Cheslie Kryst, winner of the 2019 Miss USA pageant, died on Sunday (Jan. 30). According to NBC News, Kyrst was pronounced dead at the scene after police claimed she jumped from her high-rise Manhattan apartment building in an alleged death by suicide.
“In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie. Her great light was one that inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength,” expressed her family in a statement.
“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.”
New York Police Department Detective Martin Brown confirmed with CNN that Kryst’s death was being investigated but did not relay further details.
Kryst was crowned Miss USA in 2019. Her win made it so that all the winners of major United States-based pageants were women of color with Nia Franklin as Miss Universe 2019, Kaliegh Garris as Miss Teen USA 2019, and Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa as Miss Universe 2019.
“I feel like standards nowadays are really evolving,” Kryst shared with MTV News. At the time of the interview, only three of the four aforementioned queens had been crowned.
“I’m glad that Nia and Kaleigh and I are part of that, and showing people that even in pageantry, women of color are celebrated. And not only we celebrated, we’re serving as a [sic] three national title-holders for the biggest pageant competitions in the nation.”
Outside of pageantry, Kryst earned a law degree and a master’s of business administration from Wake Forest University and worked for the law firm Poyner Spruill. According to Insider, she worked on impactful social justice cases such as a pro bono case with the Buried Alive project to help free a man incarcerated for life for trafficking cocaine.
The North Carolina-based law firm released the following statement:
“Poyner Spruill is deeply saddened by the loss of an incredibly valuable member of our law firm community. Cheslie Kryst was a light that radiated every room she entered. She was a passionate advocate both in and out of the courtroom. She deeply cared about people and everyone who worked with her was better for it. She was such an inspiration to us all, and we were proud to call her a colleague and friend. We will miss her leadership, her smile, and her laughter. Our prayers go out to her family, friends, and everyone who feels her loss.”
Kryst also worked as a correspondent with Extra TV. Through her on-camera work, she received two Daytime Emmy nominations, once in 2020 for Outstanding Entertainment News Program at the 47th Daytime Emmy Awards and the same recognition during the 48th ceremony.
“Our hearts are broken. 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,” wrote the platform on social media.