Kira Kazantsev | Love Conquers Hate
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Love Conquers Hate

I can’t believe it’s the beginning of Week 3! It still feels like just yesterday I was frantically running around Atlantic City with my Miss America sisters, and now I’m waiting to board a flight on my next stop as Miss America.

 

If you’ve been following my first few weeks at all, you know that they have not been the easiest weeks a Miss America has ever faced. But through it all, there is still a job to be done…and I could not be more honored to be doing it.

 

The same day that I needed to fly into Chicago this week, the unfortunate situation at the Chicago area control center took place. Thankfully, the only major problem was the cancellation of thousands of flights and consequently the damage done to the infrastructure of the control center. My flight was among those cancelled, landing me in a Philly hotel room for 24 hours before finally making it to Chicago. But it was worth the wait because my time in Chicago has been one of the best experiences yet as Miss America. I got to spend some wonderful time with the one and only Tony Bowls at the Chicago Bridal Market. Tony Bowls/MonCheri is our fabulous evening gown sponsor. Tony and I also attended the DEBI Awards, honoring designers and retailers in the Bridal, Prom, and Special Occasion industry. I even got to see my Miss America sister, Miss Illinois Marisa Buchheit!

 

During my time in Chicago, I was also able to visit Lurie Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and the tallest children’s hospital in the world, standing at 22 stories tall. Everything down to the elevators in this hospital is child friendly and it was an absolute joy to spend the afternoon visiting with the kids. I was able to spend time in the Family Life Center, making pipe cleaner crowns and going family to family to meet and play with the kids. 40% of the patients at Lurie are Spanish speakers, so my Spanish really came in handy with some of the families that were much more comfortable with Spanish than English.

 

I also visited some of the children’s rooms who were unfortunately not well enough to come down to the Family Life Center. Hospital gown, mask, and all, we went room to room and among these amazing kids was a little girl who had just had a heart transplant two days prior, as well as another little girl with cerebral palsy who was the biggest fan of the Miss America Organization that I have ever met. Her mother wept tears of joy to see her daughter smile and clung to me as hard as her little bones would allow. These are the days that make everything worth it. All of the negativity, all of the hurt, and all of the nonsense suddenly just didn’t matter.

 

Speaking of the nonsense, over the past three weeks I’ve been asking myself this question: “Why the Hate?” Hate is such a nasty emotion. It serves no purpose and leads to no positive outcomes. It is an explosion of bile from within our souls that burns everything around us, including ourselves.

 

I see this hate most prevalently in social media, whether in the form of mean tweets or Instagram comments or I can only imagine what the message boards are spewing these days. (I don’t read the message boards and neither should any other young woman who competes in pageants. Grown men and women bashing young, accomplished women anonymously online…come on. Really? Find something better to do. End rant.)

 

The most amusing thing I have noticed in these mean, hateful comments is this: Every so often, when someone posts something berating my looks or my intelligence or my qualifications for being Miss America, I click on their profile, just to look into the face of my cyber bully. Shockingly, the majority of these people feature a bible verse in their Instagram/Twitter bio, or a list of their priorities, God being first, or something of that nature. These people who are so committed to the grace of God that they feel compelled to write it in their online bios are one in the same with those that attack me from behind computer screens so vehemently.

 

To me, believing in God means acceptance, forgiveness, love, kindness, humility, understanding, patience, virtue, and grace. Who are you to judge, especially if you love God so much that you have published your faith online as your number one priority in life? According to you, God should be the one true judge of character, the one to pass sentencing, the one to reward or punish. That responsibility most certainly is not yours.

 

So, all I have to say is shame on you, all who disgrace the name of God by judging so openly and so hatefully. God sees all. I know that when I go to bed at night, I am a good person with a servant’s heart, faith, and love. I have made my mistakes, admitted them, and have learned and grown from them. What else could you possibly ask of someone in my position? But instead of being supportive, people, most often women (sorry ladies) feel the need to bring others down.

 

This begs the question, and I’ve asked it many times: “Why do women have such a hard time supporting other women?” Whether it is in the work place or among friends or at school or at home, too often we see woman vs. woman combat. To me, this is among the most important factors that keep women’s issues from being non-issues. Why can’t we support each other by accepting diversity and a difference in opinion? Why can’t we lift each other up and be a team instead of tearing each other down to get to the top? Why can’t we see long term and big picture as opposed to our own personal short-term gains and immediate satisfaction? Where is the compassion within our gender for one another and why do we so often let men come between us, consequently controlling us? At one point or another in my life, I have been guilty of all of these things.

