The Legacy of Cheslie Kryst

Cheslie Kryst won Miss USA in 2019, and in spite of heavy criticism and her tragic death, she still remains to be a highly influential figure who will continue to inspire many.

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Cheslie Kryst

Kryst celebrating her 557 day as Miss USA to her Instagram followers.

By Daryn O'Neal, O'Neal

On May 2, 2019 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Nevada, Miss USA finalists Alejandra Gonzalez and Cheslie Kryst close their eyes and exchange their pride and hope through their firmly held hands. Shortly after, Nick and Vanessa Lachey announce that Kryst has been crowned the 2019 Miss USA representing North Carolina. The fellow contestants crowded around Kryst with smiles and tears as they congratulate Kryst on her new title. Over the next few years, Kryst would become a news correspondant for Extra, social media influencer, and was nominated for an Emmy Award. The life of Kryst had an image of influential perfection and prosperity that seemed un-shakeable.

Two years later on January 30, 2022, Kryst was identified as the woman who leaped from the 29 floor of the Orion apartment to her death at the young age of thirty. In addition to leaving her suicide note for her mother, she left her fans and followers with a radiant Instagram post with a cryptic caption saying, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”

Kryst’s passing left many people in the pageant community deeply hurt, and many pageant winners, alumni and celebrities publicly mourned her death.

It’s so important that we treat mental health just as we do physical health, and that starts with removing the stigma. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ask those around you if they might be struggling with suicidal thoughts.”

— Mallory Fueler

Kryst first gained public attention by earning her title of Miss North Carolina USA 17 years after her mother, April Simpkins, earned the same crown in 2002. Kryst’s victory eventually led to her entry and victory of the 2019 Miss USA competition.

Kryst’s win didn’t only break her own personal barriers, but her win also contributed to history being made in the country. In 2019, the four major beauty pageants in America were all won by black women, with Kaliegh Garris winning Miss Teen USA, Nia Franklin winning Miss America, Zozibini Tunzi winning Miss Universe, and Kryst winning Miss USA.

Alongside Kryst’s work in pageantry and the entertainment industry, Kryst also found great success in other areas of her life.

Kryst earned her undergraduate degree for the Honors College at the University of South Carolina in addition to being a participant for the Track and Field team. After earning her undergrad, Kryst earned her MBA in law at Wake Forest University School of Law. Shortly after joining the North Carolina State Bar she became an attorney for Poyner Spruill LLP.

Kryst also extended her intelligence and talents by creating her own blog, White Collar Glam, which helped women around the world dress appropriately for white-collar occupations. Kryst was very present on social media apps such as Tik Tok and Instagram, which allowed her to further display her genius.

Kryst represented a classy, beautiful, and educated black woman who was worthy of representing American elite, but the shocking death of this former beauty queen served as a painful reminder of how suicidal thoughts, attempts, and hardships leading up to those aspects are not specific to a certain type of person.

Kryst will continue to inspire many with her accomplishments, and above all, she serves as a reminder of the importance to value mental health.

Miss Texas winner and suicide prevention advocate, Mallory Fueler, took to her Instagram in response to Kryst’s death to say, “It’s so important that we treat mental health just as we do physical health, and that starts with removing the stigma. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ask those around you if they might be struggling with suicidal thoughts.”