First Russian-speaking Miss NYC visits “Little Odessa”

Russian beauty queen reigns in Brighton Beach

Brooklyn Daily
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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 or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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