Miss USA Erin Brady overcame her mother’s divorce to an alcoholic father at a young age and later waitressed to put herself through college.

She moved out of her parents’ house at 18 and took in her younger sister. She worked 12 hour waitressing shifts to support them and to put herself through Central Connecticut State University. She graduated with a finance degree with honors and later got a job as a financial accountant with Prudential.

Brady’s relatives told the Daily Mail that Brady is an “inspiration” and has “always been the big sister” to her two younger siblings and made sure that they did not follow the same path as their father. Her paternal grandmother, Theresa Brady, said about her, “Erin has always watched out for her sisters. She was a real big sister to them, she stepped up to that role and made sure they didn’t get involved with drink or drugs or anything like that.”

Her parents divorced when she was about eight and she and her two sisters lived with their mother. Her father has two convictions for drunk and disorderly behavior and one misdemeanor in 2000 and 2001 respectively. The second time he was ordered to attend a 26 week ‘Family Violence’ course. He hit bottom in 2009 when he trashed the house of his girlfriend and spent three months in jail for breaching an order not to go near her. Despite his troubles, the Brady daughters have remained close to him.

Brady has kept her past obstacles relatively hidden. In interviews she glossed over her past saying that her family had its share of alcohol and substance abuse. She said that it was a “struggle but it shaped who I am.” The momentous responsibility she took on at a young age has made her feel older than she is. Brady has said, “Sometimes I feel like a 35-year-old in a 25-year-old body but the struggles have helped me be better.”

She attended Portland High School in Connecticut and was a member of the choir and the National Honor Society. Her classmates voted her “Best Personality” and she was crowned Prom Queen at the 2004 prom. In her yearbook her motto reads, “Life is too good to feel bad.”

Brady was crowned Miss USA on Sunday, June 16, 2013 at the Planet Hollywood Resort Casino in Las Vegas. She will have the use of a New York apartment for a year and many other opportunities. She had previously won Miss Connecticut 2013, which allowed her to compete in the Miss USA pageant. Brady entered her first beauty pageant last year. She says she waited because in her words she “wasn’t in the right state of mind.”

Her mother, sister Lauren, and her father were in Las Vegas to see her crowned. Brady wants to use the platform of Miss USA to raise awareness of charities which help children of alcoholics. She has said, “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.” There’s no doubt she will achieve that. As her grandmother has said, “She’s a born leader.”

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