PAGEANT Talks Presents: Miss U.S. International 2016 Kaitryana Leinbach
Introduction: I am 18 and live in North Carolina. I plan to attend LSU in their Honors Program starting in January, will double major in Organic Chemistry and Microbiology, and then go on to medical school before joining the Peace Corp. After the Peace Corp my current plan is to work in the field of Regenerative Medicine (but every doctor I know advises me that I may change specialties so I am trying to keep an open mind about that). A lifelong athlete, I am a former gymnast, diver, dancer, and current cheerleader for the LSU Tigers.
How did you get involved in pageants?
I got involved because my sister decided to do an MAO local when I was 12. None of my family had ever been involved in pageants, but she came home from her gap year in China wanting to do one. She asked me to be her princess for the local she signed up for. I was completely fascinated standing backstage watching her compete. I was a very serious gymnast at the time; I spent all my time covered in chalk and sweat, my hair tossed carelessly in a ponytail, dreaming about the Olympics. Even though it was very different from my daily life in the gym, all those contestants looked so incredibly glamorous in their heels and big curly hair and makeup!!! Then, when my sister actually WON, well, that decided it for me – I just HAD to try it!
Why did you decide to compete for the title of Miss U.S. International?
This year I aged out of the Teen category and into Miss. I knew that competing as a Miss might be a lot different than competing as a Teen so I decided to get as much practice as I could competing as a Miss this summer. The Miss US International pageant was structured to be one of three pageants happening over the course of two days (American Beauty, Miss US International, and Miss US Supranational all in the same week) and I thought that would be a perfect way to get a lot of practice in a short amount of time so I entered all three.
When you heard your name called and put on that sash what emotions or thought were going through your head?
This may sound funny, but I was mainly thinking about Miss California, who I was holding hands with. She is so beautiful and I was thinking “WOW! How incredible that I placed 1RU at my first Miss pageant!! California is going to make a beautiful winner!” I didn’t really realize that I had won for a couple of moments and then I think my brain went blank in shock for a few more moments. The photographer got a hilarious photo of that moment, actually – I immediately looked over at my parents in the audience and I have a look of utter and total stunned shock on my face. All I had hoped to do was to place Top 15, maybe Top 10 if I was lucky. To even make Top 5 was incredible; winning seriously wasn’t even on my radar and the look on my face in that moment shows it!
What was the first thing you did after the pageant?
I went and hugged my Mom and both of us started to tear up. My Dad had to go find us a Kleenex because our mascara was running and people were all around taking pictures. I know we looked hilarious to be crying and laughing all at the same time. We kept saying: “What just happened???”
Your sister also competed in pageants how did she do?
She loved competing in pageants! She really enjoyed competing in MAO and USA in our home state of North Carolina and in New York, where she went to college. She almost always made top 10 – we were all so proud! This summer she competed in Miss Earth United States as Miss Florida and also placed top 10. That may have been her last one, though – I think she has retired the eyelashes and heels to focus on finishing her Masters in Engineering and focus on her career in Data Analytics with Disney.
What does true beauty mean to you?
To me true beauty is spending your energy in a positive way all the time, every day. If you live your life caring for your body by eating and living healthily and caring for your soul by helping others, practicing kindness, doing your very best at all times, and maintaining calm and peace to share with others, then automatically you are a true beauty.
What are you looking forward to during your reign?
I think the highlight of my reign will be the 3 weeks I will spend in Japan. I can not WAIT to meet all the other girls and learn about all the different cultures. I am going to meet women from almost 80 countries all around the world. It is going to be the best 3 weeks of my life!
What’s been your favorite moment so far as Miss U.S. International?
There have been so many that are in the running for my favorite but I keep coming back to that moment that Miss Columbia and Miss Peru (thanks, Dani and Danea!!) added me to the Instagram and WhatsApp group message for all the Miss International girls to get to know one another before the competition. I think at that moment it really sunk in that I would be representing my entire country at one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. It is very humbling and thrilling!
What are you looking forward to at Miss International?
I have to go back to being excited to meet the other girls – I can not WAIT to meet all of them! I am also really looking forward to visiting Japan. My Mother lived and worked in Japan as a young woman and absolutely loved the country, the people, and the culture. My entire life I have heard about the beauty of Japan and in just a few short days I will be experiencing it for myself– it is a dream come true!
Who are your heroes?
Nelson Mandela is not only my hero but a hero to millions. If I could bring him back and ask him questions I would most want to know how we could cultivate more peaceful yet effective leadership because our world can always use that, now more than ever.
What should every woman try at least once in her life?
I think every woman should overcome a fear at least once in her life. It does not matter what the exact fear is — it can be as simple as overcoming the fear of public speaking or being afraid of large dogs. It is wonderful to overcome the fear itself, of course, but what I think is even more liberating is the self-knowledge that, once you overcome a personal fear, you realize you can work on overcoming ALL your fears. You can do ANYTHING once you are truly not afraid.
Who is your celebrity crush?
I have two of them, actually. First, I have had a crush on the character Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy since I was a kid. He is so handsome and also really supportive to everyone around him.I also have a bit of a crush on The Rock – I love a guy who works out and I definitely like a guy with more muscles than me.
What’s your one biggest pet peeve?
People who have a closed mind to new ideas. I may not agree with what you think or have to say, but I will always listen to and try to understand your opinions first. I really can not understand why everyone does not do this! If you don’t try to understand new ideas how can you ever hope to grow, change, and improve?!
What’s your favorite Halloween costume?
My favorite costume was probably the year I dressed up as a crotchety old Granny. I borrowed one of my Mother’s huge, flannel, floor length nightgowns, powdered my hair white, put on some fuzzy slippers and swiped my own Grandmother’s walker for the day. It was great fun wearing pajamas and slippers to school since every other day we were required to wear very boring, uncomfortable, and unattractive school uniforms. I decided to play the old granny part to the hilt, I convinced my friends to all dress up as old ladies, too, and we ruled the school that day as our own version of a Vintage Posse.
Describe yourself in two words?
Involved and Sincere
What makes you laugh?
The hilarious SnapChats everyone sends me– especially my teammates on the LSU cheer team. They have been trying to keep me feeling a part of the team even though I deferred this semester so I can focus on prep for Miss International. Their crazy, sweet, and completely uplifting and motivational SnapChats really make my day. Thank you, guys! MWAH! I love you!
What item in your closet do you wear the most?
Recently: My favorite nude heels. Any other time: the many, many T-shirts I inherit from my “little” brothers when they outgrow them. My twin brothers are a year younger than me and over 6’ tall now. They outgrow shirts very quickly and since I am a staunch supporter of green initiatives and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” I make sure all of those cast offs are rescued. Thanks to all their old t-shirts I get to be the only pageant girl I know with a full wardrobe of football, wrestling, and rugby shirts. I have already amassed enough of them to clothe me and all my friends for years haha.
What is one item you can’t live without?
Photo Credit: All rights to photographer.