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First Russian-speaking Miss NYC visits “Little Odessa”

Russian beauty queen reigns in Brighton Beach

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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

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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