The Washington Post
By Reis Thebault
Cheslie Kryst, who won the 2019 Miss USA pageant and worked as a correspondent for the entertainment news television show “Extra,” died in New York City on Sunday. She was 30 years old.
Police told The Washington Post that Kryst was pronounced dead after apparently jumping from an apartment building in Manhattan early Sunday morning. Kryst’s family confirmed her death in a statement.
“In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie,” the statement said. “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, who had a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University, was working as an attorney in North Carolina when she entered the 2019 competition. Her résumé and performance dazzled judges and earned her legions of fans, and her victory was a highlight in a historic year that saw Black women win all five major beauty pageants. Kryst wore her crown on top of her natural curls, a decision she hoped would empower other women to feel confident wearing their hair natural, she said in an interview with Refinery 29.
She was among the pageant winners shouted out by then-Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who said of Kryst and her fellow champions: “You are trailblazers, creating your own path on your own terms. Congratulations.”
During the Q&A portion of the Miss USA contest, Kryst did not shy away from potentially inflammatory subjects, addressing the #MeToo movement and other social justice initiatives head-on.
“I don’t think these movements have gone too far,” Kryst said then. “What #MeToo and #TimesUp are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country. As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear, and that’s exactly what I want for this country.”
After she won, Kryst joined “Extra” as a correspondent, someone the nationally syndicated show’s producers praised as “a moment-making machine.”
“Our hearts are broken,” the show’s staff said in a statement after her death. “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.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
This is a developing story that will be updated.
Reis Thebault is a reporter covering national and breaking news. He has worked on the local desks of the Boston Globe and the Columbus Dispatch. He joined The Washington Post in June 2018.