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Five defining moments of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst's career

By Jay-Ann Claudine Gutierrez Published Jan 31, 2022 5:07 pm

Pageant fans around the world were shocked to hear the news of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst’s passing on Sunday, Jan. 30, a sudden departure made more pronounced by the impact she has brought to her many passions in life.

The sudden loss of Kryst, who was described by her family as someone who "laughed and shined," stunned various celebrities. As her radiant personality shone through in every moment of her life, the world will remember her for many things.

A true queen
Kryst’s reign as Miss USA 2019 was one for the books as she was one of three black women crowned as the top pageant queens for the United States. She also finished in the top 10 during the Miss Universe of the same year.

Gifted with beauty and grace, Kryst pursued pageantry after being influenced by her mother April Simpkins, who was also a former beauty queen.

On Live with Kelly and Ryan, Kryst shared: “My mom was the person who really inspired me to compete in pageants. She was Mrs. North Carolina 2002, the second black Mrs. North Carolina. I remember being a little kid and watching her compete, it was always very important to me.”

A stunning presenter
Kryst was one of the most prominent presenters in the USA, and more so as a reporter for entertainment news program EXTRA where she has interviewed various celebrities on red carpet events.

But her recent notable hosting gig was being the presenter of Miss Universe 2021 alongside American TV personality Carson Kressley. 

An eloquent lawyer
During her graduate years, Kryst received a master’s degree in business administration and a juris doctor at the Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina. And prior to her pageantry stint, Kryst worked full-time as a civil litigation attorney for the Proyner Spruill law firm. Kryst has done many pro bono cases together with her stepdad, who is also a lawyer.

Kryst shared during her guesting in May 2019: “We’ve worked with some people who have gotten some excessive sentences and have worked with people who have been sentenced—or one client who’s been sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug crime. And so, we’ve worked a lot with him and with a few other clients, and that’s really important work to us.”

Even as she paused her law career, Kryst was ever passionate about helping reform the criminal justice system by using her platform as a Miss USA 2019. Citing Bryan Stevenson’s work Just Mercy, Kryst shared what drove her to this mission.

“There was a story in there about a woman who spent, I would say, it’s 10 years in jail for writing bad checks. I think none of the checks were over a $150 and there were bad checks she wrote to pay for groceries and other important items for her family and that is wrong. People should not spend that much time in jail for something so simple, something that any of us should be able to do. We shouldn’t be throwing this woman in jail, we should be helping her pay for her groceries for her children. So, that motivated me, it made me angry enough to want to do something,” Kryst said in an interview with HOT 97.

A powerful track star
Talk about being a jack of all trades, Kryst was also a valuable athlete in her home state. She ran track and field for the South Carolina Gamecocks and placed second for the triple jump at the Penn Relays in April 2013. The former TV presenter also credited her family for her athleticism, as almost every family member were into sports.

“My dad was a bodybuilder. My mom and my family ran 5Ks together. We’re that weird families that does 5Ks on thanksgiving. We’ve done that for a few years, turkey trot. We’ve done the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. One of my brothers is a D-1 athlete at Coastal Carolina. And another one of my brothers is a D-1 athlete at South Carolina… so, a ton of athletes,” Kryst said on the Kelly and Ryan show.

A women’s advocate
What serves as a neat ribbon to package this dynamic woman is her heart to inspire other women. Apart from advocating for criminal justice reform, Kryst has been very vocal in helping organizations that give opportunities for women to pursue their dreams. She has served as a volunteer for Dress for Success, and to couple her advocacy, the former beauty queen also used to run her own blog, which helps women find the right resources to achieve their dreams in style. Her heart to serve others in this way stemmed from her past experiences as well.

Kryst shared in her interview with Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa: “I love Dress for Success, it’s an incredible international organization. It matters a lot to me because I remember being a broke college student who couldn’t find clothing to wear to a lot of the trial competitions that I would compete in when I was at Wake Forest (University). And it was important to me to make sure that other women had the means to get the clothing that they need for important interviews. So, I want to advocate for Dress for Success. And I also have a blog called White Collar Glam where I provide work wear fashion, inspiration, and resources for women. So, those two things kind of go hand-in-hand.”

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