We reported earlier this week that in spring 2013, Miss America Kira Kazantsev was kicked out of Hofstra University's Alpha Phi sorority for hazing her sisters. Now, new information from one of her former sorority sisters indicates that her involvement was more serious than she's been willing to admit. Kazantsev appeared on Good Morning America within 24 hours to defend herself and then filed 1,600 words about the allegations on her personal blog, in a post titled "Taking Back My Narrative." She hasn't said "I'm sorry," and it's clear the organization doesn't expect her to, either. Miss America has a long history of policing winners' behavior, but only if that behavior involves sex.
Hazing is illegal in New York State, is a violation of Hofstra's student code of conduct, and is frowned upon by respectable Greek organizations. And despite her claim that she didn't participate in the events, one of her sorority sisters told Jezebel that Miss America's public hand washing was untruthful. Our tipster says Kazantsev was very involved in the sorority's day-to-day activities, once even sending an email to her sisters from Spain regarding an ex-boyfriend (an officer of a Hofstra frat who she says mistreated her after their breakup), telling them to stop talking to, contacting or "making eye contact with him, especially at a bar." "There's enough empty jackets at this sorority that others are already carrying," she adds later in the message.
Kazantsev's involvement extended to a more basic definition of hazing, according to a former Alpha Phi sister. "It was 30 days of hell," she wrote in an email:
Typically the seniors in the sorority at the time do the most hazing. Kira was a sophomore when I pledged. However, I can guarantee when I pledged Kira attended all events and did participate. I don't remember exactly what she did or did not say (it was 30 days of hell and no sleep hard to remember details) but she was 100% in in attendance to every pledge event as pledge events were mandatory for all sisters….
We were blindfolded several times and drove around in cars pretty much with no destination while 4 older sisters in the car screamed at you and made you recite alpha phi information
They pretended to brand us by lighting a fork on fire and making us sit in a chair while girls behind you lifted up your shirt. In reality they put a cold fork on your back to trick you
The pledges stood on chairs and the girls took out black markers and started to name our flaws — but then stopped after one flaw was mentioned
As a pledge class we stood in a row in front off all the older sisters and had to entertain them — pretty much we had to embarrass ourselves to make the older sisters laugh. We also had to recite information and even if we did get the information correct they would still yell at us for getting it wrong. (Alumni always made appearances for these events and they were the hardest —- her email she claims to have been joking about making a scary night for the pledges was certainly not a joke.. Alumni were always present.
We stayed up countless nights in a row making the perfect paddles for our 'big sisters' — and when we gave our bigs the paddles they put on an act to make it seem like they didn't like it after we spent so many days (and money) making them
Library hours (which Hofstra requires for all students who are pledging to guarantee our grades are not affected) soon became Alpha Phi hours because we were forced to learn an absurd amount of information in one night
Every pledge event we were forced to hand in our cell phones to the girls (no idea if they went through them but I know most girls put pass locks on the phone to avoid any issues with that)
We were not allowed to see our boyfriends (if we had one at the time)
We picked sisters up from the bar at 3am during week nights — Hofstra does have a curfew for pledges and each pledge did need to swipe back into their dorm building. However they would make us swipe in to our building, leave a few hours later and then sleep at the sorority house that night
It's typical sorority stuff, sure, but it's also illegal. Kazantsev has said that she didn't haze pledges while serving as a pledgemaster; her expulsion and what we've heard from former sisters says otherwise.
The mean girl is a character trope built into every pageant movie ever made—think Kirstie Alley's Gladys Leeman or Candice Bergen's Kathy Morningside—and it found its way into the real Miss America before Kazantsev took the crown. Just about a year ago, Miss New York Nina Dalvuluri was recorded by a fellow contestant calling outgoing Miss America Mallory Hagan "fat as fuck." She ended up hoisting the blame onto people she was hanging out with at the time, but it's pretty obviously her voice on the recording. Two days later, she was crowned Miss America 2014, and faced zero consequences for her remarks.
The Miss America organization certainly has a record for checking the behavior of its participants and winners, but the behavior the organization seems most interested in policing involves participants' sexuality. Prior to the 2000 pageant, participants had to swear that they'd never been married and never been pregnant in order to compete (now they just have to swear that they're not currently married, pregnant, or a mother). In the past, they've been forced to sign a contract saying that if they win, they will not date during their reign and will travel with chaperones. Prior to 1940, participants had to prove by listing their ancestors for as far back as they could recall that they were members of "the white race."
Not only are rules and norms regarding Miss America participants' sexuality in place, they're enforced. In 2002, Miss America Erika Harold had a public spat with the organization's officials over her desire to discuss abstinence at official appearances. In 2001, Miss North Carolina resigned before the pageant even began over an ex-boyfriend's claims that he had topless photos of her. And, of course, in 1984, Miss America Vanessa Williams relinquished her crown after nude photos taken years before were published in Penthouse. Miss America 1951 was fired after she refused to wear a bathing suit in public to advertise one of the pageant's sponsors (her refusal consisted of telling pageant officials that she was "a singer, not a pinup"). Miss America 1937 ran off with a man the morning after her win, and with that, gave up the crown.
That's a history of precedent that suggests that the Miss America Organization is comfortable with women behaving badly, so long as it's not sexual. Kazantsev's case suggests that it might be OK for Miss America to use her body to cause pain and harm, but it's not OK for her to use her body for her own pleasure.
Kazantsev has noted in her latest blog entry that she plans on speaking with incoming college freshmen about abuse and violence. That, more than her denial, would represent a real step in taking back her narrative.
Image via Getty.