Attorney who does pro bono for inmates is new Miss USA

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Cheslie Kryst was crowned Miss USA in 2019. Photo from Poyner Spruill.

A 27-year-old North Carolina litigation attorney who handles pro bono work for inmates was crowned the new Miss USA on Thursday.

The winner, Cheslie Kryst, is an associate at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte who focuses on litigation and government representation. One of her clients is the current Miss America, Nia Franklin, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. Her work for prisoners consists of seeking reduced sentences for them, according to the Associated Press.

Kryst has a law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University.

Kryst, who is black, said people encountering her make different assumptions about her based on her young age and looks.

Courthouse security guards will ask her to show her bar card so she can access her laptop and cellphone in court, but they don’t require older white attorneys to do the same. When she meets other legal professionals for the first time, they ask: “Are you the attorney?”

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer and in a videotaped message during the pageant, Kryst recalled the fashion advice she received during a moot court competition. Kryst had worn a pantsuit, and one of the judges, a black woman, told her she should wear a skirt because that is what judges prefer.

Kryst told reporters after the pageant that the advice was frustrating. “Don’t tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments,” she said.

But Kryst does offer her own fashion advice to professionals at her blog White Collar Glam.

Looks of the week include a pink pantsuit, a green dress and a sweater paired with a pencil skirt and blazer. How to look different despite clothing repeats? Buy separates that you can mix and match, and don’t always wear the same accessories with your garments. Is a double-breasted blazer for you? “This is not a question of whether you should wear a double-breasted blazer, but when,” she says.

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