Living her dream

Published 8:25 pm Saturday, January 16, 2010

Many people have dreams; a rare few actually achieve them.

When Liz Cochran’s plane takes off headed for Las Vegas Jan. 21 she begins living her own.

Cochran, Miss Alabama 2009, sets off that day to compete for the title of Miss America.

Cochran credits many for helping her reach her dream: a loving and supportive family; Pelham High School, where her role models — Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone and Miss Alabama 2005 Deidre Downs — also graduated; dance teacher Monica Barrett Smith and Miss Hoover Executive Director Tim Gann.

Smith has been Cochran’s dance teacher since Cochran was a little girl at her studio, Exclusively Ballet and Dance.

“Miss Monica was my mom away from home,” Cochran said. “She taught me not only to dance, but also many of life’s lessons though her experience.”

As the first principle ballerina for the Alabama Ballet, Smith knows the dedication and sacrifice it takes to become a dancer and saw from a young age that Cochran had what it takes.

“Liz is blessed with many gifts,” Smith said. “She is talented, dedicated, and disciplined.”

Smith also trained Whitestone. She remembers the exact words Cochran spoke to her at 9.

“I want you to help me be like her,” Cochran said.

Cochran too remembers that day with clarity; for it was the day she voiced her dream.

In eighth grade Cochran was asked to write on her life’s goals. As she wrote, she literally established a time line in her head, outlining specific achievements to accomplish in her effort to become Miss America 2010.

The greatest influence along the way came from the unexpected death at age 26 of close friend and tap dance teacher, Meredith Ward, from cardiovascular disease. This loss influenced Cochran’s platform, “With Every Beat – Fighting Cardiovascular Disease”. Cochran has partnered with the America Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease and to promote heart-healthy lifestyles. She has written a children’s book, “The Quest for a Healthy Heart” where all the proceeds will go to charity. Her mission is to “encourage people to have a heart-healthy diet, exercise daily, avoid smoking, and control’s one weight, blood pressure, and diabetes.”

Cochran’s first title of Little Miss Pantherette at 12 was the launching pad for her course. Along the way she was named Miss Shelby County Junior Miss; Miss Chelsea Area, Miss Shelby County, Miss Hoover and finally Miss Alabama 2009.

Along with Smith, who choreographed Cochran’s award winning Lion King dance routine, Gann has been extremely helpful to Cochran in the last year.

“Liz is one of the most self-motivated persons I have ever met,” said Gann. “She is agreeable and pliable. I knew when I first saw her emcee; she had what it takes to become Miss America.”

Miss America 2009 Katie Stam was the guest speaker at the Queen of Hearts Fashion Show featuring Cochran and her Top 10 finalists. Stam gave a bit of advice to Cochran as she leaves for the Miss America competition.

“Be yourself, enjoy the moment, and no matter how you place, know you come from a proud state that is behind you, and as Miss Alabama, you are part of a sisterhood, forever,” Stam said.

Cochran is the daughter of Phil and Laura Cochran. You can cheer her on by watching the Miss America special on TLC, January 29, and the Miss America pageant, which will be televised live on TLC at 7 p.m. Jan. 30.