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'Grandma, it's Miss USA': Pageant winner gets surprise reunion

When Miss USA Erin Brady was growing up in Connecticut, her grandmother would often encourage her and her sisters to put on pretend pageants where they were crowned the winner.

Sunday night, after that fantasy came true, Brady called her grandmother and said, "Grandma, it's Miss USA."

Brady knew her win would mean she'd be separated from her beloved grandmother for months. But on TODAY Tuesday, Miss Connecticut and the woman who inspired her were able to share a surprise hug.

Today
Recently-crowned Miss USA Erin Brady has a surprise reunion on TODAY with her grandmother, Theresa Brady, who inspired her as a young girl.

“Oh my God, my heart is racing,’’ a tearful Brady said as her grandmother, Theresa, appeared in Studio 1A. “You made my day.”

Miss Connecticut takes the Miss USA crown

Theresa Brady told Erin and Matt Lauer about watching Erin earn the Miss USA crown on TV.

Today
Theresa Brady joked that "it's a wonder the police didn't come, we were so loud with joy,'' when talking about the reaction of seeing her granddaughter become Miss USA.

“You just wouldn’t want to be in my living room,’’ Theresa said. “It’s a wonder the police didn’t come. We were just so loud and so with joy. What a day.”

Miss Utah gets second chance to answer 'confusing' question

“She couldn’t be there to see me, but she said she was screaming at the top of her lungs,’’ Erin said.


Theresa was a strong figure during a turbulent upbringing for Erin, who was independent at a young age and dealt with family members' alcoholism. In addition to raising awareness about breast cancer during her travels as Miss USA, she also wants to help children in families affected by drug and alcohol abuse.

Today
Miss USA Erin Brady (at right, seated next to Miss Utah Marissa Powell) was stunned to see her beloved grandmother show up on the set of TODAY after thinking she wouldn't see her for at least another few months.

“I just want people to know that you don’t have to get caught up with things like that,’’ she told Lauer. “You can actually make a better change for yourself and you can come out on top, and not be a stereotype and not fall into the tradition that sometimes happens when you’re in a family of that kind of reputation. You can rise up and become Miss USA.”

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    Steve Marcus / X00642

    Image: Miss Connecticut Erin Brady reacts as she is crowned by Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether during the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

    Miss Connecticut wins Miss USA 2013

    Fifty-one hopefuls were whittled down to one winner after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions.

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    Other contestants congratulate Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, after she was crowned during the Miss USA pageant at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 16.

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  • Image: Miss Connecticut Erin Brady reacts as she is crowned by Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether during the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

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    A crowning achievement -

    Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, was crowned by Miss USA 2012, Nana Meriwether, shortly after the winner was announced.

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  • Image: Miss Connecticut Erin Brady reacts with Miss Alabama Mary Margaret McCord as Brady is named Miss USA 2013 during the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

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    A pause before the win -

    Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, stands in her glittering gown with first runner-up Miss Alabama, Mary Margaret McCord, as Brady is named Miss USA 2013 during the final moments of the pageant.

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    Rocking out -

    The Jonas Brothers perform during the Miss USA 2013 swimsuit competition in Las Vegas on June 16.

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    Swimming in style -

    Miss South Carolina, Megan Pinckney, competes in the swimsuit competition in a bright yellow suit with orange sarong.

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  • Image: Miss Connecticut Erin Brady competes in the swimsuit portion of the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

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    Orange stunner -

    Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, struts down the catwalk in an orange swimsuit.

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    Ready for summer -

    Miss Texas USA 2013, Ali Nugent, strutted down the runway in a bright blue ensemble.

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    Las Vegas local -

    Miss Nevada, Chelsea Caswell, from Las Vegas, Nev., walks the runway during the introductions. She didn't live far from where the competition took place.

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    Texas sparkles -

    Miss Texas, Alexandria Nichole Nugent, walks the runway during the opening number. Nugent founded a charity called “Crowns for Heroes,” which raises money to build special houses for severely wounded soldiers.

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    Making the cut -

    Miss Illinois, Stacie Juris, is announced as one of the 15 finalists.

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    Sweet 15 -

    Miss South Carolina, Megan Pinckney, is announced as one of the 15 finalists. One of her hobbies is perfecting her recipe for the world's greatest French toast.

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    Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, is announced as one of the 15 finalists. Raised in a difficult home environment, she was the child of parents struggling with addiction, and has made it her mission to help break the cycle.

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    The final 15 are announced -

    The final 15 contestants take part in the bikini contest, and then the competition pool gets even smaller.

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    Say hello to the hosts -

    Recording artist Nick Jonas (left) and television personality Giuliana Rancic hosted the Miss USA 2013 pageant together. The Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas' band, also performed.

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    The contestants of Miss USA 2013 -

    All the contestants on stage in Las Vegas, standing with Donald Trump.

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The Bradys' emotional reunion had TODAY viewers tearing up as well.

Grandma.....it's+Miss+USA!+@todayshow+it's+too+early+for+Kleenex!+Great+job+@todayshow

—+Tropical+Winds+(@DaytonaBestMix)+June+18,+2013+


@todayshow+you+just+made+me+tear+up,+surprising+Miss+USA+with+her+Grandma...+So+sweet!

—+Lena+(@Leenie520)+June+18,+2013+


That+segment+is+exactly+why+I+love+the+@todayshow.+#MissUSA+#SecondChances+and+Heartfelt+#Surprises

—+David+Arnold+(@Arnezzy)+June+18,+2013+


Thanks,+@todayshow,+for+making+me+cry+on+the+treadmill+this+AM+watching+#missusa+reunite+with+her+grandma+#itwassweatnottears

—+Kate+Hogan+(@misskph)+June+18,+2013+


Way+to+go+@todayshow,+that+actually+made+the+tears+flow...+A+grandma+reunited+with+Granddaughter!+Awesome!

—+Marilee+Nutt+(@GrammaRules)+June+18,+2013+


At 25, Brady was one of the older contestants in the field, and she believes her age was an asset in the competition.

“I think that maturity-wise, you’re at a different state,’’ she said. “I’m more comfortable with myself now than I was two, three, four years ago when most people do compete. Maturity does help.”

Brady is leaving her career as an accountant for her Miss USA obligations.

“It’s always been a passion of mine,’’ she said about the Miss USA competition. “I’ve always wanted to pursue it. I had said to myself, ‘You know what, I think it’s time for a change, I’m think I’m going to go for it.’’’

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