A woman whose body was found on a New York City street early Sunday was identified by police as lawyer Cheslie Kryst, 30, a former Miss USA who also worked as a correspondent for television’s “Extra.”
New York police said the body, which was found on West 42nd Street, appeared to have fallen from an elevated position and that Kryst’s death was most likely the result of suicide.
Her family said in a statement: “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.”
Kryst competed as Miss North Carolina USA when she won the Miss USA title in 2019. She was a top 10 finisher in the subsequent Miss Universe competition.
Although her fame came from her pageant achievements, she was also a lawyer who worked for a firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
She earned a law degree and a master’s of business administration from Wake Forest University.
Kryst told the North Carolina Bar Association’s blog in 2019 that she was inspired to enter pageant competition by her mother, April Simpkins, who was Mrs. North Carolina in 2002.
“I remember watching her win and going to appearances with her during her reign,” Kryst said. “Her title provided her with a platform to advocate for issues that were important to her and people listened.”
It took Kryst five tries to win the North Carolina title before she went on to take Miss USA. She acknowledged her tenacity by citing a quote widely attributed to Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Her time at the Charlotte offices of the law firm Poyner Spruill LLP appeared to be fruitful, as it elevated her to the position of diversity adviser in 2020 after her pageant sabbatical in 2019.
“She is passionate about criminal justice reform and has worked pro bono for clients serving excessive time for low-level drug offenses,” the firm said in 2020.
She said in 2019 that she worked as a civil litigator while carving out her own time to work to reduce the sentences of deserving inmates.
The firm also noted that Kryst served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and was an “impact ambassador” for the nonprofit women’s support group Dress for Success.
Kryst’s work at “Extra” appeared to be occasional, according to her credits.
“Our hearts are broken,” the entertainment news show said in a statement. “Cheslie was not just a vital part of our show, she was a beloved part of our Extra family and touched the entire staff.”
Her family said her work is not done.
“She cared, she loved, she laughed and she shined,” it said in Sunday’s statement. “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.”
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.