Miss Maryland, you did us proud.
Clearly, Meriwether didn't lose because her resume was lacking. It's impressive enough that she graduated from Washington's prestigious Sidwell Friends School (where the alumni list includes the children of presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Nixon and Clinton, and where the Obama girls are currently enrolled), that she was a two-time All-American volleyball player at UCLA, and that she's scouting around for med schools to enter come fall.
But Meriwether is also co-founder of The Meriwether Foundation, an international nonprofit group that organizes and supports orphanages, schools, rural clinics and community and agricultural projects in southern Africa. Meriwether founded the organization, according to the Miss Maryland USA website, inspired by similar work her parents had done in the 1980s.
During the interview segment of Sunday night's pageant, Meriwether said she looked up to Angelina Jolie — not because she's an Oscar-winning actress, but because of the work she's done in under-developed countries.
"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 when her turn came to answer the pageant's impromptu questions. "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."
It's also clear that the 6'-1" Meriwether didn't lose because she was lacking in pageant experience. She entered four straight Miss California pageants, from 2008-2011, according to the Pageant Updates page at shinymeteor.blogspot.com (a serious treasure-trove of information for all beauty-pageant groupies). She finished as high as second (in 2008), which begs one question: What was California thinking?
And she comes from good stock, apparently. Her dad, William Delano Meriwether, a hematologist and competitive runner, made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1971, while he was living in Baltimore. The article inside was titled, "Champion of the Armchair Athletes." (Thirty-five years later, his daughter earned a mention in SI for her volleyball prowess.) In 1976, he oversaw the U.S.'s swine flu inoculation campaign.
In interviews conducted before the pageant (and viewable at YouTube), Meriwether says the one "great thing" she'd like to do would involve "managing all the different aspects of my life" (given that she's playing volleyball, getting ready for medical school, running a charitable foundation and entering beauty pageants, managing her schedule is clearly a priority). She says the one thing about her that drives people crazy is "I'm always on top of things … It does get on people's nerves a little, 'cause they tell me to loosen up a bit" (way to make your weakness sound like a strength, right?). She's against pornography ("I don't believe in subjugating the human body for that kind of entertainment") and legalizing marijuana ("But it could help stabilize our economy," she adds diplomatically).
In coming so close to the crown, Meriwether nearly became the first Marylander since 1957 to be named Miss USA. That year, Glen Burnie's Mary Leona Gage took the top prize, only to be disqualified a short time later — she was married, a clear violation of pageant bylaws. Miss Utah, Charlotte Sheffield, took the crown in her stead.