Kira Kazantsev | How the LSAT, Buffalo Wings, and Taylor Swift shaped the last 365 days of my life
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How the LSAT, Buffalo Wings, and Taylor Swift shaped the last 365 days of my life

I feel that it’s always appropriate to reflect at this time of year.

 

At this exact moment last year, I was applying for waitressing jobs in New York City. Walking from restaurant to restaurant — up and down Park Avenue from 57th Street all the way down to 14th Street — looking for a job. I had decided that my parents should no longer have the responsibility of financially supporting me when I made the decision to live in the most expensive city in the world. At the same time, I was waiting for my LSAT score. I had spent 12 hours a day, every day, during the three months prior studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools. I think I applied to 19 — you can imagine the mountain of paper work — and I was preparing to compete for an MAO local competition, Miss City of New York.

While I could have applied for some sort of 9-5 job, I felt that my time commitment to my Miss America goals could not be compromised by that type of responsibility, so I opted for more flexible employment: Hillstone Restaurant on Park and 27th. You can imagine that being a waitress in New York City is challenging, and Hillstone was the ultimate test. With recipes a mile long to be recited from memory and proper table etiquette lessons, I was literally tested for weeks before I could become an actual server. But I got through it all (including the restaurant social hierarchy that is always present among staff), and I was finally making a little money and making my life a little easier. On some nights when I made the 20-minute walk home to my apartment after work, I stopped at a little place on the way where the Buffalo wings were excellent. I would always get them to-go, sit on my couch (regardless of what time I had gotten out of work) and go to town on those wings while watching House of Cards or Newsroom or some witty show. That was “me time.” That’s when I sat and thought and planned and set goals…on my couch, eating wings. Any of my friends can tell you that even now, nothing has changed. And on one of those nights, I realized I could win Miss America, but only if I did it my way.

 

They say it all starts with a local. In February of 2014, it was Miss City of New York…and I had won! I was thrilled to be representing such an amazing place and to hold the name of the city I loved so much as my local title. And boy, did I use it. Through a lot of help from friends and connections and essentially never taking “no” for an answer, I attended every charitable event I could get myself into. I took to developing my platform, even when it seemed like I was climbing an endless mountain and was getting doors shut in my face. But somehow I managed to get some good things done and even started working with Safe Horizon, the largest domestic violence victims assistance agency in the country. Everything was moving in a positive trajectory for me.

In April, my mom and I took a trip to Russia to visit my grandparents. They are too old to travel the long journey to the United States, and even though Miss New York was coming up in May, I thought it was important for me to see them and get a little distraction. I’ve found that putting too much focus on the competition tends to do more harm than good, so the trip was to my benefit. When I got back, it was all hands on deck with finishing touches and last minute prep and then we were at Miss New York before I knew it. The week was a blast. My friends from Miss New York are absolute gems and have been a constant support system through this entire journey. I went into that week thinking that even if I did not win, I had a backup plan and a backup plan for that plan (my late night wing eating had made sure of that). I had been accepted at Notre Dame Law School, and no matter what happened, I was going somewhere and becoming something. However, the day after Miss New York, I made a phone call to Notre Dame to tell them I had won! I deferred my acceptance.

 

I had already started looking for another job, one that was even more flexible. Thankfully I found Harding’s, a great little restaurant on Park and 21st (clearly I don’t get too far from Park Avenue…). They hired me as a hostess. Now as Miss New York, my schedule became even crazier than it already was with the added pressures of preparing for Miss America. Without a business manger, I was also planning almost all of my own appearances, often getting myself there, paying for a lot of things out of pocket, and all while trying to maintain a living in Manhattan. It was a brutal 4 months. In August, I took another trip with my family. This time it was a cruise to Alaska. A lot of people thought I was crazy for going on vacation right before Miss America, but it was the best thing I could have done. I spent time with my family, relaxed, and other than avoiding the buffet, I had an all around amazing time. When I got back, it was time for the final push. My wardrobe had finally arrived and I was ready to go. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. On September 1st, Miss America arrival had finally come. I met my fellow Miss A sisters in Washington, DC and we embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Two weeks later, the unthinkable happened: Miss New York had won…again.

This is about the point where Taylor Swift became my personal guru and “Shake It Off” became the anthem of my life. Through all the negative backlash, nasty rumors, and hurtful words, there was always Taylor to save the day. And conveniently there are Buffalo wings on almost every room service menu in America. To this day, I still throw on Taylor Swift Pandora and dance around my hotel room like no one is watching, or like everyone is watching; it doesn’t really matter to me. Later, when I saw her in all her glory in person at the American Music Awards, it took all my willpower not to run over and awkwardly clutch her while thanking her for getting me through the past 4 months. The fact that Heidi Klum was sitting next to me was not helping.

