Cheslie Kryst, who won the Miss USA pageant in 2019, has died after jumping from her high-rise Manhattan apartment building, in a suspected suicide.
She was 30.
Her family confirmed the news in a statement, saying, “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. 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.”
Kryst’s body was found on the sidewalk outside the Orion Condominium building in Midtown just after 7 a.m. Kryst lived on the ninth floor of the building, according to the New York Post. She was last seen on a terrace 29 stories above the ground.
The former Miss USA winner posted an Instagram photo before her death. “May this day bring you rest and peace,” she wrote alongside a photo of herself.
The 30-year-old began competing in pageants as a teenager, following in the footsteps of her mother, April Simpkins, who was crowned Mrs. North Carolina US in 2002. Kryst remembered being in middle school and watching Simpkins “clean up all these awards” in a 2020 interview with The Charlotte Observer.
“I didn’t have a lot of friends, I was a nerdy weird kid who just liked to read during class, and it was so cool that people knew my name because of my mom,” she said. “And so from that moment, I knew I was going to compete at some point in time.”
Kryst won the Miss USA title in 2019, just months after she’d clinched the Miss North Carolina USA crown. While competing, she remembered in a 2021 essay for Allure magazine, she spoke openly about her views “on the legalization of marijuana, the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, anti-abortion laws, the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and the successes and failures of criminal justice reform.”
“I openly supported the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and marched in protests over the summer,” Kryst continued. “I wasn’t searching to collect more awards or recognition during my reign. Rather, I fed the passion that made waking up each morning feel worthwhile: speaking out against injustice.”
At 28 years old, Kryst became the oldest woman to ever be crowned Miss USA. She went on to also become the longest-reigning victor, thanks to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, holding the title for a record 557 days.
Outside of pageantry, Kryst practiced as a civil litigation attorney, having earned her law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University. She worked as a global impact ambassador with Dress for Success, a nonprofit supporting low-income women searching for jobs, and wrote about business attire on a blog called White Collar Glam.
After her Miss USA win, Kryst also became a New York correspondent for celebrity and entertainment program Extra. Her work on the show garnered her two Daytime Emmy nominations.
“Our hearts are broken,” a Sunday statement from Extra read. “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.”
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