For the third time in a row, a Miss New York took home the Miss America title, with 23-year-old Kira Kazantsev bagging the crown during Sunday's glamorous event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The title, which comes with a $50,000 scholarship, was handed over to Kazantsev by fellow New Yorker and first Indian-American winner Nina Davuluri.
Who exactly is Kazantsev? As per reports, the blonde beauty is a first-generation American whose parents hail from Russia. She attended Hofstra University majoring in political science, global studies, and geography, and it was during her college days that she became involved in an abusive relationship, which sowed the seeds of her transformation as a passionate advocate for domestic violence survivors.
Kazantsev used the Miss America platform to speak about the perils of domestic abuse, and she used the occasion to thank female Senators for standing up against sexual assault in the military.
Speaking about her experience as a domestic abuse survivor, the beauty queen said that she wasn't aware of the existence of resources to help domestic abuse victims when she was being tormented.
"I very well may have Googled it," she told NPR. "But that's not the mindset that you're in when you're in that situation. You just feel alone. You feel helpless. You don't feel like anyone could possibly understand."
This mindset resulted in her rejecting help from her family and friends, the newly crowned Miss America said. "I definitely had friends that saw this and tried to help and didn't know what to do," she said. "And at that point I isolated myself. I was completely isolated from any help they were offering me."
The main agenda, Kazantsev said, is to make people open up about abuse, so as to remove the taboo associated with the subject. And with her involvement with Safe Horizon, a domestic violence advocacy group, Kazantsev hopes to steer public conversations about abuse in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Barbara Paradiso, director of the Center on Domestic Violence at the University of Colorado Denver, told NPR that it was a good thing that beauty queens are using the Miss America platform to highlight the issue of domestic violence.
"I think we still hold on to some of those stereotypical beliefs. When we think about the typical victims of domestic violence, we think of someone who is poor, might not have many resources or is unintelligent," Paradiso said. "When you have someone who has been able to be as successful as a Miss America, that helps us put this in perspective."