 

Speaking of the past 4 months, I have changed immensely. I have grown, cried, enjoyed my successes, and dealt with my failures. I have learned so much in the short time I have been Miss America. No other lesson has been more valuable than maintaining my identity through it all. I have said it time and time again: the key to success, at least within MAO, is being real. If you’re the right one for the job…wonderful. If not, there are a million other things that life has prepared for you. You just have to go out and Carpe Diem the heck out of it.

2014 was a year filled with my lowest lows and my highest highs. The juxtaposition of it all is astounding. A few people have asked me what my wish is for 2015. After giving it some thought, I’ve realized I just want to be happy. I want to look back on 2015 and have no regrets. The more positivity I can bring into my life, the better. And all the negativity can be sucked out Cady Heron/army pants and flip-flops style. There is no room for Regina George in my life (please refer to Google if you do not understand the reference).

 

kira1aThank you to everyone for your continued support, I hope to make you proud in 2015! Special thanks to the LSAT that taught me discipline, the Buffalo wings that helped me think, and Taylor Swift for being Taylor Swift.

 

With love,

Kira

11 Comments
  • GREAT post. Thanks, Kira 🙂

    January 5, 2015 at 10:36 pm
  • Kara Smoot
    Reply

    So inspiring! Thanks for sharing, Kira. Congratulations on your perseverance throughout a truly challenging year. You are one heck of a Miss A! <3

    January 5, 2015 at 11:16 pm
  • Kira, you are an inspiration for all women, young and old. There shall be no haters in 2015. You have proved every hater wrong already. In 2015 be yourself. You’ve done your title and all of us proud.

    January 5, 2015 at 11:23 pm
  • Sarah W
    Reply

    Kira, thanks for your reflection. I’m an aspiring MAO competitor. The following thought you shared is one I wrote down and will keep in a prominent place. Wishing you the best in 2015 as you transition! 🙂

    “The key to success…is being real. If you’re the right one for the job…wonderful. If not, there are a million other things life has prepared for you.”

    January 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm
  • Eric Erickson
    Reply

    …… with you all the way; but You already knew that !!
    2015 : best Year EVER, for every person on the Planet.

    January 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm
  • Miranda
    Reply

    I’m sitting here at work stressing about the local highschool pageant I’m competing in next month. I’ve dreamed of winning this since I was little and I just want to thank you Kira for those inspiring words! I hope one day I can be as wise as you!

    January 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm
  • Kennedy
    Reply

    This is truly inspiring to me. Following you on all the social media I possibly can makes me even more inspired. As a pageant queen since the age of 11, you helped me realize that my dreams of becoming Miss America are not far fetched. I hope to one day be in the same line of pageantry as you, to be one of the MAO successors and be an amazing representative like you. I am headed onto the Miss Blossomtime pageant here in Southwest Michigan. I hope to win that to gain way into winning Miss Southwest Michigan, Miss Michigan, and one day Miss America. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration to me, keep going on and shaking off the haters, and stay you! Love you and all you stand for <3

    January 6, 2015 at 8:12 pm
  • Melissa Hoffman
    Reply

    Kira, after meeting you several times, and even sharing a couple of semesters together at Hofstra, I am completely inspired by your journey to the Miss America stage. As a local titleholder myself, the entire feat within itself can be daunting, but you prove that grace under pressure is possible. Thank you again for the generous words and to remind myself to always be happy. PS. Buffalo wings = <3

    January 7, 2015 at 6:05 pm
  • Love ya, Kira! Hope you continue to find happiness every day and share it with others. And I hope that some day you get to try REAL Buffalo wings from our part of the state: Western New York and Buffalo!

    January 11, 2015 at 11:06 pm
  • WCI Student
    Reply

    Kira! I am an 8th grader from WCI and I just met you today! You are so nice and cool. Your speech and this article is so amazing and inspiring! I’m in Digital Journalism and we were sad we didn’t get to interview you afterwards, but it was still awesome. I want to know so much more about you now! Have a wonderful year!

    January 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm
  • CharleeVP
    Reply

    Hi Kira. I just wanted to say that I think you are donig a great job as Miss America and I love the story ou have shared. I never knew buffalo wings were good for anything but burning your mouth. Also I was wondering if you could talk to the organization about the four points of the crown. The STEM could be changed to STEAM because it the A stands for art and you have to have talent right?

    I hope you have a great year. And remember to keep your head high and tat there is ALWAYS a bright side. 🙂

    January 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

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