 

As Miss America, I have an opportunity to change this. I will speak loudly about it until maybe, just maybe, women will begin to realize that we must stand in solidarity with one another. As the month of September comes to a close, and October begins, also known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we all have a grand opportunity to support each other, to love one another, and to be strong for each other. Whether you have been affected by domestic violence or not, you have an opportunity to help, simply by talking about it and by being nice.

 

Happy women lead to happier families, women in business lead to a better economy, more women in government leads to better government…but we will never get there unless women support women. Plain and simple. Just to put things into perspective for how far behind we are: only 4.8% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. The United States is 84th in the world for including women in politics. Human sex trafficking, the buying and selling of women and girls as sex workers, is the 2nd largest industry IN THE WORLD. 20% of the women that serve in our military have been sexually assaulted. In 2011, a lawsuit was brought against the Department of Defense for sexual assault in the military and lack of policies to protect women. The case was dismissed in a United States court of law, sighting that rape is an OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD of serving in our military. We are still fighting for basic services like daycare for working women, equal pay for equal work, and a man has to beat a woman ENOUGH for the justice system to do anything about it, consequently driving the getaway car for abusers. Most male sex offenders will have 300 victims in their lifetime because there are NO CONSEQUENCES.

 

These are the long-term issues that we should be working to solve instead of cyber-bullying one another. I hope that anyone who reads this will next time think twice before posting that mean tweet or comment, and that they will instead be kind. And those of you who post on the message boards for the sole purpose of ripping women apart are the very reason why the opposite sex too often regards us as silly and fails to take us seriously, the worst thing of all.

 

In the face of all of this, I still have hope, even when my regard for human nature is at an all time low. I need only to take a look at the 52 women with whom I competed at Miss America. If our gender has any hope, it will be because of women like them, fighting the good fight, supporting one another, and being good people to each other. They love deeply, care, and uplift so genuinely. The women of this country need not look much further for role models, as the spirit of solidarity and women’s empowerment lives within the Miss America Class of 2015.

 

Be nice, don’t hate, and please support one another. And just like mom always says, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.”

 

With love and solidarity,

Kira

28 Comments
  • ann Lavine
    Reply

    Thank you Kira, You are one in a million. And you are right God wants us to love one another>

    October 1, 2014 at 3:12 am
  • Aaron Martin
    Reply

    Very proud of you Kira! Excellent post. I am a guy but even I want everyone in my office to read this. I am in Oklahoma City so of course remain very proud of our state’s strong Miss OK / Miss America heritage, but I truly believe you will go down in history as the most popular – most beloved Miss America of all time. You just watch and see . ;-))

    October 1, 2014 at 3:42 am
  • Mandy Moore
    Reply

    Wow. Just Wow. ((((standing ovation)))
    Kudos to you Kira.

    October 1, 2014 at 5:31 am
  • Jessica
    Reply

    Can I just start the slow clap for you!?! Bravo Kira! Very proud to have you as my Miss America! Best wishes for an amazing year.

    October 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm
  • Gina Major
    Reply

    SO FREAKIN PROUD OF YOU KIRA!!!
    I competed at Miss America three decades ago when there were no platforms and most did not speak out on their passions that just might affect the world in positive ways. But to do that, you have to take risks. THANK YOU KIRA for taking the risks and speaking up and out!! Speak it louder, more often, and everywhere. You sister can and are making a difference on: cyber-bullying, domestic violence, women supporting women, and more. Do it with love, kindness, empathy, clarity, simplicity, honesty, and God on your side, and you will make major differences in society’s perception and awareness. Hey, if there was any blessing in all the hate-gook thrown at you these past few weeks, then I see it as a fast out of the gate start to your year– getting you up and vocal and impassioned to make a difference. As a result, I don’t see this as Kira’s year as Miss America… You have been given a golden opportunity to make this KIRAS YEAR TO MAKE A MASSIVE DIFFERENCE IN SOCIETYS PERCEPTION AND AWARENESS ON SO MANY IMPORTANT IGNORED ISSUES. And you are doing it lady. GO KIRA!!

    October 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm
  • Kathy Dood
    Reply

    I loved this weeks blog. It is so wonderful to read such strong and powerful words from the top representative of an amazing organization that offers strength and opportunity to the very brightest of the young women in this country. You have stated it all so honestly. As a volunteer of this program for over 35 years, I love your spirit and intelligence. Square your shoulders, take a deep breath and move forward with everything that you are. You are the perfect role model for all women in this country. Congratulations on being you and have a fabulous journey.

    October 1, 2014 at 4:38 pm
  • Harry Algyer
    Reply

    Well said Miss K. There is a reason you got the job and it becomes more evident every day. Thank you for your leadership.

