Kira Kazantsev is Miss NYC 2014 and the first Russian-speaker to earn the title. She’s an aspiring lawyer and women’s advocate, too. When she dropped in on Brooklyn’s “Little Odessa,” we took a moment to chat with Kazantsev about Russian culture in the city, her escape from domestic violence, and some literary recommendations.
Max Jeager: You were born in the U.S. but speak fluent Russian. How has that affected your ability to connect with Russian culture?
Kira Kazantsev: Speaking fluent Russian has allowed me to connect to the Russian-speaking culture, especially through the large Russian speaking communities in the US. I attended Russian school, Russian camp, and have always been involved with the Russian-speaking community, which in turn has allowed me to connect with the Russian-speaking culture. Now I am very proud to partner with the Be Proud Foundation and look forward to continuing my work in the Russian-speaking community.
MJ: You live in Manhattan. Do you spend a lot of time in Brighton Beach and other Russian enclaves?
KK: Over the five years that I have lived here, I’ve spent a lot of time in Brooklyn, and I always enjoy spending time in the Russian-speaking community. It’s like a home away from home, as my family is back in California.
MJ: People are crazy about brunch in Brooklyn. Is there a Russian equivalent? Where’s the best place to have a Russian brunch?
KK: I LOVE Russian-style brunch, this is something I like to do at home, though.
MJ: You’re applying for law school. Have you heard back? What area of law do you plan to pursue?
KK: I haven’t heard back, but I plan on pursuing either international law or civil liberties — especially for women.
MJ: You were a victim of domestic violence. How did you get out of that situation?
KK: Talking about it, getting help, leaning on my family, removing myself from the situation — all of these are important steps to being able to leave your aggressor.
MJ: Your talent is vocal performance, what do you like to sing?
KK: I love to sing songs that have a jazz or folk feeling to them.
MJ: Have you spent time in Russia?
KK: I have been there several times. All my grandparents live there, and I am looking forward to traveling to Moscow this coming April.
MJ: Many associate Russia with a rich literary heritage. Do you read novels in Russian? What was the last title you really enjoyed?
KK: I have read many Russian novels, and the last title I enjoyed was Pushkin’s “Onegin.” I’m actually going to see the theater version of the story in Moscow in April.— Max Jaeger