Beauty queen says Idaho set her up for success on runway and in life
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IDAHO FALLS — Brandi Sherwood holds titles such as Miss Teen USA 1989 and Miss USA 1997, but another honor dear to her heart is being called an Idaho native.
Sherwood was born in Idaho Falls and spent eight years in Pocatello before moving back to Idaho Falls when her dad opened Sherwood Athletics. She attended Idaho Falls High School.
“(Idaho) is my roots. It gave me a solid foundation as a person,” Sherwood said. “I am proud of where I am from.”
Sherwood was the third runner-up at Miss National Teenager at 15 years old. She was also Miss Idaho Teen USA and Miss Idaho USA. She was later crowned Miss Teen USA and Miss USA.
As one of two siblings and the only girl, she took up pageants after watching her cousin participate in one.
“I loved watching,” Sherwood recalls. “I said, ‘Mom, I really want to do that.'”
The small-town girl wasn’t sure what to expect when she was preparing to compete in Miss Teen USA, so she had former Miss Idahos help her pack. She showed up at the competition with 13 bags.
“They were like, ‘You have to have a lot of stuff. You’re competing with these big states,'” Sherwood remembers them telling her as they were throwing things into suitcases.
With time, she learned what to expect as a pageant contender. Sherwood discovered that no matter where a contestant calls home, she can walk away victorious. More importantly, though, she realized that if she used her platform in a positive way, she could make a difference in the world.
From hospital visits, speaking at care homes, working with different charities and organizations and helping in communities, Sherwood did what she could to brighten the world, and she loved it.
“There’s sometimes images of this very glamorous night, and it is, but the year is public service,” Sherwood said. “People don’t realize you have office hours when you win a national title.”
Something that Sherwood said she is passionate about and believes set her apart from other pageant contestants was her promoting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program for youth.
The purpose of D.A.R.E. is to encourage students to avoid using drugs, participating in gangs and having violent behavior.
“I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, and I felt it was important to let kids know it’s okay to not get involved in that and just be who you are,” Sherwood said.
Dean Cochran, an actor and Sherwood’s husband, would go with her to Idaho schools and give motivational D.A.R.E. speeches. They’d talk about self-esteem and goals, all in an effort to try and steer students clear of things that could negatively affect their lives.
“To this day, we’ll sometimes have people come up and go, ‘Oh, my son or daughter was there when you (gave a speech), and it really made an impact,'” Sherwood said.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and D.A.R.E. Officer Mike Miller said he knows the couple got through to the kids with their speeches. He remembers Sherwood telling the students to make the decision when they are young to resist drugs and temptations so they don’t have to worry about it when they’re older.
“Her message was powerful,” Miller said. “Maybe even a little more powerful knowing that even a hometown girl didn’t give up on her dreams.”
Aside from runways and teaching students in classrooms, Sherwood appeared on TV shows and commercials for Wendy’s, DrPepper and McDonald’s. She was a model on the gameshow “The Price is Right” for seven years, before she started a family.
Today, Sherwood lives north of Los Angeles with her two girls, 10 and 5 years old, and her husband of 20 years. She still has cousins living in Idaho and her parents stayed in Idaho up until 2017, when they moved closer to Sherwood.
Occasionally, she visits her old stomping grounds. Even though she’s hundreds of miles away, she hasn’t forgotten where she comes from.
“I talk about Idaho (to my family) and the things I (learned) being raised from there,” Sherwood said. “I try and bring a lot of that to our life here.”