FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Marjaree Mason Center handed out awards Friday to its Top Ten Professional Women and also honored a local business but there was also a very serious message shared by the event's special guest - a former Miss America.
Kira Kazantsev wore the Miss America crown in 2015 but behind the smile, she held a dark secret.
"Behind closed doors, his mood swings would draw me in with sweetness and then scare me with violence," she told the crowd.
Kazantsev was a victim of domestic violence while in college.
"I guess you can categorize it as intimate partner violence and it's something that ran the gamut of different types of abuse and I had to seek therapy and counseling," Kazantsev said.
The former Miss New York was the keynote speaker for the awards luncheon sponsored by the Marjaree Mason Center. The center offers support and housing for domestic violence victims. Kazantsev said the issue is swept under the rug too often.
"Parents need to be talking to their kids about this," Kazantsev said. "Having real talks about what they can expect when they go on a college campus."
Kazantsev said the Miss America Pageant turned out to be the best form of therapy in getting her life back together. She has used her platform to advocate on behalf of others.
"Domestic violence is not a sexy topic," she explained. "People don't want to put their nose into other people's business. They don't want to talk about it. What better way than to put a shiny crown on it and people can't look away."
The event was emceed by our own Graciela Moreno and Margot Kim. Honorees included Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp and Jeannette Ishii of the Insure America Project.
Former Miss America shares story of abuse at Marjaree Mason Center award ceremony