This year, two MIT students will be among the 16 contestants in the Miss Boston pageant on Feb. 10. Both Jacqueline “Chacha” Durazo ’14 and Kira S. Kopacz ’15 are a reflection of the best aspects of the Institute, passionate about their fields of study and dedicated wholly to their passions in life. Perhaps what is most striking about these women are their similar yet different perspectives on the pageant experience, how it reflects the current trends in society, and how it gives them a platform to spread their ideas and inspire others.
Majoring in Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering) and concentrating in Course 6 (Computer Science) and 15 (Management), Durazo can be found most of the time studying engineering and working hard to excel in her schoolwork. She also loves cooking and is seen frequently around campus and at the fraternity SigEp sharing her talent in the form of various delectable delights. After graduation, she plans to attend a culinary academy in Italy before going to graduate school. What defines Durazo’s life is the diverse range of experiences she has had — she is not afraid of trying new things and exploring new frontiers.
In her quest to fully experience that unpurified solution called life, Durazo has decided to participate in this beauty pageant event that flies in the face of society’s antisocial expectations of the everyday engineer. This inclination does run in the family — her aunt was Miss Oregon 1994, and two of her other aunts also competed in pageants.
However, be sure not to lump Durazo with the depictions of stereotypical pageant queens on television. Durazo has reasons to be on the stage outside of displaying her good looks — she is campaigning on a platform of sexual assault awareness, due to her experience being assaulted as a freshman. It was exceedingly difficult for her to talk about this for years after the ordeal; however, she finally decided that it was not something to be embarrassed about. She hopes to bring the conversation on sexual assault to the mainstream and transform it from a topic that is treated with nervousness and trepidation into one that can be talked about normally.
Durazo hopes to show other women that have been through similar situations to embrace themselves for who they are and live their lives to the fullest. Through this pageant, she is demonstrating to the world that it is not only possible, but it is a woman’s right, to live a free and full life, without fear and social stigmas after being affected by sexual assault.
In the Miss Boston competition, she is introducing to the world what it means to be a fully independent, modern woman, who is coming into her prime and taking the world for what its worth. Put those notions of “pretty girls” acting beautiful aside — for her talent section, Durazo will be performing a hip-hop dance to a pair of songs by Rihanna (she learned hip-hop over IAP). Tellingly, Durazo says she chose the song “Live Your Life” for the ideal that she has personified throughout her college years: to live your life the way you want, free of other’s expectations.
She definitely relishes being the odd woman out in the pageant. When talking about the events, she can’t help but let out a loud laugh as she describes things such as “Light, Hair, and Makeup” or the blurbs each of them has for their events. When contestants were asked how they liked to workout, Durazo responded with, “I’d much rather be building robots and eating.” But don’t let that fool you — for the past month she has been doing the Insanity workout with friends.
For Kira S. Kopacz, a Course 9 (Brain and Cognitive Sciences) major and pre-med student, pageants have always been a passion. As a child, she was inspired by watching Miss America pageants on television. Thanks to her loving and supportive family, she was able to compete in her first pageant at a young age, and continued through high school in the National America Miss program.
With a gorgeous smile and a can-do attitude, Kopacz displays the traits of discipline and determination, which she credits in part to her pageant experience. Pageants have helped Kopacz in many ways, improving her public speaking skills and confidence. Unlike activities like Speech and Debate, Kira likes the well-roundedness of Miss America pageants. You not only learn how to perform — you have to be physically fit and scholastically strong.
She is campaigning on a platform of “Educating Youth in Math and Science,” a program that aims to enhance education in STEM fields. Kopacz wants to show primary and secondary students how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are used in their lives. By spreading her love for math and science, she hopes to pull more students into these fields, which she views as a national necessity.
For her talent, Kopacz will perform “Gia il Sole dal Gange” (Already, from over the Ganges, the Sun), an operatic aria that is popular in classical music circles. This is a reflection of her love of classical vocal music. Through her performance, she looks forward to sharing her passion for vocal music with others.
Kopacz has a broader goal than simply winning the pageant — she hopes to bridge the gap between MIT and the outside world. Not only does she want to prove that MIT students, and nerds in general, can speak and perform, but she plans on disproving the notion that pageant contestants are brain-dead individuals. She is the perfect person to do so — her father is an orthopedic spine surgeon, her mother is a teacher, and she has done research at Rutgers University on reversing spinal cord injuries.
Around campus, Kopacz is active on multiple levels: she is a MedLink, the events planner at the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, and a member of the 2015 Ring Committee.
The winner of the Miss Boston title will go on to compete for Miss Massachusetts and later Miss America.
To cast a vote in the People’s Choice Voting, go to missboston.org. To attend the pageant, tickets must be purchased online; be sure to include your favored contestant’s name when ordering to give her some credit.
Chacha Durazo is a former staff member of The Tech.