Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev at a luncheon in her honor held at cafe Milano in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 11 (Photographer Andy Jones)
Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev at a luncheon in her honor at cafe Milano in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11 (Andy Jones)

Just two months into her year-long reign as Miss America 2015, 23-year-old Kira Kazantsev is already exhausted.

“There have been times when I wanted to just crawl into a hole and never talk to anyone again,” Kazantsev told us at a private luncheon for 20 held in her honor Monday at Cafe Milano. “But you can’t do that. You’re Miss America.” Talking, and looking impeccable while doing it, is part of the job.

So, despite the cyclical controversy that surfaces every pageant season (in Kazantsev’s case, news that she was kicked out of her college sorority for an alleged hazing incident), the soon-to-be law student soldiers on, logging something like 20,000 miles a month lobbying on behalf of her many causes, including domestic violence awareness (hence the scandal).

Washington, home of the lobbyist, is now a regular stop on the beauty pageant winner’s — excuse us, scholarship recipient’s — domestic tour. The goal of Monday’s mid-day meeting was to introduce Kazantsev to the women (and some men) who might help her connect the dots between the pageant’s talking points and current policy. Representatives from the Department of Education, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the USO all were present.

There was a hungry glint behind Kazantsev’s inch-long lashes. This was speed networking at its most glamorous.

Dressed in a slim black tunic over leather leggings paired with knee-high boots (“This is what happens when Miss America is from New York” whispered one luncheon guest approvingly), Kazantsev managed to look every bit the beauty queen even without the crown or the big hair.

She spoke for more than 10 minutes, spanning the Ray Rice controversy and “women being seen as lesser beings than men.” She used the word “symbiosis” at one point, and when someone at the table asked whether Kazantsev  would like to sit down with NFL brass, she answered with a question, “Do you have their phone number?”

Before dessert was served, communications strategist Kelley McCormick, a member of Miss America’s board of directors,  toasted the reigning queen: “I want you to feel the energy in this room for everything we hope you will be.”

“So, no pressure,” laughed Kazantsev.

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