    October 1, 2014 at 5:14 pm
  • Maria DeSantis
    Reply

    Great job Kira! Beautifully written.

    October 1, 2014 at 6:10 pm
  • Kara Smoot
    Reply

    Beautifully said, Kira! You are a fantastic role model and I am proud to have you as our Miss America! <3

    October 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm
  • Leah Tibbitts
    Reply

    Again, you’re an amazing young woman, Kira! Go get ’em! xoxo

    October 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm
  • I just saw this post on another site. You make many of the same points as the author, about the cowards posting anonymously on the internet, and their hatred filled comments. Glad you are standing for civility and respect. Good for you.

    http://noelbreen.blogspot.com/2014/09/fear-and-loathing-in-atlantic-city.html

    October 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm
  • Clemmie Jordan
    Reply

    Thank you for addressing the issue of unkind judgment. The day after you were crowned, seeing the unkindness start by many who profess to love God, I posted,–” “The greatest deterrent to Christianity today, are Christians themselves.” So sad, yet often so true.”– So let God win by not focusing on the negative, but by enjoying and celebrating the graciousness and goodness that still exists in so many of us….that which He put in us all. Praying for you journey.

    October 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm
  • Honestly, this was just the sort of message I needed to read today. Thank you so much for being the best Miss America you can be, despite the criticism you’ve faced and bullies you’ve had to deal with.

    October 1, 2014 at 8:41 pm
  • cindamarie
    Reply

    Kira,

    I SO appreciate your post today! (And, might I say, I check every day to see if you have posted something new because I really think you have a lot of good things to say.) I, too, have often marveled at people who walk around with their WWJD bracelets on and their bumper stickers that say, “Jesus Loves You” who then act so hatefully towards others. That is NOT what Jesus would do!
    I totally support the idea that women MUST stop being jealous and catty and hateful and competitive and start lifting each other up and helping each other succeed. It is ironic that, in a situation like Miss America, where there is a reason to be competitive, when the winner is announced the girls run to hug and congratulate the winner and hug the other girls with whom they have become friends through the pageant experience. Yet, in everyday life, we cannot seem to stop comparing ourselves — favorably or not — to other women that we see and with whom we interact. If men do this — and I really have no idea whether or not they do — they certainly do not do it to the extent that women do. Who knows more about what women go through than other women? Who, then, is better suited to help a woman get through the trials of life than another woman? I look forward to hearing more from you as you travel around the country spreading the message of your platform.
    Keep your head up! This is your time! YOU are the one with the crown!

    October 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm
  • Paula Dewall
    Reply

    In only 3 short weeks most of us can see the judges got it right!! You are an amazing young woman. Keep up your positive attitude and spirit. Michigan loves you and supports you Kira. Enjoy every moment!!!!!

    October 1, 2014 at 10:05 pm
  • VERY well said. Thanks for the post–enjoy your blog!

    October 1, 2014 at 10:21 pm
  • Thank you again for posting such insightful words. Garth Brooks has a new song out. The verse goes something like this:
    “People loving people is the enemy of all that is evil. ” Words to live by and so happy our new miss America (you) shares that message in her words and deeds!

    October 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm
  • Daryl
    Reply

    Kira you are going to have a wonderful year! Congrats to you and I wish you much success during your travels. Go get em!

    October 1, 2014 at 11:11 pm
  • Kathleen Kuersten
    Reply

    There is no doubt in my mind as to why you were chosen as Miss America!

    You couldn’t have said it better. I love your honesty, and your courage to speak the truth. Keep it up!

    October 2, 2014 at 1:10 am
  • Palina
    Reply

    Bravo!!! Well done Kira!!!!

    October 2, 2014 at 4:17 am
  • Dear Kira,
    The more I know about you, and read your words, the more impressed and honored I am to have you as our Miss America. Your heart, intelligence, sincerely, moral fiber and, yes, beauty, is exactly what we need today in this nutty America/world. Thank you for hanging in there, thank you for your service and your kindness especially.
    Sincerely, Pamela Cady (aunt of Christina Thompson)

