Right now, New York City is floundering in icy, slushy chaos. The high hardly breaks 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, everything here at home is perfect blue skies and sunscreen on sandy beaches. It's no wonder Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriweather can't wait to get her butt down here.
The former Olympically-trained volleyball player will brush up on her spiking skills and try to lead her team of gorgeous bodies to victory in the fifth-annual Wildfox Model Beach Volleyball tournament. It's competitive sports for a good cause, with support for the Irie Foundation -- but watching all those models compete is worth it alone, right?
Meriweather is no stranger to good-deeds. Her family has been working with South African communities her whole life, and she recently founded her own foundation toward that goal. We spoke to her via phone to learn more about her philanthropic efforts, her sneaky game-plan, and her unfair advantage.
New Times: What have you been up to?
Nana Meriwether: I was Miss USA last year, and I gave up my title in June. I continued to live in New York City, and I work in development and fundraising for Meriwether foundation which is a non-profit organization that I helped co-found. We work in rural and very urban communities in Southern Africa. We've grown now to five countries. We're in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. I'm passionate about it, and I love to do it, so that's what I do during the day. But at night, I still do events and appearances out of New York.
I'd love to hear what drew you to that cause in the first place.
My mom was born and raised in South Africa. My father is an American doctor and in the early 1980s, my mom was studying in the states and she met my dad. They moved to South Africa, they were supposed to stay a year and they ended up staying eight years. I was born during this time. My dad was working in the local hospital, and my mom would help empower women through small business, such as organic farming. They ended up helping over half a million people while they were there for eight years, and that's what this is based off of. We continued working, traveling back and forth, but we started work with the nonprofit in 2007.
Have you ever participated in this crazy Wildfox model volleyball competition?
I have not. This is my first time. Actually, my first time in Miami was during Art Basel, this past one. I loved it. I'm very excited.
Are you naturally sporty? Have you played volleyball before?
I have. I played volleyball for UCLA, and then I played in Puerto Rico and trained for the Olympics. I retired soon after that, so I haven't touched a ball since 2006. We'll see how this weekend goes.
You could be the sleeper cell! You could just come through and wreck it.
But I haven't played in a while.
Do you know what team you're playing on? Are you cooperating with a certain modeling agency?
I think the first day, they randomly pick names out of a hat and then you're matched with that team. I think there's 12 teams, and all the people participating are models, not people.
Well models are people, too.
Yeah, they're a special breed of people. That's what makes this event amazing. They're really competitive, and they'll bring attention, and it's all for a good cause. It's a very uniquely-structured event that I'm looking forward to.
You brought up a good point, that models are very competitive in nature. At first, you think of a bunch of models playing volleyball, you think all these skinny girls are going to be running around in their bikinis, but I bet they're going to be really serious and really go for the throat.
Probably even more so than the coaches. All the coaches are pretty professional or current volleyball players. They have the same nature, I think, when it comes to competition. I think it's going to be a very exciting weekend.
There are coaches. Does that mean you guys are going to have a chance to practice with one another and come up with a game plan?
I think so. I believe that we may even play a game against each other. This weekend is full of surprises. There's going to be a bunch of celebrities and volleyball players. It's a great mix of different worlds coming together for a god cause.
Last year Jamie Fox performed, and that was a big surprise. Anything can happen. There's a stage and a DJ. It's like five degrees in New York. I can't wait to go to the beach in the sun. It's going to be a fun weekend.
Is there actually a champion team that will rise out of this competition? What do the winners get?
Yes! I think the champions get a prize. It's a big gift with all the sponsors, so there's something to work towards.
Other than just bragging rights, which are pretty good.
I think that's way more valuable than the prize package. The agency who wins can just brag for a year. I can't wait to see if there's briberies. I'll learn more when I hit the ground, start asking around. Maybe I'll spread rumors or something to bring the competition down.
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The 5th Annual Wildfox Model Beach Volleyball Tournament. Hosted by Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether. Saturday, Feb. 8, and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 8th and Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. The event begins at 10 a.m. daily and is free and open to the public.
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