Beauty pageants are not just about looks. Contestants are praised for their beauty, but they are also valued for their passions, goals and contributions to society. In competitions like Miss USA, winners are not chosen based on their appearance, but rather for their outstanding leadership and exemplification of the American woman. Cheslie Kryst was the perfect example of an exceptional role model, so it was no surprise when she was crowned Miss USA in 2019. It came as a devastating shock when it was revealed that she had died by a confirmed suicide after jumping from her apartment building in New York City on Jan. 30, 2022.
Kryst, whose mother was crowned Miss North Carolina in 2002, was named Miss USA in 2019. The Michigan native had become a member of the North Carolina bar association after completing her MBA and law degree at Wake Forest University School of Law. Following the completion of her education, she began working at Poyner Spruill LLP as a civil litigation attorney. In 2019, Kryst decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and take part in the Miss North Carolina beauty pageant. After being crowned Miss North Carolina, Kryst gained recognition in the pageant world for her extraordinary beauty, intelligence and poise. As she rose in popularity, Kryst decided to participate in the Miss USA competition, where she was crowned Miss USA in 2019.
As her fame grew, Kryst expressed her dedication to using her voice to speak up for others. She continued her work as a civil litigation attorney, working as a pro bono lawyer for low-level drug offenders. She also became the New York correspondent for Extra TV, reporting on the latest entertainment news and collaborating with stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and many more. In recognition of her work as a reporter, she was nominated at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2020 and 2021 for Outstanding Entertainment News Program. Despite her busy work schedule, she always found time to represent the world of pageantry. Weeks before her death, she served as a co-presenter at the Miss Universe 2021 contest in December.
At her core, Kryst was a beloved sister, daughter and friend to many. She was particularly close with her mother, April Simpkins. Simpkins has spoken out following the death of Kryst, expressing her utter shock and heartbreak as she mourns the loss of her daughter. Simpkins revealed that Kryst struggled with depression, though Kryst only shared this with Simpkins a few weeks before her suicide. Despite Kryst’s decision to keep her personal battle with depression private, she was an avid supporter of mental health advocacy and awareness. Kryst also spoke out against racial injustice, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and fighting tirelessly for equality.
Though her time on Earth was cut tragically short, Kryst lived a spectacular life. At 30 years old, she was a beauty queen, lawyer, reporter, sister, daughter, friend and leader. May her legacy inspire and endure.