    October 2, 2014 at 5:24 am
  • Angel Garcia
    Reply

    I love your blog post, you are absolutely correct. I am 15 years old and my platform is stop the silence end domestic violence. South Carolina ranks number two in the nation and number one in the southeast for domestic violence murders involving women who were killed by a domestic partner. I have competed in the Miss South Carolina teen pageant for two years I love the Miss south Carolina and Miss America organizations. My platform is very personal to me and why I chose my platform. In 2012 August 30th will be a day I will never forget. a footplayer at my school who was very active in school sports and very popular was murdered along with his mother by his step father, and then the step father killed himself right as the police walked in the front door. You see no one would have ever known that the abuse and violence had been going on for 10 years and the mothers brother was trying to get her and her son out of the home but it was to late. I am going to talk to our local and state legislature about my idea of a domestic violence offenders registry for our state which would work the same way as the sex offenders registry. A first time offender would have to register their name in the registry where it would remain there for the rest of their lives this would prevent them from purchasing firearms from any stores or pawn shops that sell weapons so when they do a background check it would show that they are a registered domestic violence offender and can’t purchased a firearm this would also help women or men who are dating and they want to do a background check before going any farther with the relationship . It would show up that the man or woman has ever been convicted of domestic violence therefore allowing them to not date that person. I will also push for more strict laws for domestic violence as well as shelters for men who are being abused by their domestic partner. People don’t realize how many men are in a domestic violence relationship and we don’t have shelters in South Carolina where men can go and there is no counseling offered for men who do abuse only an anger management class that they have to attend and they only go because they are ordered by the court to go and it is not long time therapy. About those boards I know how you feel I was bashed so bad on the board as well as my mother it was to the point that I was just going to give up and not compete, but my mother talked to me and I decided that I was not going to let jealousy take away my dream so I held my head high and I showed those haters that I have better class than them and I competed on that stage with grace and poise and even though I didn’t place I was very proud of the job that I had accomplished. I hope that if you get to come to South Carolina that I will get to meet you and talk to you because you are Miss America and a role model and we all make mistakes at some point in our life but we all deserve a second chance. Thank you for your service as a representative for our country as Miss America.

    October 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm
  • Roxie Elliott
    Reply

    You’re amazing <3 gonna be one of the best Miss America's we've ever had! Thank you for always keeping it real.

    October 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm
  • andi
    Reply

    Kira,
    As a survivor of DV I’m glad to see you speaking out for others and not letting the trash talk bring you down. Shine your light brightly and it will all come out in the wash.
    (Mom of pageant girls!)

    October 3, 2014 at 6:01 am
  • God Bless You, Kira! Your courage to speak up and speak out is refreshing! You go girl!

    October 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm
  • Lisa
    Reply

    And this is why you won Miss America . exceptionally said! Again I am proud you are representing the system. you have should the public all the right reasons thank you

    October 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm
  • Jen
    Reply

    Ms. Kasantsev, I am so sorry. So very, very sorry.

    This will most likely be a longer comment than you’re used to getting, because I’ve never quite mastered that whole brevity concept, but please stick with me if you will. I feel that the details are important to the point I want to make. This is partially about your platform and situation. Some of this is tough, and I’ll soften it as much as I can, but I do believe the details matter.

    Jezebel broke this “story”, and I am honestly disgusted with them right now. This is the third time I’ve felt like I had to apologize for the awful things that have come out of that site, even though I took no part in any of it and was vocal within it, yelling “this is wrong, stop it” at the top of my lungs. I am no longer a poster there, as are most of the amazing women who started on that website in its early days, but I was for a long time – I was literally there from day one.

    I owe a lot to Jezebel. I grew up in a severely fundamentalist, abusive household, taught that my job as a woman was to do whatever it took to be beautiful at all times for the husband that I was expected to marry before I got “old” (25), and then my job was to give him a sparkling home, a hot meal at the end of the day made from scratch, sex whenever he wanted no matter how I felt, and then have as many babies as I could, and THAT was my job. I didn’t belong in an office as a woman. That was what I grew up thinking the female ideal was, what my duty as a Christian woman was. I could go to college, sure, but the only thing that mattered was getting a MRS degree.

    Because of that, I grew up with no spine, no ability to say no, and I was constantly in abusive relationships because of it.

    When I did get to college, unfortunately, I’d been programmed too long with that poison, so the first thing I did was find a boyfriend, who soon became a fiance. Abused women don’t just get out from under one abuser and then suddenly decide “naah, I’m not doing that anymore.” I was abused by a college fiance. Then it was another abusive relationship, and this one I married. The cycle is so hard to break.

    I don’t know if you have heard the “boiling a frog” analogy, but it’s a good way to explain what happens in abusive relationships. If you were to take a live frog and get some water to boiling and throw the frog in, it’s not going to take it; it will hop right out of that pan. But if you put it in a nice big pot of cold or barely warm water, it’ll be comfortable, and it’ll never see what’s coming as you slowly turn the heat up one degree at a time, and voila – send that frog to France and slap it on a plate, because it’s DONE. This is how abusers of all stripes work. If they were to go straight to sadistic abuse, nobody – not even someone like me – would stay. So they turn that temperature up very slowly.

