Kira Kazantsev | Q&A with Kira K
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Q&A with Kira K

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Hey guys!

I know I haven’t posted in a while but adulting is HARD! So I’ve been a little distracted from the whole blogging/website thing. However, recently something inspired this post. I had a journalist reach out to my publicist from a very reputable publication about doing an online Q&A. I spent a lot of time crafting thoughtful responses to her questions, so when we sent them back to said journalist (multiple times) and didn’t even get an acknowledgement that she had received them, I was a little upset. Instead of letting those responses go to waste, I’ve decided to instead post them here in the hopes that someone might enjoy reading. Have at it!

XO,

Kira

 

When did you start doing pageants? How many have you been in total?

 

I did my first competition around age 11 after receiving a flyer in the mail and maybe did 10 competitions by the time I was 16. I didn’t compete again till I was about 20 and probably did 5 or 6 different events before I won Miss America.

 

What’s something about you people might be surprised to learn?

 

People always ask if my parents put me in pageants when I was younger but really it was the other way around. I begged them to let me do it. I was enthralled with the idea. Miss Congeniality had recently come out (still one of my favorite movies) and I loved watching the pageant on TV. My parents have always supported my pageant goals even though it wasn’t something they grew up with or knew anything about.

 

What are some crazy extents you’ve seen contestants go to to “appear perfect” for a pageant? (We all hear about putting hair spray on bikini bottoms, vaseline on your teeth, etc. but are there others)

 

I’ve seen contestants do everything from pushups before the swimsuit competition and eating candy to make everything “pop”, bringing their own blenders to competition to make protein shakes (I’ve actually done that, life changing), weird diets and workout routines, and, yes, sometimes unhealthy choices and extremes before swimsuit competition. Yes, there is the butt glue for swimsuits and extreme makeup contouring, intense spray tans, hair extensions, false lashes the whole 9 yards. We live in a world that is constantly plagued with the latest makeup tutorial or trend and super photoshopped images. I think sometimes there is pressure for the girls to feel like they have to keep up with all of that. I myself have felt that pressure. But that comes from mainstream media, not just the pageant world. There are plenty of celebrities out there that are more made up on a daily basis than any pageant girl ever is. However when it comes to the majority of pageant participants, everything they do is not to “appear perfect”. Judges, at least in my experience, aren’t looking for perfection; they’re looking for confidence. Perfection doesn’t exist. When girls do some of these things (the healthy things) it’s usually to boost their own self-esteem and to feel more confident about what they are presenting. It is a competition after all and when you compete in a pageant it’s essentially a job interview to be the face of a brand for 1 year. As an employer, you want to hire the girl that not only has it all together on the outside, because, yes, polished appearance goes into the equation, but she has to be sharp on the inside. So outside of the outer beauty extremes you might see, there are also always girls sitting and studying interview questions and current events, quizzing one another, etc. The inner preparation is just as intense as the outer. To me, the girl poised to win is the whole package, HEALTHY, and knows that mental preparation comes first.

 

Do you think pageants help/hurt the self-esteem/body image of viewers, especially younger viewers who may be more impressionable?

 

If you watch the Miss America competition on TV, you see so many different body types. I think the more cynical view point is that pageants cause self esteem issues in young girls, when on the other hand those same young girls are more interested in hearing a titleholder speak and asking her questions about who she really is, beyond physical appearance. Personally, I have always felt empowered by walking across a stage in a swimsuit; I work really hard for that bod in a healthy way so getting to show it off is an amazing experience! Pageants have also forced me to accept my body type. I am more confident with who I am because I’ve realized if I want to compete, I have one body to do it with so I might as well accept it. Titleholders actually have very unique access to young girls by being able to visit schools. Collectively, we must visit thousand and thousand of schools. Titleholders usually talk about a wide array of topics during these visits but always include points on self-esteem, confidence, and goal setting. I think that message is much stronger than a 30 second swimsuit competition on TV and is something young kids need to hear and are hearing thanks to the efforts of Miss America titleholders.

 

What’s the worst thing you’ve been told by casting people/coaches?

 

Now that I live in LA, sometimes I’ll walk into a room or a meeting or an audition and I’m immediately told that they’re not looking for “someone like you”. Sometimes they’re even honest and they say they don’t want someone with a history in pageants. While I was in the competition itself I never had a coach or mentor or anyone like that ever tell me something inappropriate, offensive, etc. Now that I’m almost a year out, it can be a challenge to get people to see beyond Miss America and just see Kira when Miss America was such a big part of my identity. But to anyone reading this, I am an absolutely normal person who happens to be a strong, independent, modern woman with life goals and dreams outside of pageantry. The rhinestone and crown era of my life was a shiny one indeed, but there is life beyond all of that.

 

What would you change about modern pageantry?

