Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst died Sunday morning, said her family and the New York Police Department, which is investigating her death. She was 30.
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Kryst was an attorney who sought to help reform America’s justice system, as well as a fashion blogger and entertainment news correspondent, and was crowned Miss USA in 2019.
She died after jumping from a building in Manhattan, police said. The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed to CNN that she died by suicide and had multiple blunt impact injuries.
The NYPD will look into the circumstances surrounding Kryst’s death, Detective Martin Brown confirmed Monday. He declined to give more details. It is standard for police to investigate deaths by suicide.
“In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie,” Kryst’s family said in a statement. “Her great light was one that inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength. She cared, she loved, she laughed and she shined.”
The former Miss USA winner posted an Instagram photo before her death. “May this day bring you rest and peace,” she wrote alongside a photo of herself.
‘We know her impact will live on’
Kryst, of North Carolina, was a civil attorney who conducted free legal work for prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly. Licensed in two states, she earned a law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University after completing her undergraduate work at the University of South Carolina, where she was a track athlete.
Kryst also worked as a correspondent for entertainment news program “Extra.”
“Our hearts are broken,” the company said in a statement. “Cheslie was not just a vital part of our show. She was a beloved part of our Extra family and touched the entire staff. Our deepest condolences to all her family and friends.”
Added her family’s statement: “Cheslie embodied love and served others, whether through her work as an attorney fighting for social justice, as Miss USA and as a host on EXTRA. But most importantly, as a daughter, sister, friend, mentor and colleague – we know her impact will live on.”
An outspoken advocate for women
The year Kryst won her Miss USA crown, she was among an unprecedented slate of five major pageant winners who all were women of color. Kryst hastened to point out she and her fellow beauty queens were far from token victors based on race.
“Three of the last four Miss USAs were women of color – there was Kara McCullough, there was Deshauna Barber – and that was important for me to see,” Kryst told CNN in December 2019.
“People didn’t think, ‘Oh, that’s enough (Black winners),’” she said. “It’s still possible for us to be successful on your own merit. And it doesn’t matter if you look like the last winner, (if) you look like the last three. If you’re the best, you’re the best, and you can win.”
Kryst’s priorities and perspective on life and leadership also emerged during the 2019 Miss USA contest and her reign. She recalled her response when a judge at a legal competition once suggested she wear a skirt instead of pants because judges prefer skirts:
“Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants,” Kryst said during a video played during pageant activities. “Don’t tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments.”
Soon after, Kryst built a blog on fashion, White Collar Glam, and volunteered for Dress for Success.
For her last question in the final Miss USA round, Kryst was asked whether the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements had gone too far.
“I don’t think these movements have gone too far,” she said. “What #MeToo and #TimesUp are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country.
“As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear, and that’s exactly what I want for this country.”
To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.