Miss America winner Kira Kazantsev, who spoke during the pageant about protecting women from domestic violence, is this morning denying allegations that she harshly hazed members of her college sorority.
“They are not true,” Kazantsev, 23, said today on “Good Morning America” of claims from an unnamed source on the website Jezebel that under her supervision, "Pledges in the incoming class were called names, berated for their perceived physical flaws and imperfections, and made to perform physical tasks to the point of bruising and exhaustion …" and that she "made the recruits' lives 'a living hell.'"
“I’m incredibly hurt that someone has said these things,” said Kazantsev, a former Miss New York and former member of Alpha Phi at Hofstra University.
Kazantsev, a trilingual honors student who served as Alpha Phi's new member educator and recruitment committee president, did not deny that she was involved in hazing while at the university.
“All I can do is sit here and be honest and share that, yes, I was involved under the broad definition of hazing at some point but never ever in a million years what this is claiming to hold,” she said of the Jezebel report.
The report, which appeared on the website on Monday, also claimed that Kazantsev was kicked out of Alpha Phi, allegedly for exceptionally harsh hazing.
Kazantsev said on “GMA” that she was asked to leave the sorority in her senior year but that the conflict came over an email in which a joke she wrote was, she says, misconstrued.
“I was asked by a New Member Educator when I was a senior to reach out to the alumni base to have an event of sorts,” Kazantsev explained. “In the email I basically made a joke and that was taken out of context and forwarded to the national office.”
When asked what the joke was, Kazantsev replied, “That we would make the evening scary for the pledges when that never came to fruition and none of those things that I’ve been accused of ever happened or were ever intended to happen.”
The Miss America winner says the hazing tasks she participated in while at Hofstra were “menial,” and included things like reciting information and spending sleepless nights crafting.
“I was hazed,” she said. "I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that’s appropriate behavior when, clearly, I’m two years removed from the organization today and I understand that that’s just not true.”
“I came in as an impressionable freshman,” Kazantsev added. “Everybody wants to be part of something. At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the university.”
In a statement to ABC News, the Alpha Phi International confirmed that Kazantsev was no longer a member of the organization. The statement said the organization could not comment on details related to membership status changes.
The Miss America organization told ABC News in a statement that Kazantsev has been, "...ery open and candid about her termination from the Alpha Phi sorority."
"It’s unfortunate that this incident and unsourced allegations have been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira’s impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University, including earning a triple major from the Honors College and her commitment to serving her community. Kira is an exceptional ambassador for the Miss America Organization, and we are excited to be a part of her journey as a force for good across our nation, promoting education and service and working to empower young women," the statement read.
Kazantsev wowed judges with her unique rendition of "Happy," which she sung while sitting cross-legged on the stage and banging a red plastic cup to the music. With her win, she became the third consecutive contestant from New York to win the Miss America crown.
Though Kazantsev brought a platform of domestic violence against women to Miss America, the pageant winner says she now plans to also speak out about her own hazing experience during her year-long reign.
“I think now that obviously this is all out in the open and I think it’s very important for me to address it,” Kazantsev said. “I’m going to take this negative and turn it into a positive.”