Fashion Q&A: Miss USA Nana Meriwether
Fadil Berisha

Just weeks after winning the Miss USA title as the first native of Africa, Meriwether will encounter yet another “first” –– being an honorary spokesperson at the Ambassadors Inaugural Ball. “It is still such an honor to be around such powerful people. I am humbled to be invited,” says Meriwether, who attended school with the nation’s political elite. One thing she doesn’t have to worry about is what she’ll wear. “The Miss Universe Organization has a fabulous team of stylists, hair and makeup,” says Meriwether. Here, the reigning beauty tells us all about it.

ESSENCE.COM: What does your South African heritage mean to you and what is the significance of being the first native of Africa to reign as Miss USA?
MERIWETHER: It was such a gift growing up with a South African mother. It gave me an international perspective that allowed me to be open in considering other countries and travel. With the title of Miss USA, you get a lot of exposure. I look forward to educating and exposing people to what Africa truly is.

Before I was Miss USA I: Was an elite athlete, student and business owner. I did my undergraduate in political science at UCLA, where I was a member of the women’s volleyball team. I played professionally in Puerto Rico and trained in Colorado Springs for the 2008 Olympic Games, after breaking three NCAA records, leading UCLA to a Final Four and becoming a two-time NCAA All-American in college. After UCLA, I completed post-graduate, premedical science classes and the MCAT at The University of Southern California. I am now eligible to apply to medical school. I also founded a social media marketing and management firm called The Epicure Group.

One thing I’m looking forward to as Miss USA now is: Traveling. My mother is South African. I hope to make a trip to southern Africa during my reign.

My stage style is: Fierce but fun.

Worst fashion mistake I ever made during my pageant career is: Listening to other people and not being comfortable in what I am wearing. I have learned when it comes to fashion, it is important to maintain a sense of yourself.

My personal style is: Colorful resort style.

I cannot live without: My Melania Trump jewelry line gold watch that Donald Trump gifted me at Trump Tower after I was crowned Miss USA.

One fashion trick I learned behind the scenes at pageants: It is not something that I have learned, rather that I have developed on my own. This tip goes for styling in everyday life as well! When it comes to fashion, I always look to have three major pieces to an outfit, whether it be a fabulous gown, earring and bracelet or thigh-high boot, statement necklace and tailored blazer. I always pick three major things to make sure my outfit is complete.

My favorite designers: I love Rachel Roy and my stylist Alisha Crutchfield for helping me discover her amazing designs. I also think Max Azria of BCBG and Hervé Leger is a genius.

One item every girl should own: A comfortable, yet colorful maxi dress.

My last purchase was: Cotton spa gloves. After long days of work, events, workouts, charity work and appearances, I lather on my favorite lotion and slip on my cotton gloves to moisturize and treat myself.

The next item on my wish list: I love to buy one statement bikini every year for summer. I usually buy it around this time (January-February) of year as motivation to get myself into the gym.

My fashion icons are: A mix of Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian.

Past beauty queens I admire: Susie Castillo, Crystle Stewart and Shandi Finnessey.

Beauty secret I swear by: I try to have a fresh juice or two everyday. My favorite combination would be an organic kale, cucumber, carrot, beet and ginger juice. I try to workout at least 4 to 5 times a week for at least half an hour. My workouts include vinyasa yoga and running in Central Park, even in the winter!

I feel most sexy when I’m wearing: Bold colors, especially in New York. It is so easy to settle into an all-black wardrobe. I make it a point to incorporate color as much as I can.

One thing you don’t know about me is: My pant inseam is 38 inches. At about 6 feet tall (72 inches), my legs are more than half the total length of my body.