.
Her father, Dr. Wilhelm Delano Meriwether, once made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the top American 100-yard dash runner in the early ‘70s; he later oversaw the nation’s 1976 swine flu immunization campaign. Her mother, Nomvimbi Meriwether, runs a travel agency specializing in African tours.
UPDATED read more: Miss USA runner-up Nana Meriwether of Maryland: I was a high school wallflower (Elements of these two stories appear combined in Tuesday’s print edition.)
Read earlier: Sidwell Friends’s secretive traditions revealed in new satiric novel, 11/30/11
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