Cheslie Kryst, who won the 2019 Miss USA pageant and worked as a correspondent for the entertainment news television show “Extra,” was found dead Sunday after falling from a high-rise apartment building in New York City, authorities said. She was 30.
Authorities said Kryst — who also worked pro bono as a lawyer for low-level drug offenders, founded White Collar Glam, a fashion blog dedicated to helping women dress professionally for office jobs, and modeled for fashion retailer Express — jumped to her death from her 29th floor apartment.
“In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie,” the Kryst family wrote 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.
“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,” the family said.
Tributes poured in through social media and other outlets for the beauty queen, who famously wore her crown atop her naturally curly hair.
“Such incredibly sad news,” tweeted Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. “Depression creates deep despair and an overwhelming illusion that there’s no way forward in life,” King advised. “Remember, looking good and doing good doesn’t equal feeling and thinking good.”
Officials at Miss Universe also tweeted their devastation.
“We are devastated to learn about the loss of Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst. She was one of the brightest, warmest, and most kind people we have ever had the privilege of knowing,” pageant officials tweeted. “Our entire community mourns her loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family right now.”
The 68th Miss USA, Kryst was born in Jackson, Michigan, to Rodney Kryst and April Simpkins. She was raised by her mother and stepfather, David Simpkins, and Kryst had four brothers and one sister.
In 2013, Kryst won the 1L Trial Bar Competition Finals and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and human resource management.
A track and field star, Kryst turned her attention to law and beauty pageants. She began work at the Poyner Spruill firm as an attorney in civil litigation.
In 2016, she finished fourth at the Miss North Carolina USA pageant.
Two years later, she finished in the top 10 in the Miss North Carolina USA competition while earning a degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.
She won the Miss North Carolina USA title a year later and then became a correspondent for “Extra.”
“She was sunshine personified,” said CBS journalist and Kryst friend Nathaniel Burleson.