CHARLOTTE — Cheslie Kryst, a former Charlotte attorney who became Miss USA in 2019, died at the age of 30 over the weekend, according to her family.
She had a big impact on many lives in Charlotte, across the country and around the world.
Kryst received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina, where she was a track and field star. She was crowned Miss USA in May of 2019 and passed the crown in November of 2020. She reigned longer than any other winner in history -- 557 days -- because of the pandemic.
“Me having this extended reign was important because it gave me extra time to talk to people about issues that are important,” Kryst told Channel 9 in November 2020.
In addition to her reign as Miss USA, Kryst was also an attorney with a master’s in business from Wake Forest. She recently helped a man earn his freedom after 25 years in prison. He had originally been sentenced to life in prison under previous drug laws. Christmas 2021 was his first time home in more than two decades, Channel 9′s DaShawn Brown reported.
She was a mentor and a champion for women of color in the workforce.
When Kryst was crowned, it marked more than a personal triumph -- It meant that for the first time, three Black women were the reigning Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America.
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Long before she wore a pageant crown, Kryst volunteered at Dress for Success in Charlotte, and donated time and money to the organization.
As an attorney, she recognized the importance of dress in making a good impression, and she wanted to give others a hand up as they tried to better themselves.
Kryst became good friends with Kerry Barr O’Connor, who is the executive director of the organization. She was stunned about what happened and said it will take a long time to get over this loss.
“We lost a bright light way too soon, but her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone she touched and everyone she met. I think that the outpouring of love and support, not just from Charlotte and her family at E, but around the world is hopefully going to lift her family and friends,” O’Connor said.
She said even the pandemic didn’t slow Kryst down. She met with clients at the organization virtually and gave them tips and pointed how to present themselves to prospective employers.
Kryst also helped launch the Universe United Campaign, which worked to keep people connected as states started to shut down during the pandemic.
“I helped to assist people to look at Miss USA in a different way,” Kryst told Channel 9 at the time. “I think a lot of people were surprised I was a practicing attorney, and to win the title. When I was going through interviews, they would say, ‘Why are you interviewing for Miss USA? You are an attorney. Shouldn’t you be at work right now?’ I constantly had to explain to people this organization provides a better platform than I had sought out before. It’s not just pretty women who want to be models who compete in Miss USA. It’s women who have substance, and it always has been. But not enough people knew that.”
Kryst’s family released a statement Sunday evening regarding her death 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 embodies 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. As we reflect on our loss, the family asks for privacy at this time.”
Kryst was also a host on EXTRA. The entertainment show released a statement regarding her death saying:
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(WATCH BELOW: Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst dies at age 30, family says)
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