Miss USA 2019, a lawyer who worked for social justice, dies at age 30
Cheslie Kryst was crowned Miss USA in 2019. Photo from Poyner Spruill.
A lawyer, fashion blogger and Extra correspondent who won the Miss USA pageant in 2019 has died by suicide after apparently jumping from an apartment building in Manhattan, New York City.
Cheslie Kryst was 30 years old, report the Washington Post, ABC News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Post.
Kryst, a graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Law, was a fashion blogger and a litigation associate at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, North Carolina, when she was crowned Miss USA. She had also handled pro bono work for prisoners seeking reduced sentences.
“In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie,” Kryst’s family said 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.”
Hours before her death, Kryst shared a photo of herself on Instagram with the caption, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”
Her body was found at about 7 a.m. Sunday in front of the Orion high-rise building, according to USA Today.
The New York Post noted that Kryst wrote a March 2021 essay for Allure about growing older in a society that judges people by looks.
“Each time I say, ‘I’m turning 30,’ I cringe a little. Sometimes I can successfully mask this uncomfortable response with excitement; other times, my enthusiasm feels hollow, like bad acting,” Kryst wrote. “Society has never been kind to those growing old, especially women.”
Kryst said she was the oldest woman to win Miss USA when she took the title at age 28. She said detractors petitioned for a lower pageant age limit, while others trolled her on social media, criticizing her age, her looks and her opinions.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted comments on my social media pages that had vomit emojis and insults telling me I wasn’t pretty enough to be Miss USA or that my muscular build was actually a ‘man body,’” she wrote.
Kryst also wrote about the drive for achievement and the time that she landed in the hospital after nearly working herself to death.
“I discovered that the world’s most important question, especially when asked repeatedly and answered frankly, is: why? Why earn more achievements just to collect another win? Why pursue another plaque or medal or line item on my resume if it’s for vanity’s sake, rather than out of passion? Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to only find emptiness?”
“Too often, I noticed that the only people impressed by an accomplishment were those who wanted it for themselves. Meanwhile, I was rewarded with a lonely craving for the next award. Some would see this hunger and label it ‘competitiveness’; others might call it the unquenchable thirst of insecurity.”
Kryst ended the essay saying she was entering her 30th year “searching for joy and purpose on my own terms—and that feels like my own sweet victory.”
ABA Journal: “Attorney suicide: What every lawyer needs to know”
ABA Journal: “10 Questions: This North Carolina litigator reigns as Miss USA”
ABAJournal.com: “Attorney who does pro bono for inmates is new Miss USA”
- The Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers is at ABAJournal.com/toolkit.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255.
- A directory of LAP programs by state is at ABAJournal.com/lap.