A Look Back at Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst's Life in Photos

The Extra correspondent and Miss USA 2019 titleholder died of an apparent suicide on Sunday. She was 30 years old

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Cheslie Kryst was born on April 28, 1991 in Jackson, Michigan. She graduated from the University of South Carolina and earned a law degree and master's of business administration from Wake Forest University.

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While pursuing law, Kryst also competed in pageants and was eventually crowned Miss USA 2019. Kryst said that her mother, April Simpkins, who was crowned Mrs. North Carolina US in 2002, was the one who inspired her to enter competitions.

"When she won, I was maybe 11, and that was meaningful to me," Kryst said in an interview with the Charlotte Observer in November 2020 of her mom, who was the second Black woman to earn the title. "I remember sitting in the auditorium and watching her win and watching her clean up all these awards. And then, when I went to school, all my classmates started asking me for autograph cards from my mom."

"I was in middle school, and I was in a really awkward stage," Kryst continued. "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. And so from that moment, I knew I was going to compete at some point in time."

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In September 2017, Kryst was sworn into the North Carolina bar.

"It's finally official!! I am an A T T O R N E Y ⚖️," she wrote on Instagram to celebrate her achievement.

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In October 2018, Kryst was crowned Miss North Carolina USA 2019. The win put her in the running to earn the title of Miss USA.

Looking back on her experience in a post from 2020, Kryst got candid about how she dealt with the highs and lows of the competition.

"In the six months between my win and my departure for the Miss USA competition I completed nearly 50 appearances/events, continued to work full time as an attorney, did photoshoots, visited sponsors, and had the time of my life! I pushed myself and did as much as I possibly could fit into each day," she recalled.

"Behind the scenes, I fought nearly constant feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, exhaustion, and stress so overwhelming that some days I could barely eat," she continued, before adding that the "silver lining" in her experience gave her "thicker skin," which helped her "brush off" the haters and Internet trolls.

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The following month, in December 2018, Kryst was sworn into the South Carolina Bar, writing on Instagram, "Praise God for helping me to remain undefeated on the bar exam!! Many thanks to my family and friends for supporting me while I studied this summer (I hated every moment of it)."

She added, "Also, a huge thanks to my incredible firm and coworkers for the constant support and kind words I needed."

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Miss USA
Cheslie Kryst is crowned Miss USA 2019. Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock

Kryst was crowned Miss USA as Miss North Carolina in May 2019. She and Nia Imani Franklin (Miss America), Kaliegh Garris (Miss Teen USA) and Zozibini Tunzi (Miss Universe) became the first group of Black women to hold the titles in a single year.

The women spoke about their historic accomplishment in a December 2019 interview with Good Morning America, where Kryst opened up about "breaking barriers" while still feeling some disappointment over some people's view of their success.

"People will comment on our social media and be like, 'Why are we talking about your race? You guys are just four, amazing women,'" she said at the time. "And I'm like, 'Yes, we are four amazing women, but there was a time when we literally could not win!' "

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Adding to her already long list of accomplishments, Kryst signed on to be Extra's newest correspondent and also served as a global impact ambassador for Dress for Success, a non-for-profit organization that provides professional attire and support to help women gain the tools they need to succeed in work and life.

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The attorney and pageant queen interviewed several celebrities during her time as a correspondent for Extra, including Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Denzel Washington, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

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Her work earned her an Emmy nomination at the 2019-2020 Daytime Emmy Awards.

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Cheslie Kryst
Cheslie Kryst. Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

Kryst died on Jan. 30 at 30 years old, her family confirmed to PEOPLE.

"In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie," Kryst's family said Sunday 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."

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Cheslie Kryst attends the world premiere of "Like A Boss" at SVA Theater on January 07, 2020 in New York City.
Cheslie Kryst. Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

"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," they added.

Kryst's family is asking for privacy in wake of the late beauty queen's death.

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Cheslie Kryst
Cheslie Kryst. John Lamparski/Getty Images

Extra made a statement on Instagram in memory of Kryst, writing, "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."

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Chelsie Kryst
Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock

The Miss USA organization shared a statement on Instagram following Kryst's tragic death.

"The Miss Universe and Miss USA Organizations are devastated to learn about the loss of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst," the Miss USA team wrote. "She was one of the brightest, warmest, and most kind people we have ever had the privilege of knowing, and she lit up every room she entered. Our entire community mourns her loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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