The Miss America Pageant will return to Atlantic City, N.J. in September and the holder of the crown is doing her part to promote the seaside city as it struggles to gain financial traction.
Kira Kazantsev captured Miss America 2015 honors at Boardwalk Hall last September, when she emphasized wanting to help spread the word on what Atlantic City can offer families while taking up residence there during her year-long pageant term.
Since the September pageant, Atlantic City was placed under emergency manager control by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and seeks ways to avoid bankruptcy while facing a $101 million budget gap. The longtime gambling hub suffered four casino closures last year and Kazantsev hopes her many appearances at Atlantic City restaurants and art galleries that are highlighted on Miss America's social media accounts will show the public that it has far more to offer other than slot machines.
"I love getting the opportunity to show the great things that Atlantic City has to offer," said Kazantsev, a California native who moved to New York City after graduating from Long Island's Hofstra University in 2013. "We have a huge social media presence and are able to show Atlantic City in a different light."
In addition to helping enhance Atlantic City's brand, Kazantsev, whose platform has centered on raising domestic violence awareness, said the Miss America Pageant also helps generate revenue from many events associated with the event, along with the 53 contestants bringing numerous family and friends to city hotels.
The pageant, which is broadcast nationally on ABC, is estimated to generate roughly $45.8 million in overall economic activity for Atlantic City, including $32.9 million of direct spending by attendees, according to Miss America Organization COO Josh Randle, who cited an independent 2013 study contracted by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Randle said the pageant, which returned to Atlantic City in 2013 following a nine-year run in Las Vegas, also creates around 559 jobs and $12 million in earnings.
"It's a huge economic boost to the city," said Kazantsev, a child of Russian immigrants who was a triple major in political science, global studies and geography in the Hofstra Honors College. "The whole city gets engulfed in this two week event."
Kazantsev's Miss America run will wrap up in Atlantic City at the conclusion of the Sept. 13 pageant, when she crowns the new winner. Prior to becoming Miss America, Kazantsev had planned to attend Notre Dame Law School, but now she may pursue a master's in business administration. Whatever her future holds, she plans to continue helping boost Atlantic City's image through a strong relationship built with Mayor Donald Guardian and hopes future Miss America winners will do the same.
"I will always be involved," she said. "I will always give back to a city that has given me so much."