    It took me getting inpatient psychiatric help to see how much I’d been hurt, and I owe the strength to divorce him from the support of all the other women getting help there as well. (It wasn’t the stereotype; there were no straitjackets or electric shock therapy. It was a safe place, more like spending weeks at some Holiday Inn, but instead of heading to the beach, I got 8 hours of individual and group therapy. …And really bad cafeteria food.)

    It took me 27 years to break that cycle, and I have now been married for almost 7 years to a man that I have a wonderfully healthy relationship with, who is gentle and kind and the best man I’ve ever known, hands down.

    So I intimately understand your platform, support it, and thank you for campaigning for those of us who never had a voice or a safe place.

    But back to Jezebel… As I said, I was there from day one. It used to be something real, something good, a wonderful community of women who opened my eyes to feminism, intersectional feminism (no woman should be left behind, no matter their skin color, social and financial class, sexual identity, where they live; in fact, those voices should be held up MORE. White feminists like me need to use the privilege we were born with to hold those voices up and make them heard more while we get out of the way and not speak for them.) I owe Jezebel the beginning of that path and the realization of my ingrained racism and internalized misogyny, things I work hard to recognize I’m doing and stop.

    But a while ago, it started to get bad. It started becoming the antithesis of what it was. The good ones in the editorial staff left, and the new ones became a Cosmo-lite group of Regina Georges looking for pageviews by clickbait. The readers began to be horrified by the changes, and when nobody would listen to us, we left. A new group of commenters moved in, and they wanted what Jezebel was now offering.

    Irin Carmon was hired, and she started yelling at The Daily Show for not having enough female staff (without doing her homework on it) and for its hiring of Olivia Munn as a correspondent, ripping her to shreds because her previous work on G4 included doing things like dressing up in a French maid costume, jumping into a puddle of chocolate pudding, and the like. She was a female host on a network focused on gaming, a highly sexist industry. I seriously doubt she asked to do all of that, instead of being told she had to. Carmon attacked her so brutally she had to leave TDS as soon as she started. And commenters like me were left going on Twitter, begging for her forgiveness and trying to show her we, by far, did NOT want Carmon speaking for us.

    It is a singular, awful feeling to have your ass handed to you by Jon Stewart, and we as a community deserved every bit of it.

    The last straw for a lot of us, myself included, was when one of the highest editorial staff members let her male friend publish a piece on Jez’s front page saying that French men don’t believe in consent, and that both French women and tourists love it.

    Jezebel was a wonderful place once. Now, it’s a circus, and I find myself yet again apologizing like hell for their actions, even though I certainly didn’t take part in it. I used to be. And if I don’t speak up, who will?

    You were bullied with muckraking, with one woman trying to take another woman down, using vague, uncredited sources that were basically gossip. That’s not what we were ever about, and I’m so sorry they became that.

    I saw your appearance on GMA, and your apology seems entirely genuine. I may have dismissed you if you showed up and simply denied everything and tried to turn it into PR for MAO, but you didn’t – you admitted where your responsibility and fault lied, and that is the mark of a true, mature response. Kudos to you for being open and brave enough to do that. You impressed me. I expected much less, and I was wrong.

    I understand getting swept up in that college culture. It existed long before you came around. I understand doing things that you know aren’t right because you wanted to be accepted. I would have done a lot to make it into a sorority. I was not pretty, the nerdy, geeky girl with dorky interests and an overbite, and didn’t pledge because I doubted anyone would have taken me, but I’d have done some stupid stuff to be accepted and called a part of a sisterhood.

    Your answer was perfect – you messed up, owned up to it, said that nobody perfect and you made mistakes, and you learned from it and stopped. Seeing you talk made me doubt you participated in the worst of that.

    So please accept my apology on behalf of the good people who used to be on that website when it meant something. And don’t let this derail you; keep fighting for the victims of domestic violence whose voices were never heard, like mine. I believe there is something good that can come out of this; take this and work it in to your platform. It certainly doesn’t have to take it over, but it’s going to be on people’s minds for a while, and it would be a good thing to say that sisterly love shouldn’t hurt either.

    If I may make a suggestion, there have been several Miss Americas and Miss America contestants whose reigns were rocked by scandal, and nobody can understand better what you’re going through than them. It may help you to reach out to them for advice.

    Once again, my sincere apologies for the horrible “journalism” that a once-good site did to you. Just keep swimming.

    October 13, 2014 at 12:07 am
  • Love you Kira thanks this is so encouraging

    February 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm

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