Candace Kanavel, an officer with the Tempe Police Department, has added a new title to her name: Miss Arizona USA 2023.
Kanavel, who is passionate about her work in both law enforcement and pageantry, is set to represent her state in the upcoming Miss USA competition. Her unique journey from patrol to pageants has garnered attention and admiration as she seeks to serve as a role model for teen girls in Arizona.
Reflecting on her dual roles, Kanavel expressed how her experiences as a police officer and a pageant queen are not as divergent as they might seem.
“While they are opposite worlds, they actually complement each other really well,” she told FOX 10 News. “I would say my pageant career has helped me so much as a police officer and vice versa.”
The 11-year pageant veteran, who competed for Miss Arizona USA five previous times before winning the title this year, said her ability to establish personal connections with judges in pageants has helped her during crisis intervention and hostage negotiation training as a crisis intervention officer and SWAT team member.
“Talking to the judges is a little bit of a negotiation. You’re trying to tell them about yourself and really have those personal connections with them, and that’s exactly what we try to do as hostage negotiators. We’re trying to have that connection with the person we are trying to help,” Kanavel explained.
In addition to good communication skills, she says that the need to be a good leader and hold to a high moral standard are other similarities between her policing job and her pageant career.
As a woman in law enforcement, Kanavel acknowledged the challenges associated with being feminine in a traditionally male-dominated profession.
“Being a feminine woman in law enforcement has its challenges because you are stepping into a profession that traditionally was built for men, so having to carve out that path for myself and make it known that it’s OK that I’m feminine and that I do pageants, and be just as good at my job as my co-workers who are not,” she said.
With her platform, “Yes, She Can,” Kanavel hopes to promote confidence in women and help them develop situational awareness while pursuing their dreams. She has already provided self-defense and situational awareness training to over 200 women, leveraging her expertise as a police officer. Kanavel aims to ensure that no woman feels trapped in a situation she doesn’t know how to handle.
In her roles as Miss Arizona USA and law enforcement officer, she also aspires to bridge the divide between police officers and communities across the nation.
“[Know] that your dreams are not mutually exclusive; you shouldn’t limit yourself to one thing just because it doesn’t match up with the other,” Kanavel told 3TV/CBS 5 News. “I’m hoping that when people see me in this role and in my role as a police officer [it] will help bridge that divide.”
She also said that she hopes to humanize police and showcase the multifaceted lives officers lead outside their uniforms to connect with the community.
“I think if we … see past it and we get to each other on a human level and have empathy with each other, I think we’re going to start to bridge that gap between law enforcement and the community,” Kanavel said in an interview with Fox News.
She reflected that her interests have been intertwined from the get-go. “The funny story about how I started is I was attending a shop with a cop event as just a volunteer, and I saw a titleholder that was there and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I want to do that,’” she recalled of the experience that got her interested in participating in pageants. “Now I’m a police officer. So it came full circle, which is really cool.”
Kanavel first became interested in law enforcement after taking a criminal justice class in college from a professor who was a former Phoenix police officer and introduced her to a contact at the Tempe P.D.
“I started working there as a civilian. And then I saw the impact that you can have as a police officer in the community. And I was like, ‘Yes, I want to do that,’” Kanavel shared.
After the news broke about Kanavel’s pageant success, the Tempe P.D. announced its support. “We couldn’t be prouder of Officer Candace Kanavel to represent our police department,” the statement read. “From being a police aide to a great patrol officer she has continued her growth through determination and hard work. She’s a role model, and as her hashtag states, ‘Yes, she can.’”
Ultimately, Kanavel hopes her example demonstrates that women can do anything they set their mind to. “When little girls see me as Miss Arizona USA and then see what I do for a living, I think it’s really going to open some doors and open some eyes for them to what the possibilities are for their lives,” she said.