By MIKE CHAIKEN
Erin Brady now belongs to America.
But only a few weeks ago, she belonged to Connecticut. And in a few months, she could belong to the world.
Up until June 16, Erin, a resident of East Hampton, Conn., had been “merely” Miss Connecticut USA after being crowned several months ago in Farmington. But on June 16 that changed when she beat out women from across the nation to be crowned Miss USA at the finals held in Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Pageant fans lit up Facebook and Twitter after her victory. And her crowning helped stoke a considerable amount of state pride.
Since her crowning, Erin has been caught up in a whirlwind of activity. But last week, she returned home for a week to make local appearances, to meet the local press, and to visit with friends and family who have not seen her since she won the crown. Only home for a couple of days, Erin’s schedule was jam-packed. But she took time out during a reception at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford last Thursday to talk about her experiences thus far.
“My life has been absolutely unbelievable (since winning Miss USA),” Erin said. “I was moved right from my home into New York City. I’ve always wanted to live in Manhattan, which is wonderful because I’m living there (with Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, of Rhode Island) now as Miss USA.”
“It’s been the experience of a lifetime,” Erin said of her new life as American royalty. “I’ve gotten to do everything to movie premieres to walking the red carpet to great charity work. It’s just been unbelievable.”
When she was crowned Miss Connecticut USA, it was her second time competing at the event, which is the on-ramp for the Miss USA competition.
As far as whether or not winning the Miss USA title had lived up to her expectations, Erin said, “It’s more than I expected it would be.”
“To be honest,” she explained, “I didn’t know what to expect.”
“You hear certain things going into it,” Erin continued, “but the experience is what you make out of it. So everything from charity work to celebrity parties, I’m enjoying every second of it and making the best of it. That’s all I can ask for.”
Erin also, as a new addition to the world of celebrities, is finding out what it’s like for strangers to recognize her on the street.
“It’s really weird,” said Erin, “because I don’t feel any different and now people say, ‘It’s Miss USA!’ and I go ‘Hi!, nice to see you, nice to meet you.’ It’s a little strange. But again, I like talking to people and meeting new people. The experience is awesome.”
Looking back on the Miss USA pageant final itself, Erin was asked to reflect on what was going on in her mind as the evening progressed. “I was waiting to be called into the top 15 (during the finals)… My stomach was churning.”
As the names are announced one by one, Erin said she was thinking to herself, “Aw man, this might not happen for me.”
“Then they called me, number 14,” said Erin. “And then I made top ten, then top five, once I made it to the top five and I answered my (on-stage) question (the final competition of the evening) I was very calm. It’s out of my hands now. if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. And if it’s not, I’m happy with my life as is, I’ll go back to it, and enjoy it and live my life vicariously through Miss Alabama (Mary Margaret McCord, her first runner-up).”
“But I was chosen and it’s really great.”
Next, Erin will be heading off to the Miss Universe pageant on Nov. 9.
“It’s going to be in Moscow, Russia,” said Erin. “We’re leaving Oct. 20 and going for three weeks.”
Moscow is one of those places not many Americans get to visit. Erin said, “I’m honored (to be going to represent America)… It’s going to be myself and 88 other girls. So I’m looking forward to it.”
The preparation work for Miss Universe is already underway, said Erin. “We’re in the process of designing my evening gowns and my national costume. We have a segment where every country designs a national costume, which is exciting.”
Additionally, Erin said, “It’s maintaining your physical shape and mentally preparing yourself for something on a much grander scale (than Miss USA).”
As for the opportunity to visit her home state of Connecticut, at least for a week, Erin said, “It’s amazing. It’s refreshing. And it’s humbling. These people you knew growing up, get to see you in this life (as Miss USA), and live vicariously through you. And the amount of support these past three days of being home has been just astronomical. I mean everybody from 5 years old to 85 years old has said to me how much they support me and how proud they are of me. And I wasn’t really expecting that.”
For more information about Erin Brady, go to MissUSA.com