Miss USA crown goes to Connecticut contestant
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The newest Miss USA is leaving a white-collar job behind for the glamour and excitement that go with her new role - and she can't wait.
Moments after she was crowned at the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Connecticut accountant Erin Brady said all she could think about was letting her bosses know she won't be coming in tomorrow. Or ever again.
As her family and fiance looked on, Brady beat out other contestants from every U.S. state and Washington, D.C., to take the title, accepting the crown from outgoing queen Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether.
She wore an orange bikini with a matching halter top as she strutted to The Jonas Brothers' "Pom Poms." Later, she donned a strapless gown with a spangled golden corset and long white train.
In the pageant's final minutes, she answered without hesitation a question about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold widespread DNA tests.
"If someone is being prosecuted and committed a crime, it should happen. There are so many crimes that if that's one step closer to stopping them, then we should be able to do so," Brady said.
Miss Utah, meanwhile, apparently stumbled in response to a question about income disparity, providing a rambling, halting answer that included an invocation to "create education better."
As Miss USA, Brady will live in a swanky Manhattan apartment and travel the world raising awareness about breast cancer, but she has an additional goal of her own: Helping children cope with the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, which have marked those close to her.
"I grew up in a family influenced by that and I think it's really important to help the children of families that are suffering from those problems," Brady told The Associated Press.
Her father, Francis, said he always knew his math-oriented daughter was a glamour girl. She and her sisters used to strut around and pretend they were beauty queens.
Her sister, Audrey, 20, said with tears in her eyes that her grandmother, who was watching from home, would orchestrate the pretend shows.
"She'd be like, `Prance around the pool like Miss America.'"
The family was taken by surprise two years ago when Brady announced she would be entering the Miss Connecticut competition, but they cheered her on.
"She just went up there on a whim, man. But it was like, `Just go for it. There should be more people like you who are competing, where it's not all about the hair and the makeup, but personality, too,'" Audrey said.
Brady said she hopes her background will help dispel negative associations held by some toward pageants.
"I think that now more than ever, they're accepting that we're all intelligent individuals and that it's really not a stereotype," she said.
Unlike the rival Miss America pageant, Donald Trump's Miss USA doesn't ask its queens to perform a talent or choose a charity mission.
As suspenseful music played on Sunday night before the winner announcement, Brady held hands with first runner-up Mary Margaret McCord, of Alabama. McCord could be seen saying, "I love you." Miss Illinois Stacie Juris was second runner-up.
Brady's beaming fiance, Tony Capasso, said he advised her to compete without makeup.
The Central Connecticut State University finance major will represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow this winter. Last year's Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, won that international crown, becoming the first Miss USA to ascend to Miss Universe in 16 years. Brady said she is determined to pull off the feat for the U.S. again.
For the next few days, though, she just hopes to unwind with a routine that sounded not very different from her training regime: hitting the gym and getting her beauty sleep.
Yvette Cruz contributed to this report. Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .