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pageantry interview ● nana meriwether Next in Line As she watched Olivia Culpo’s crowning moment as Miss Universe, Nana Meriwether realized that it was her time to step up and shine as the next Miss USA T he Miss Universe Pageant was obviously an in- credible milestone for fans in the United States, as it marked the first time in 15 years that an American woman took home the biggest crown from the grandest stage. But lost in the hubbub of patriotic pride and the coming year of celebratory bliss is that on that one particular holiday season evening, just six days before Christmas, Olivia Culpo wasn’t the only young lady receiving the gift of a lifetime. On the other side of the country, Miss Maryland USA Nana Meriwether also real- ized just how magnanimous Olivia’s win was. Six months earlier, in front of a live audience of thou- sands and with a TV viewership of millions, Nana’s name was called as the first runner-up at the 2012 Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas. And as she watched Olivia’s joyous and tearful reaction, Nana suddenly realized that she was now Miss USA. With a shortened reign ahead of her, Nana knows that she’s going to need to make her efforts count. Pageantry magazine: Looking back, not only around Christmas time, but January 9th, when did it finally hit you that you were the new Miss USA? Nana Meriwether: It hit me on December 19th, when our former Miss USA Olivia Culpo won Miss Universe. I was living in New York City and I went to a restaurant with a couple of friends to watch the Miss Universe pageant. It was my friend’s restaurant and we made him turn off the Knicks game to watch Miss Universe. By the end of the night, the entire restaurant was into and cheering Olivia on. Then everyone around me was like, “Wait, does that make you Miss USA?” So it was a great Christmas gift, and it was such a surprise because it hasn’t happened in 15 years. And then into the New Year, I was crowned Miss USA by Donald Trump and I don’t think any Miss USA has ever been crowned by the boss. 84 PAGEANTRY PM: It’s a very unique situation that you’re in, and you’ve just alluded to it. This isn’t something that hap- pens every day. NM: It’s not, and it literally happened overnight. I don’t think a lot of people understand what being Miss USA means beyond the title. It’s a full-time job, as you have stuff going on Monday through Friday from 9-5, whether it’s in the offices here in Midtown or you’re out at interviews or events. Then there’s the stuff in the evenings—red carpets, charity events, galas—and you’re also working on week- ends. You have a very busy schedule and it takes a very spe- cial kind of woman. I’ve sought advice from former titleholders, and Olivia has helped me out. It’s such a bless- ing to be where I am, but it’s a lot of hard work. PM: As the stars aligned, you were already in New York, so it was just the packing of a few suitcases and moving over. NM: I took a cab over here with a couple suitcases, and now I live in Midtown, which isn’t too far from where I was living. It’s a new neighborhood—more New York with the tall buildings and the businessmen walking around