Former Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t miss many slam dunks. Nana Meriwether is a slam dunk, and Shaq missed it.
Meriwether, who will travel from her home in New York to take part in the fifth annual Wild Fox Model Beach Volleyball Tournament on South Beach this weekend, is a former Miss USA (2012) who followed an All-American volleyball career at UCLA with postgraduate work on a USC medical degree, which she put on hold to run a namesake nonprofit that provides health care in five African nations.
The South African-born Meriwether’s father was the first African-American to integrate Duke University Medical School (Dr. Delano Meriwether also was a world-class track star in the 100-yard dash), and her mother overcame apartheid in Soweto and turned a United Nations scholarship into a law degree in the United States. In December, Nana Meriwether was asked by the United Nations to speak at a tribute to President Nelson Mandela at the United Nations Correspondents Dinner.
But she’s not all work: Last Friday, Meriwether attended Howard Stern’s celebrity-studded 60th birthday bash in New York, posting an Instagram video of Steven Tyler and Slash ripping through Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and calling it the “sweetest birthday party I've ever been to!”
So, pretty awesome. Meriwether and Shaq went on a date last summer, and … she’s still waiting for Shaq to set up a second date. Diesel, are you KIDDING me?!
Describing him as a great date — “He’s down to earth, really, really funny, a gentleman, a great guy” — Meriwether doesn’t put the onus entirely on Shaq.
“We’re both such busy people,” Meriwether says. “Maybe in the future.”
The relationship got started last year after Meriwether started a brief social-media wave with her published admission that not only was she chronically single, but found it so difficult to meet a guy in New York that a former Miss USA had an online dating app on her phone.
Meriwether says Shaq “heard about my situation,” and worked the publicist network until he got her phone number. He called and asked her to a movie. Of course, it happened to be the New York premiere of “Grown Ups 2,” in which Shaq also appeared.
“It was a very traditional way of asking a girl out,” she says. “He was such a gentleman. It was a great evening.”
Meriwether says she’s open to a second date, but is not waiting by the phone. Nor does she think any woman should.
“We’re really ambitious. We’re educated. We’re career-driven. So we’re not settling, you know what I mean?” Meriwether says. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I’m single. I’m not dwelling on the fact that I don’t have a man. Right now, I’m focusing on what I’m doing with my career.”
The job of running a nonprofit like the Meriwether Foundation involves being the public face of the organization and shmoozing in places where potential donors may be. So she attended the Stern bash, assorted Super Bowl events (she Instagrammed a shot with a grinning Broncos coach John Fox, taken before ... you know), and she's joining some of her model friends at this weekend's Model Beach Volleyball Tournament.
While it all sounds like fun and games, it can make for some long days, she says. But the cause is worth it.
Her foundation (MeriwetherFoundation.org), created by Meriwether and her parents in 2007, offers health, nutrition and educational programs in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Meriwether was born in South Africa while her parents were doing similar work there in 1985.
“We started in health, so we built clinics. But once you’re on the ground you realize other social services are needed. So usually on our sites there’s a hospital, a school, an agricultural project, and we also bring water,” she says. “The goal is to build resilient communities.”
The Model Beach Volleyball Tournament will include at least 10 teams of local modeling-agency talent, sprinkled with celebrity fashion figures such as Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar star Nina Agdal.
Meriwether, who was a 6-foot middle blocker at UCLA, is supposed to serve as a "coach" for the matches, but is looking forward to getting on the court, too.
"Why not? I haven't played since, like 2006-2007, so it'll be a joke," she says with a laugh. "But it'll be fun. I hope it's like riding a bike."
The Model Beach Volleyball Tournament takes place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the beach at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive on Miami Beach. Admission is free, but VIP cabanas are available. Portions of the event will be broadcast live on ESPN Deportes and Power 96. Info: ModelBeachVolleyball.com.
HERE'S TO OLDER MODELS
Mature motorcycles will be appreciated this weekend in downtown West Palm Beach with the inaugural Iron and Clematis Vintage Motorcycle Festival, a family-friendly homage to models more than 25 years old. Set up in the 500 block of Clematis Street from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, the festival will include local and national vendors, lectures, a pinup fashion show and trophies for the best old bikes, scooters and café racers on display. There also will be live music from local bands who fly the grease-stained flag of the gearhead, including rockabilly revivalists Slip and the Spinouts and the Buckleheads. The afterparty at Longboards will include a performance by the Riot Act. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, the action will move to Palm Beach International Raceway. where all comers can put bikes through their paces (advance registration recommended). Sponsored by Palm Beach Gardens-based Vintage Iron Club and Ace Café London, festival admission is free. A portion of the proceeds will go to Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit that provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Info: VintageIronClub.com.
PAPA DON'T TAKE NO MESS
Speaking of motorcycles, “Orange County Choppers” patriarch and all-around badass Paul Teutul Sr. is scheduled to appear at the eighth annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, Feb. 21-23, 2014 at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Among the auction items at the event (benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County) will be a walk-on part in his CMT show and several of his extraordinary motorcycles. Info: BocaCDE.com.
