Cheslie Kryst, a correspondent for the celebrity news program “Extra” who won the Miss USA title in 2019 while working as a lawyer, was found dead on Sunday in New York. She was 30.
Kryst’s body was found in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday morning, and her death was being investigated as a suicide, Lt. Thomas Antonetti, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, said Monday.
“Extra,” which also announced her death, provided a statement from her family that said Kryst “embodied love and served others, whether through her work as an attorney fighting for social justice, as Miss USA and as a host” on the show.
Kryst joined “Extra” as a correspondent in the fall of 2019, and later earned two Daytime Emmy Award nominations for outstanding entertainment news program for her work, according to Variety.
In the hours before her death, Kryst shared a picture of herself on Instagram with the caption, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”
Cheslie Kryst was born on April 28, 1991, in Jackson, Michigan, and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, when she was a toddler, according to a profile from SouthPark Magazine. She later graduated from the University of South Carolina with a business degree and then earned an MBA and a law degree from Wake Forest University. In 2017 she joined Poyner Spruill, a law firm based in North Carolina, where she focused on civil litigation. The firm said in a statement on Sunday that Kryst “was a passionate advocate both in and out of the courtroom.” After she was crowned Miss USA, she and Poyner Spruill agreed that she would go on sabbatical, and she later left the firm, according to its managing partner, Dan Cahill.
Although Kryst worked as a lawyer for some time, she was no stranger to beauty pageants. Her mother, April Simpkins, was crowned Mrs. North Carolina in 2002. “My mom was the second Black Mrs. North Carolina, so I knew no matter what, I was going to compete,” Kryst told The New York Times in 2020.
Kryst started her pageant career as a teenager and won the Miss Northwestern pageant while in high school. In 2019, she was crowned Miss North Carolina and went on to win Miss USA, becoming the oldest contestant ever to win at age 28. She later represented the United States at the 2019 Miss Universe Competition, finishing in the top 10.
In the midst of a rising career that required long days, Kryst told The Times in December 2019 that down time was the key to balancing her busy schedule, which included traveling for events as Miss USA and maintaining her blog, White Collar Glam, where she discussed affordable workplace fashion.
Mental health was also a priority for Kryst, who said in a Facebook video in 2019 that she regularly spoke with a counselor. “When I’m not talking to my counselor, I take time at the end of every single day to just decompress,” she said. “I unplug. I shut my phone off. I don’t answer messages. I just sit and watch my favorite movie.”
Kryst also used her rise to fame and presence on the pageant stage to make a statement about diversity. She described herself as a Black woman of mixed race heritage and told The Grio in 2019 that she intentionally wore her hair natural during the Miss USA pageant. “Winning with my natural hair was really important to me because I thought, this is the way that my hair grows out of my head,” she said. “I should be OK to wear my hair like this.”
In an essay published by Allure magazine last year, Kryst reflected on the challenges of growing older and challenging conventional thinking about women’s appearances and opinions. “A grinning, crinkly-eyed glance at my achievements thus far makes me giddy about laying the groundwork for more, but turning 30 feels like a cold reminder that I’m running out of time to matter in society’s eyes — and it’s infuriating,” she wrote. “After a year like 2020, you would think we’d learned that growing old is a treasure and maturity is a gift not everyone gets to enjoy.”
Kryst is survived by her parents and five siblings.