Rising Star Cheslie Kryst’s Death Sparks Outpouring of NC Sorrow and Support

North Carolina's Cheslie Kryst won the 2019 Miss USA competition. The accomplished young lawyer worked pro bono to reduce prison sentences and spoke up on social justice issues. A correspondent for the entertainment news program "Extra," she died Sunday morning. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

By Sarah Ovaska

January 31, 2022

Many North Carolina leaders expressed shock and sadness at the death Sunday of the Charlotte native and former Miss USA. 

Editor’s note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for those in distress: 1-800-273-8255.

North Carolina lost one of its brightest young lights this weekend, with the death of Charlotte’s Cheslie Kryst.

Kryst, an attorney and correspondent for “Extra,” was crowned Miss USA in 2019 and used her national platform to talk about racial and social justice issues, including speaking out after the death of George Floyd. Her time as Miss USA also marked the first time three Black women simultaneously reigned as Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America.  

New York City police believe Kryst died in what to be a suicide. She was just 30.

“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,” her family said in a statement Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

“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.” 

Before winning her national title, Kryst reined as Miss North Carolina and was a civil litigation attorney at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, where she did pro-bono work seeking to reduce people’s prison sentences. She was also a track and field star in her undergraduate years at the University of South Carolina. She earned both a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University.

Many in North Carolina and beyond expressed their condolences and urged people who may be struggling to reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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