Kira Kazantsev was born on July 20, 1991. She won the title of Miss America 2015 on September 14, 2014. She is the third consecutive Miss America winner from New York. Kira took home the Miss New York title on May 24, 2014. She competed at the Miss New York state pageant as Miss City of New York. Kira's talent at the Miss America 2015 pageant was singing with cup percussion to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. She is an advocate for women and is raising awareness about domestic violence with her platform "Love Shouldn't Hurt."
On September 4, 2018 Kazantsev announced via Instagram her engagement to Andrew Dixon.
Calls for Board Resignation
On August 16, Miss America 2018 released a letter containing shocking allegations of mistreatment at the hands of Miss America Organization Chair Gretchen Carlson and President/CEO Regina Hopper. Carlson later responded saying that Mund's letter cost the organization dearly and that she should not have gone public with the information. On August 20, 19 former Miss Americas came together to call for the official resignation of both Carlson and Hopper.
Kazantsev took to Instagram to make her opinions on the subject known.
"I am writing this to you all as Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015. I am not writing this as part of an affiliation with any other organization, just an individual with love for the organization that has given me so much.
Here we are, in the midst of another upheaval that threatens the very core of the Miss America organization. I write this after days of thoughtful consideration, hours on the phone trying to get all of the facts, and numerous conversations with people on all sides of this conflict. I felt I owed it to the stakeholders and to myself to put out a statement when and only when I was honestly ready instead of succumbing to those that are eagerly urging people to take sides. I also strongly considered not putting anything out at all because no matter what I have to say, there will be those who will be malicious simply because I may have a different point of view. But perhaps that point of view is informed by my experiences with those at the core of these issues.
As I look at my life today, at my career, at my opportunities, at my friends, and at my relationships, I realize that I would have almost none of it without MAO. Miss America truly changed my life in the most positive way and I am sickened at the thought that thousands of young women may not get that same chance if we can't come together and get it together. THAT is why I feel compelled to speak out, despite the fact that there are people who I respect that will be hurt by this and relationships that will never be the same. I hope to outline what my understanding is of what I've been able to discover since the event of December 2017, how I believe the organization should move forward in light of recent revelations, and why I am on one side and one side only - that of saving Miss America.
December 2017 was a very tumultuous time for MAO. Gretchen Carlson was one of the very few that had the recognition, resources and the power to take on Miss America and save it from dying an abrupt death. I supported Gretchen because I believed she was the one that could save the program, which was my only priority. I respected Gretchen as a professional, as a mother, and as my Miss America sister and I believed her heart was in the right place. The same respect goes to Regina Hopper, someone who was a major advocate for me during my year as Miss America and who has always been a friend.
After the transition of power, the majority of the Miss Americas were thrilled with the possible changes, the promised transparency, the various companies coming forward to offer support and sponsorship, and the newly invigorated public interest in MAO. We offered rallying cheers and unwavering support. But that excitement was soon lost as emails from the sisterhood began asking "what is going on, how we can help, can we start forming subcommittees, what production companies are coming to the table, what is the plan for the broadcast, etc.?"
I recognize that at the time the organization was focused on restructuring and rewriting bylaws, sorting through the various financial crises that were left in the wake of the previous leadership and so many other pressing issues, and yes, those things take time. But while that was happening, there seemed to be no communication from our newly-appointed leadership. Why were we not simultaneously using the resources of thousands of former titleholders that likely would have willingly done pro-bono marketing, social media, legal, and media consulting? So many questions went unanswered which led to confusion and the stakeholders starting to wonder what was actually happening and why our positive momentum was so swiftly halted?
At this time, I believe decisions were being made and internal conflicts were taking place that may have been able to be resolved had communication and a willingness to compromise occurred. And getting lost in all of this infighting was Cara, and the fact that her year as Miss America 2018 went from bad to worse.
Then came the swimsuit changes, the ambiguous language surrounding various parts of the competition, and the new branding adopted by MAO, seeming with no input from our stakeholders and with no structured plan or resources to offer local and state organizations tangible steps forward, beyond simple talking points. Decision were made at the top with a grave lack of consideration shown for the state organizations, volunteers and most importantly, 51 women competing for the crown has been distressingly clear.
Despite the disastrous swimsuit announcement, I still tried to give the leadership team the benefit of the doubt, to help in any way I could, to be vocally positive, to give them a real shot and a proper amount of time, and to support them in getting us to the telecast and putting on a great show. I also felt that any major change in leadership during crowning season would create great unrest and lead to even more issues for MAO and our survival.
