Miss USA travels back to her South African roots

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Beauty queen Nana Meriwether, the current Miss USA, landed in Cape Town yesterday (May 16) to visit different charity projects she initiated with her South African mother.

Meriwether’s mother Nomvimbi Meriwether was born and raised in Soweto but left the country in 1979. She married Wilhelm ‘Del’ Meriwether and the couple has three children.

Miss USA Nana Meriwether with her mom Nomvimbi and dad Wilhelm 'Del' Meriwether. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Miss USA Nana Meriwether with her mom Nomvimbi and dad Wilhelm ‘Del’ Meriwether. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Nana Meriwether, who lives in New York, was crowned Miss USA on December 19. Her current trip around South Africa is being made into a documentary film for broadcast on American TV screens.

Her parents, a stylist and camera crew will travel with her to Soweto, villages and the Victoria Falls area to expose the work that the non-profit Meriwether Foundation she started with her mother in 2006. The latter sets up medical centres and sustainable gardening projects in villages.

Meriwether said her parents “are such big inspiration.”

“I have a lot to live up to. My dad was a doctor and did pro bono medical work in villages. My mother did community work too. They were married in the US but lived in South Africa for eight years,” said Meriwether.

While she started her trip yesterday in the plush Pepperclub Hotel, a reflection of the country’s wealth, she would soon be roughing it up in dusty villages.

Meriwether said the contrast between rich and poor astonished her. But she wanted to use the documentary film to show Americans the “most beautiful country.”

“A lot of Americans don’t know what it is to be outside America. I tell them SA is so diverse. I’ve been blessed to have my mom having that influence in my life. We’d eat SA food in America. I grew up with a global perspective,” she said.

Meriwether said while she does not speak any South African languages, she can “understand when people are talking about me in Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa.”

Her trip will include a visit to her grandparents in Soweto this weekend.

Other than that, beauty business involves a lot more hard work than just dressing up, she said.

“This is a job. You work nine-to-five. People think it’s glamourous,” she said.

“There’s a misconception that the person who wins this title just has a beautiful face. This pageant is about strong women. I’m lucky to be a representative for them. It’s been a blessing to be Miss USA.”

And after her year as reigning title-holder she will “maybe later on in my life get into politics. I want to educate people on what it’s like to not be American.”

Nomvimbi Meriwether said she was proud of her daughter who is “about beauty inside.”

“My (three) children have been privileged. I reminded them they have a life up there but they should remember where their mother started in Soweto,” she said.

“Nana is an American but she has African roots. She has to remember people in Africa who need help and she should make a difference.”

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Journalist Yazeed Kamaldien with Nana Meriwether at the interview on May 16 2013.

Journalist Yazeed Kamaldien with Nana Meriwether at the interview on May 16 2013.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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