South Glastonbury's Erin Brady did it Sunday, becoming the first Connecticut contestant to win the Miss USA title. As the Central Connecticut State University graduate prepares to move on to compete in the Miss Universe contest in Moscow later this year, she is caught up in the midst of Sunday's post-pageant media blitz, a move to New York City, a new regime of pageant preparation and some "pinch me I'm dreaming" moments as the 25-year-old accountant realizes a dream come true. She left Las Vegas Monday, arriving in New York City where she will live for the next year as part of her prize. And in between unpacking, hundreds of interviews and adjusting to her new "career," Brady found some time to Spill the Beans with Java's Maryellen Fillo.
Q: The last time we talked, I asked 'How will we know which one is you on the stage in Las Vegas?' And you said 'I will be the one and only Miss USA from Connecticut.' You knew! When you heard them announce the winner as Miss Connecticut what was your first thought?
A: I was like "Oh my god about 1,700 times. When you are standing up there all you hear are all the people supporting you and the screaming and I'm thinking, 'My life is about to change. This is a Cinderella story.' And living in New York City for a year, that has always been a dream of mine.
Q: And what happens to your job at Prudential Retirement during this life change?
A: When I got into the Miss Connecticut pageant I explained it all to my bosses. They were excited and so funny and said I could do it and take a leave and would have a job when it's over.
Q: What have the last 48 hours been liked emotionally and physically?
A: Leading up to the actual pageant Sunday night there was a lot of excitement and nerves. My mom and dad and their spouses were there, my boyfriend and his family, my aunt, my sisters, some friends, some people from work. Then as the pageant progressed I kept thinking "Oh my god, it could be me!" and what if I win what will it be like. And then they announce my name and I'm thinking for the first time in 63 years Connecticut wins. I am so happy to be the representative for Connecticut and for the country.
Q: Your teachers, your friends, even your ex-employers have wonderful things to say about you and how you are more than a pretty face, but a woman of substance. What has winning meant to you so far?
A: I think I am now able to be a role model. To show young woman that you can fulfill your dream no matter what obstacles you bear. Don't give up on yourself.
Q: You make the top five and then it is question time. What was going through your head?
A: I knew once I made the top five that it was the best of the best. And then you start psyching yourself about the question, hoping you get one that allows you to sound educated and that you will be well-spoken. I keep up with current events so I knew about the DNA testing of criminals and I was calm. After I finished answering, my heart was saying 'I think I have this.' But when it got down to me and Miss Alabama I told myself that if it's meant to be it's meant to be and she was a great competitor. Even if I lost to her it was still a win to me because I got that far.
Q: So that brings us to Miss Utah, who perhaps could have used some of your talent. What do you think?
A: It's nerves. You are in front of millions of people and you are asked a controversial question and have to be eloquent on the spot. Unfortunately sometimes nerves get the best of you and I think that is what happened to her. I think she is handling herself well in the aftermath. I saw her before I left. My heart goes out to her.
Q: Based on my Facebook messages and emails, you are making believers out of women who used to trash beauty pageants, I think because who from New England ever wins a national pageant. Do you feel like you have become some kind of heroine?
A: I think everything happens for a reason, but I feel like I have vindicated New England women. That's the misconception about pageants, that it's all about looks. But it is about self-confidence and your heart and your brain, too. I hope we see more New England winners. I think that good Connecticut water helps, too.
Q: When will you be in Connecticut and what will be the first thing you do?
A: There is going to be some kind of home coming in the next few weeks. I can't wait to see my family and hug everyone.
Q: Now you are headed to the Miss Universe pageant. Is there a good luck charm going with you?
A: My Tweetie bird toy. I have had it since the day I was born. His eyes are missing and he is all dilapidated but he came with me to the Miss Connecticut pageant and I won and he came with me to Las Vegas for the Miss USA pageant and I won. He is coming to Moscow, too.