That being said, I decided to vocally support the change of retiring swimsuit as I did not believe it was relevant to the job of Miss America, I believed that production companies and ABC didn't want it (which turned out to be untrue), I believed that bigger companies would now want to sponsor us, I believed it would make MAO more relevant in the 21st century, and although I personally felt empowered by walking across that stage in a swimsuit, I didn't feel that judging women for their bodies was necessary to finding the best woman for the job.
I invited Gretchen on my podcast and provided her with an opportunity to further explain the changes. I honestly believed that retiring the swimsuit competition would be for the good of the organization and I trusted that the decision was made in good faith.
Since then, we have learned that there was much ambiguity and possible dishonesty with how that decision was made. It was incredibly disappointing because we expected our new leadership to hold themselves to the highest standard of transparency and honesty that they promised when they took the reins. The fact that ambiguity occurred at all surrounding such an important part of the ethos of our history is an abject failure in leadership.
Once the swimsuit announcement was made and the dust began to settle, the board infighting and resignations began. When I first saw the letter from the board members that resigned, I initially thought, "How could they do this and take all attention away from the 51 contestants and Cara, not to mention the fact that it was tearing our Miss America sisterhood apart?" Since then, I've come to terms with their decisions to voice unrest and shed light on leadership behaviors that truly put our organization at risk. Although I do not always agree with them and have had many points of contention, I feel I have been able to verify enough to lead me to believe that there truly were deep rooted issues in leadership here.
After Cara released her statement last Friday, Gretchen arranged a phone call with the Miss Americas where we learned that not only had Gretchen not yet spoken to Cara, but we learned that she had also distanced herself from the responsibility of the operation of the organization. That responsibility was on the shoulders of Regina and Brent Adams.
When an organization is filled with infighting, struggling to land sponsorships and its most valuable asset, Cara, was desperately unhappy about how she had been dismissed by those who she should have been able to trust the most, then it's clearly time for an immediate change. Not to mention the fact that our contract with ABC is up and they have no reason to sign on again, and the contract with funding from the CRDA is also up.
To Cara, I have seen you sparkle with children and bring smiles to their faces. You have done a wonderful job as the face of MAO. I am so proud to call you a sister and a friend. I can remember my own excitement at getting to be at incredible events and taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities that being Miss America afforded. The fact that you have been denied that at the hands of those that largely had their own interests at heart is devastating. When it comes to your experience with MAO, it's increasingly clear that they were self-centered and focused on advancing their own agendas, deaf to your needs, did not go out of their way to listen to or include you, and were unskilled at any communication to ensure that you knew you were valued and loved. The breakdown of communication with you is truly a failure. I support you and stand with you and am proud of you. I am so sorry that it got to this point, but I hope this will truly lead to much needed change, again.
On the subject of bullying, while many of you out there are condemning Gretchen and Regina, you have also done the exact same thing you accuse them of by referring to them as expletives, posting mean spirited and nasty comments, awful photos, and even death threats. Just because someone may or may not have done something wrong doesn't mean you get to turn around and do the same exact thing to them, they are human beings who deserve human decency. Please feel free to disagree, but if you are angered by their actions, do not sink to their level and engage in the exact same behavior that you accuse them of.
It's been a tumultuous eight months and it must change starting now. Regina has always been respectful to me and Gretchen has never been anything but be kind to me. However, they have allowed the situation to fester and get perilously close to the point of no return for the Miss America Organization. It is clear that the leadership cannot continue in its current state. And while there are likely many forces at play here, many things we don't know about and many sides to the story, in the end leadership means accepting responsibility and none of that has been offered.
The statement released by MAO after Cara's letter was tone deaf and accusatory in nature and the statement released by Gretchen most recently is quite frankly the final nail in the coffin for me. The accusation of Cara being responsible for losing a $75,000 scholarship is wrong and completely uncalled for. The continued suggestion that Cara should have done this privately also bothers me, when the messaging from Be Fierce has always been to be vocal and not be silenced. Unfortunately, Cara didn't have the relationship with you where she felt comfortable coming to you. I have many thought on that statement, but I'll leave it at that. I am devastated to have to write this about one of my Miss America sisters but Gretchen, you must see that there is no way forward in this current state anymore. It is time to step down and let this organization move forward.
In addition, and most importantly, the 51 women vying for the Miss America crown on September 9th need clarity, support, and peace of mind. Each of those women is incredibly talent, smart, powerful and motivated and now they find themselves in a mess we created that they never asked for. You all have our heartfelt support.
There are much bigger things happening in our would. But many of us wouldn't have the platform, experiences and so much more that we do today to actually do something about those things without this program. And THAT is why people should care about Miss America and the future of an organization that has literally changed the lives of thousands of women, not just those that have worn the Miss America crown.
Please, let's save Miss America together, and be decent human beings to each other as we do it."