Kaityrana Leinbach, Miss International USA 2016, is a charming southern girl who grew up with values centered on faith and family. It does not come as a surprise then that Kaityrana is naturally compassionate and is willing to extend a helping hand whever needed. Right now, she is in Japan enjoying the hospitality of Miss International 2016’s host nation. The pageant is very active in several projects involving United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the charitable attitude of Kaitryrana is definitely what the pageant is looking for.
Prior flying to Japan, Kaityrana Leinbach took some time to talk with Missosology. Here’s the excerpt of the interview.
Tell us about the town where you grew up.
I have grown up in two towns, actually. When I was younger we lived in a mid-size city in North Carolina; my ancestors helped settle Winston-Salem in 1753 and our family just never left. The town is beautiful, historic and in a perfectly situated location – we have the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smoky Mountains and hour to the North and West, as well as miles of beaches a few hours to the East, and a larger city a hour to the South.
When I turned 5 my Father’s job was transferred to that larger city so we moved. Charlotte is 1.5 million people and cosmopolitan in every way while still retaining hometown charm. We have lived in Charlotte ever since. But no matter where my family has lived some things have stayed constant: here in the South we drink gallons of sweet iced tea, we are raised with traditional good manners and hospitality, and our love for and ties to family and home run deep.
What are your qualities that you think will make you the next Miss International?
I am very self-motivated and responsible and I think Miss International really needs those qualities, but I think the most important quality of mine that would make me a good Miss International is my interest and experience volunteering. I have been volunteering since I was a little girl and I love it. At this point I have volunteered over 3,000 hours and was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal for Service in 2016. In fact, I graduated early from high school so that I could move to New York City to volunteer full-time after being appointed to the National Youth Advisory Board for DoSomething.org, a national youth volunteering organization that works for social justice, equality, and improving our communities with over 5.3 million youth volunteers across the USA.
I hope if I am chosen as Miss International that the organization will send me on long-term charitable missions all around the globe. I would love to spend my entire year, going to different communities for months at a time, digging wells so people can have clean water, building houses, feeding the hungry, enabling children to get an education, and helping others recover from natural disasters and social strife.
Who among the Miss International titleholders do you admire most and why?
I have a special place in my heart for Daniela Herrera Avendano, Miss Colombia. She was the very first of my sister queens to reach out on social media and ask me to join the current titleholders’ group message so that we could all get to know one another before we arrive. And I appreciate the other titleholders for welcoming everyone into the group. I think this kind of sisterhood is what the Miss International competition is all about. Yes, we are competing on one day in October; yes, only one girl will “win”. However, we are together for three weeks, hopefully will be friends for a lifetime, and every one of us wins when we welcome all and make real friendships across continents and cultures.
Can you tell us what’s inside your bag?
Oh, I’m not sure I have enough room here to list everything in my bag; I tend to be a bit of a hoarder and carry a little bit of everything in it! Let’s see – aspirin, my wallet with some yen in it already (so exciting to have yen instead of dollar bills!), a mirror and touch up makeup, a Lara bar, trail mix (I love my snacks!), tissues, an umbrella, travel size hairspray and a comb, mints, a lint brush, scotch tape, my passport, a scarf, my iPad, and my cell phone. And that’s just one compartment [laughs]! Basically, I am ready for any emergency!! So, if one of my sister queens has a blister or a headache I am definitely the one to come to for help!
What’s your breakfast like?
I usually make a fresh juice for breakfast. I asked for a really strong juicer for my high school graduation present so that I could juice fiber rich vegetables and fruit like kale and carrots. Every morning I make a new concoction of whatever is around in the kitchen – my current favorite is kale, blueberries, pineapple, a whole apple, and a touch of basil and ginger. Mmmmmmmmmmm!
Why did you decide to join beauty pageants and what was the feeling like when they named you as Miss International USA?
I started doing pageants because of my sister. She is 9 years older than me and as a 12 year old little sister I wanted to do literally anything she did. Also, I thought it would be fun to have an excuse to wear make up (my father had said I could not wear make up until I turned 15, but he made an exception for pageants). And, of course, beautiful dresses and high heels.
As a 12 year old I had never worn high heels before so I first had to learn to walk in those. I did fine on flat floor (as a gymnast it was pretty similar to walking on the balance beam; I could even do a back handspring in heels) but, stairs were a different story! Stairs were rough! I walked up and down the stairs at all hours of the day, in the morning, as soon as my homework was done, anytime, trying to make sure I didn’t fall down the stairs in heels at my first pageant.
I can only describe the feeling of being named Miss US International as complete and total shock. I have literally never been so surprised in my entire life. Honestly, I still can’t quite believe it is me!
How do you see yourself ten years from now?
I will finish college and medical school, then I plan to join the Peace Corps and bring medical care to where ever needs me. Hopefully, while I am serving in the Peace Corps I will meet a great guy who is smart and kind and makes me laugh so we can be best friends. Then, after being besties for a while, if we happen to fall in love and get married one day that will be OK by me!
What is favorite book and why?
At the moment I really like Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It is all about empowerment and fully participating in everything about your life. You have great ideas – don’t let anyone tell you differently. You deserve a seat at the table. And when you take that seat at the table, don’t hang back and passively watch. Instead Lean In! Get fully engaged— own and be proud of the decisions you make about yourself and your life. Fully respect other people and their right to Lean In, but don’t let anyone, including and especially your own self, under estimate the power of YOU.
Although it was written about female empowerment, I think this message applies to all of us, every gender, every age, every nationality. We all need to Lean In.
And finally a special message to all of your fans at Missosology.
My message would be to thank everyone who follows Miss International and supports all of us girls competing. All of you fans are a big reason I have so much fun competing — when I am on stage I can feel the energy of the fans in the audience and it is like you are on stage with me – it is so fun! You are as much a part of the event as the women on stage — your interest and passion keeps pageants relevant and worthwhile. You keep us pumped up; your support and words of encouragement mean so much to all of us. I wish I could meet each one of you in person, so if you are in Tokyo at any of the events I hope you will say hi to me!
Special thanks to Britt Harrison for facilitating the interview. Missosology wishes Kaityrana Leinbach all the best of luck.