Most years, the Miss America pageant is good for just three things: ridicule, outrage, and jingoistic state pride. That was all true again this year (and speaking of the latter, BOW DOWN, OTHER STATES, BECAUSE IT’S MISS NEW YORK FOR THE THREEPEAT!!!). But this time around, it might also be good for something relevant: advancing a public conversation about violence and abuse in relationships.
Twenty two-year-old Kira Kazantsev, crowned on Sunday, made domestic violence the centerpiece of her platform. “The main goal is to get people talking about it,” she told NPR. “If people are willing to talk about it, they’re not scared of it, it’s not taboo.”
Kazantsev was in an abusive relationship in college. It’s part of the reason she doesn’t pass judgment on Janay Rice, whose assault at the hands of her husband, NFL running back Ray, was widely discussed last week.
“I want people to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ ” she said. “Every woman is an expert in her own case, and there are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to a woman staying with her abuser.”
According to her bio, Kazantsev works with the domestic violence organization Safe Horizon and with the Women’s Prison Association. She speaks fluent Russian, as well as some Spanish. She graduated from Hofstra University with a triple major in political science, global studies, and geography.
Despite it all, she will undoubtedly be remembered by most of the country for her performance during the talent portion of the evening: channeling Anna Kendrick to the tune “Happy.”