Cupcake Burlesque is about to go medieval on your assemblage of friends with a performance of “A Song of Vice and Desire — A Game of Thrones Burlesque” on Saturday night at Respectable Street (518 Clematis, West Palm Beach). Joined by members of the male Hurly Burly burlesque troupe, Fort Lauderdale-based Cupcakes Jenna Beth, Candy Muldune, Layla DeVine, Lila Starlet and Francean Fanny will perform with special guests Ember Furie, Kissa von Adams, Mekaella DeMure, Ivan Strange, Brian Rouse, Patrick P. Smash and Rhadamanthus Sardonico. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets: $10 ($8 advance). Info: CupcakeBurlesque.com.
Chippendale’s cannot get enough of South Florida, as we, apparently, cannot get enough of them. The Las Vegas-based male revue did such strong business during its three-week run at Mansion last month, that the boys will return to the Miami Beach nightclub for a five-week stretch beginning Feb. 20. Unsurprisingly, the first night is already sold out. Info: Chippendales.Wantickets.com.
It’s not a surprise that Hollywood’s ArtsPark is the setting for a fine Saturday-night double bill of South Carolina indie rockers Old You, fronted by the lovely Young-Mi Feldsott, and chick-powered hometowners Beach Day, because that is what they do in downtown Hollywood. They rock. The show will run from 8 to 11 p.m. Admission is free. Info: 954-921-3500, VisitHollywoodFL.org.
GET THEE TO THE GREEK
While the building looks like a squat, huggable R2D2, the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Greek Festival can be a hard sell for kids with less adventurous palates and low tolerance for the instrument. But this year, you’ll find a couple of new menu items, a Greek burger (basically flattened meatballs called keftedes) and Greek fries (with feta), and an expanded kids area with eight rides. We trust the three-day festival’s well-earned reputation for personal warmth, a hot dance floor and icy retsina will be on fine display. Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $5, younger than 12 free, as are military, police and fire personnel. Parking $5 at Holiday Park and ArtServe. The church is at 815 NE 15th Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Info: 954-761-3378, Facebook.com/FTL.Greekfest.
The most recent South Florida set by Robert Randolph and the Family Band was deemed much too short by the cult of fans that gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale for Lauderdale Live. On Sunday, Randolph and friends will play a free show at the 43rd annual Tribal Fair at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The band is scheduled to go on at 6 p.m. Info: MyHRL.com.
TURKEY LEGS AND BREASTS
The Florida Renaissance Festival returns this weekend to Quiet Waters Park (401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach) for a run through March 16. What you really want to know: The cleavage contest known as Bodacious Bodices Weekend is Feb. 22-23, the steampunk extravaganza of Time Travelers Weekend is March 1-2, and the new Game of Thrones Weekend closes the fair March 8-9. Tickets: $20, kids ages 2 to 11 will be admitted for $9. Season passes: $65, $30. Info: Ren-Fest.com.
The late Pete Seeger was Americana way before any of us were. Get an appreciation for his remarkable life and music at “Carry It On: A History of the Labor Movement Through Song” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Worth Playhouse (713 Lake Ave.). Tickets: $20, $25 advance; $26, $30 at the door. The performances from a variety of local, like-minded musicians benefit three local nonprofits: Lake Worth Playhouse, Flamingo Clay Studio and the downtown Lake Worth arts organization LULA. Call 561-586-6410, or go to LakeWorthPlayhouse.org. Hit the link for more South Florida memories of Pete Seeger.
OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS
On Saturday, fado sensation Antonio Zambujo (The New York Times’s Jon Pareles called his vocals “riveting”) will make his debut at Carnegie Hall, but on Friday he performs at the intimate Aventura Arts & Cultural Center (AventuraCenter.org) … Panic! at the Disco is sold-out! at the Fillmore on Saturday (FillmoreMB.com) … Big Head Todd & the Monsters bring songs from the rootsy new album “Black Beehive” to Revolution Live on Saturday (JoinTheRevolution.net) … Locos por Juana plays a “Bob Marley Cumbia Tribute” on Saturday at The Stage (TheStageMiami.com) … Jars of Clay turned to Tucker Martine (Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, the Decemberists) to produce their latest LP, “Inland.” Get some at the Culture Room on Sunday (CultureRoom.net) … Pianist Christopher O’Riley, who once put out an album of Radiohead covers, plays West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center on Wednesday (Kravis.org) … One of the unsung progenitors for the digital scrapbooking made popular by acts such as Daft Punk, Alan Parsons will show how this music can be created by a flesh-and-blood human (and without a helmet) next Thursday at Hard Rock Live (MyHRL.com) … ¡MayDay! will play a rare local show at Blackbird Ordinary on Thursday (BlackbirdOrdinary.com) …