The way Kira Kopacz ’15 sees it, there are no two groups more typecast than MIT students and pageant contestants. So why not dispel stereotypes about both—at the same time?
“There are definitely misconceptions about both groups,” Kopacz says. “Pageant contestants aren’t dumb blondes. And MIT students aren’t anti-social—they’re actually pretty outgoing.”
Kopacz is one of 14 contestants who will compete for the titles of Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge on Sunday, February 8. The winners receive a $1,500 academic scholarship, a $1,995 public speaking scholarship, and are eligible to compete in the Miss Massachusetts pageant this summer.
Kopacz, a Course 9 major, entered her first pageant in high school and has competed for Miss Cambridge since 2013. She finished as third runner-up and won a STEM-related scholarship in last year’s competition.
“I get backhanded compliments all the time,” she says. “People at MIT ask, ‘Aren’t there better things for you to do?’ But it’s helped me build confidence, break stereotypes, and take a break from the MIT academia.”
And much like MIT, pageants competition—Kopacz was named Miss Central Massachusetts in 2013 and Miss Middleboro in 2014—can be more practice and preparation than fun and games.
“Pageant season is basically January to June,” she says. “During that time, my schedule is schoolwork until 5 p.m., rehearsal until midnight, and then I just crash. But it doesn’t feel like work—I love it.”
The Miss Boston/Miss Cambridge pageant is divided into five phases, including a talent program. Kopacz will perform the song “I What I Am” from the 1973 French musical La Cage aux Folles.
“Luckily I live in Burton Connors,” she says. “So I can use the music room to practice instead of my dorm.”
The pageant’s other phases include interviews, on-stage questions, and the evening wear and swimsuit competitions.
“The swimsuit competition is about being comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “The judges are looking for self-confidence. It’s about being able to handle any situation you’re thrown into.”
Kopacz’s journey to Miss Massachusetts isn’t unprecedented. Erika Ebbel Angle ’04 was named Miss Massachusetts in 2004 (Joanne Chang ’03 was fourth runner-up) and Jacqueline “Chacha” Durazo ’14 competed in Miss Cambridge in 2013.
Kopacz will graduate from MIT in June and plans to attend medical school. She hopes to stay involved in pageant competitions and help her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, raise awareness for the Boston chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a community program that advocates for abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities.
The Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge pageant takes place on Sunday, February 8, 5:00 p.m., at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are still available.