 

The Internet has severely damaged modern pageantry such that all of a sudden, everyone gets an opinion on your dress, your hair, your face, your body, etc. and they’re able to post about it online in public forums, message boards, on facebook pages etc. That is the thing that breeds the most self-doubt, self-esteem crushing, and body image issues among contestants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally come across a nasty comment online about myself and it burns into your brain forever. I would change the pageant world to be more accepting and less critical of the competitors themselves and their choices. We must bring each other up instead of tearing each other down.

 

Do you think pageantry presents a narrow view of beauty?

 

Absolutely not. Every single girl is unique. You find girls that compete of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ethnicities, and all with their own definition of beauty. The girls might all want to put their best foot forward in terms of their outward appearance when they’re competing, but in no way does that present a narrow view of beauty itself.

 

What do you think the audience can learn from watching pageants? 

 

A lot of what these women have accomplished is pretty remarkable. From starting their own non profits, to graduating from amazing schools, to using their scholarship money to pay for law degrees and medical school, and using their voices for the greater good with their personal platforms, the list goes on and on of the things pageant contestants are capable of. If the whole world was as motivated as a pageant contestant is to do good work in our communities, I think we’d be living in a much better place.

 

You have to be able to speak in front of a huge audience. Does public speaking come naturally to you?

 

Interpersonal skills and extemporaneous speaking skills are the bulk of the job of Miss America so it has to be something you feel comfortable with. I’ve always felt comfortable in front of an audience, but good public speaking comes with time and practice. Thanks to my year as Miss America I can now have a conversation with anyone, speak in front of any group, large or small, for however long on a wide range of topics. Not a bad skill for a 24-year-old young woman to have.

 

Have you ever felt less than confident? 

 

Absolutely. Over the past few years there have been times when I questioned myself, the system, and the people around me. I’ve doubted my abilities and scrutinized myself. I’m my own worst critic. Even now, I sometimes ask myself what am I doing with my life, am I making the right decisions? I think that comes naturally from having a type A personality and really wanting to succeed in whatever I set out to do. I’ve learned to recognize that I am doing just fine and that no matter what happens, I’ll always find a way to make it work.

 

How do you overcome lack of confidence? 

 

Acceptance. At a certain point you just have to say screw it, throw all the self doubt out of the window, accept who you are and what you look like, and do what makes you happy. Easier said than done. But we all have so much to offer! Let’s focus on the positive instead of the negative (something I still struggle with) and make real change in our lives and in the world.

 

People think pageant girls are superficial, how do you deal with judgments like that? 

 

I start by sharing that as Miss America, I served as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and traveled the nation to visit our country’s most precious little lives, making lifetime friendships with many of them and spreading joy in every hospital I visited. My personal platform is called “Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Protecting Women against Domestic Violence”. I took my platform to national media outlets, domestic violence shelters from New York to Kansas City to Bakersfield, CA and everywhere in between, and talked about the real issues facing our society today when it comes to intimate partner violence and our reluctance to actually discuss it. I spoke in hundreds of schools about healthy relationships, self-esteem, and what to do if you feel like you’re in danger. I also traveled the world with the USO visiting our troops abroad in 7 countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, South Korea, etc. I got to perform for the troops and thank them in person for their service overseas.

Nothing about anything above is superficial to me. So I usually just tell people who think there is anything superficial when it comes to Miss America about all the work I’ve done and that effectively ends THAT conversation. Even though beauty goes into the competition of becoming Miss America, it is the most insignificant part, despite what others might choose to believe.

 

Has competing in pageants helped or hurt your own self esteem/body image?

 

If I had a dollar for every time someone said I wasn’t “pretty enough” to be Miss America, I would be a millionaire. So yes, of course, that weighs on a young woman’s self esteem. However, at the end of day I won the opportunity of a lifetime and they’re probably sitting in a basement somewhere trolling the Internet, so I think in the end I win. I just have to remind myself of that sometimes. Pageants themselves have given me so many life tools like the confidence to walk across a stage with poise and grace, to state my opinion in an eloquent way, to field any question and control any interview if I feel it’s not going the way I had wanted, time management, spontaneous speaking, effective communication and the list goes on. In my case, the positives have far outweighed the negatives and I am very thankful for my experience competing in pageants.

 

What are you working on/what’s next for you?

 

I’ve realized that life has it’s own plan and it’s much better than anything I could have ever imagined for myself. Right now I’m currently living in LA pursuing a career in entertainment. I continue to travel and speak on my Domestic Violence platform and my Miss America experiences, I play in a lot of charity golf tournaments and I was even hired by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as a Director of Digital Marketing which is so exciting because my passion for working with their organization has resulted in a job. My travel schedule is still pretty insane. In fact, over the last few months I’ve probably only spent a collective 2 weeks actually at home. But I am thankful for all of these incredible opportunities. I always say that my life completely changed from something as simple as a pageant. The Miss America organization can do some pretty incredible things for your life. All you have to do is let it happen and let life take over.

 

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