Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst dies at 30

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst arrives at the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Cheslie Kryst, the 2019 Miss USA winner and a journalist for the entertainment news television network “Extra,” passed away on Sunday in New York City. She was 30 years old at the time. Kryst was declared dead early Sunday morning, according to the Washington Post, after presumably plunging from an apartment building in Manhattan. In a statement, Kryst’s family acknowledged her death.

“We share the sadness and profound grief of our beloved Cheslie’s demise,” the statement added. “Her enormous light, with its beauty and strength, inspired people all around the world.” She was a woman who cared, loved, laughed, and shone. Cheslie exemplified love and helped people in a variety of ways, including as a social justice attorney, Miss USA, and an EXTRA host. But most significantly, we know her effect will continue on as a daughter, sister, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Kryst had already built a high-powered professional career when she won Miss USA 2019, unlike most pageant queens. Kryst was working as an attorney in North Carolina when she entered the 2019 competition, having earned a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University. Her resume and stage presence wowed the judges and won her thousands of supporters and fans, and her victory was a highlight in a historic year in which Black women triumphed in all five major beauty pageants. In an interview with Refinery 29, Kryst said that she wore her crown on top of her natural curls in the hopes of inspiring other women to feel comfortable wearing their hair naturally. 

“You are trailblazers, making your own path on your own terms,” then-Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) remarked of Kryst and her fellow pageant winners. Congratulations.”

Kryst did not shy away from potentially incendiary themes during the Miss USA 2019 Q&A segment, tackling the #MeToo movement and other social justice movements head-on.

Kryst stated at the time, “I don’t think these movements have gone too far.” “What #MeToo and #TimesUp care about is ensuring that our country fosters safe and inclusive workplaces.” That’s precisely what I want to hear as an attorney, and that’s exactly what I want for our country.” 

Kryst joined “Extra” as a correspondent after winning, and the producers of the widely syndicated show described her as “a moment-making machine.”

“Our hearts are devastated,” the show’s team said following her death in a statement. “Cheslie was not only an important component of our program, but she was also a valued member of our ‘Extra’ family who had an impact on the whole crew.” We send our heartfelt condolences to her whole family and friends.”

Kryst was born in Michigan and relocated to the Carolinas as a youngster, eventually enrolling at the University of South Carolina to compete in Division I track and field and get a business degree. Kryst worked pro bono for jailed persons contesting unjust prison terms as a lawyer, once assisting in the release of a guy facing life in prison for a low-level drug offense. On the side, she launched a fashion site aimed to assist women in finding economical workwear. 

Tianna Tuamoheloa, another Miss USA 2019 competitor, said in an interview on Sunday that Kryst “truly did just have a brightness about her.” After the epidemic hit, she broadcast live exercises with her mother. Tuamoheloa remarked that even if friends hadn’t spoken to her in a long, they knew she was there for them.

According to the Associated Press at the time, Tuamoheloa, 29, was the first national Miss USA 2019 contender of Samoan origin. She is also half-African-American, and she has spoken about the delight and responsibility of being a “mixed girl on stage” who represents many people.

Kryst will be remembered as a calm, witty, and supportive person who was tremendously busy, according to Tuamoheloa, who represented Nevada in the national championship that year. In an active group conversation, she remained in touch with other Miss USA contenders. 

Other Miss USA  2019 contenders paid homage to “our sister, our friend, our role model, our Miss USA” in Instagram postings on Sunday.

“You were a brilliant, powerful, and beautiful light,” the pageant’s 2019 class stated in a statement. “You have left an indelible impression on us. Your effect will be remembered for a long time.”

“I have ALWAYS prided myself in stating that I shared not just a stage with you, but a sisterhood,” Tuamoheloa wrote of Kryst. You were historically significant. Graceful. Uplifting.”

“By blessing us to witness your lovely, big-haired, dazzling ray of light, God knew what he was doing,” she wrote.