Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst told of her fear that she was ‘running out of time to matter’ in a haunting essay last March, 10 months before leaping to her death from her Manhattan apartment building.
Kryst, 30, was found on the sidewalk beneath her apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen at 7.15am on Sunday. She was last seen on a 29th floor terrace in the building, where she lived alone in a ninth floor apartment.
Her family confirmed her death on Sunday, as has Extra – where she worked as a correspondent. Her colleague Billy Bush described it as a ‘complete shock to us all.’
In March last year, Kryst wrote about being trolled online and how winning Miss USA at the age of 28 made her a target for ageist bullies. She was the oldest person to have won the pageant, and she also strayed from the norm with her passion for social justice – she was a trained lawyer and Black Lives Matter advocate.
In recent TikTok videos, Kryst revealed that she no longer wanted to practice law because she had become sick of what she called constant microaggressions and a lack of diversity. In a video six days ago, she explained to a fan that she struggled to meet billable hours requirements, and that it felt like ‘trading in hours of my life in order to get paid.’
Writing ahead of her 30th birthday for Allure magazine, she said hauntingly: ‘Each time I say “I’m turning 30,” I cringe a little. Sometimes I can successfully mask this uncomfortable response with excitement; other times, my enthusiasm feels hollow, like bad acting…turning 30 feels like a cold reminder that I’m running out of time to matter in society’s eyes — and it’s infuriating.’
She told how after she won the pageant in 2019, some petitioned for the age limit to be lowered because they thought she was too old and how she was trolled on social media for her athletic body, having to delete ‘vomit emojis’ beneath some of her photos on Instagram.
Kryst was one of six siblings. She recently traveled home to South Carolina to spend the holidays with her mother, a former beauty queen, and brothers and sisters.
Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst told of her fear that she was ‘running out of time to matter’ in a haunting essay last March, 10 months before leaping to her death from her Manhattan apartment building
‘My challenge of the status quo certainly caught the attention of the trolls, and I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted comments on my social media pages that had vomit emojis and insults telling me I wasn’t pretty enough to be Miss USA or that my muscular build was actually a “man body.”’
Last March, Kryst told of being trolled online and having to delete ‘vomit emojis’ in the comments section of her Instagram page
She talked about ringing in her 29th birthday alone in her apartment, wearing her Miss USA crown and ‘screening’ birthday calls.
‘After a year like 2020, you would think we’d learned that growing old is a treasure and maturity is a gift not everyone gets to enjoy.
‘Far too many of us allow ourselves to be measured by a standard that some sternly refuse to challenge and others simply acquiesce to because fitting in and going with the flow is easier than rowing against the current. I fought this fight before and it’s the battle I’m currently fighting with 30.
‘How do I shake society’s unwavering norms when I’m facing the relentless tick of time? It’s the age-old question:
‘What happens when “immovable” meets “unstoppable”?’ she wrote.
She said she was excited about the year ahead, writing: ‘I now enter year 30 searching for joy and purpose on my own terms — and that feels like my own sweet victory.’
Billy Bush paid tribute to former her after learning she had jumped to her death from her New York City apartment building, calling her ‘fun, hardworking and positive’ and saying her death was a ‘shock’ to all who knew her.
‘How do I shake society’s unwavering norms when I’m facing the relentless tick of time?
Kryst, 30, worked with Bush on Extra as a correspondent. The TV show also posted a tribute to her on Instagram on Sunday after the NYPD confirmed her death.
Kryst’s body was found near The Orion, the 60-floor apartment building on West 42nd Street, Manhattan, where she lived in an apartment on the ninth floor. The former beauty queen was discovered at around 7.15am on a snow-covered sidewalk.
Bush posted a photo of Kryst interviewing Tom Hanks and his wife. He wrote alongside it: ‘The @extratv family grieves with the family @chesliekryst. She was positive, hardworking, fun and of course beautiful.
‘Always dancing in between takes. This is a complete shock to all. We are left with great sadness because the best was definitely yet to come for this special person. #RIP Chez.’
Two weeks ago, Kryst posted this photo (left) and said her January workouts were ‘working’. She is shown, right, at the Met Gala in September
Billy Bush paid tribute to Cheslie Kryst on Instagram on Sunday after learning of her death. He posted a photograph of her interviewing Tom Hanks and said ‘the best was yet to come’ for her
Billy Bush and Cheslie Kryst on Extra in November 2019. Bush said she was always ‘dancing between takes’ and worked hard
Kryst posted her final picture on Instagram on Sunday morning writing: ‘May this day bring you rest and peace’
Cheslie Kryst captured Miss USA tiara in 2019, crowned by 2018 winner Sarah Rose Summers
NYPD officers cordon off scene where body of Cheslie Kryst was found after the former beauty queen jumped to her death from luxury building on 42nd Street
Cheslie worked for Extra along with Bush. The show issued this statement on Sunday after her death
Only hours before, Kryst wrote on her Instagram page, ‘May this day bring you rest and peace.’
Kryst is pictured wearing her Miss USA banner in February 2020
Last March, she wrote a heartbreaking essay for Allure magazine where she described being mercilessly trolled online and how turning 30 felt like ‘a cold reminder’ she was ‘running out of time to matter in society’s eyes’.
‘I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted comments on my social media pages that had vomit emojis and insults telling me I wasn’t pretty enough to be Miss USA or that my muscular build was actually a “man body.”
‘And that was just my looks. My opinions, on the other hand, were enough to make a traditional pageant fan clutch their pearls,’ she said.
Kryst’s family released a statement on Sunday confirming her death.
‘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 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.’
Police found a note in the apartment stating she wanted to leave everything to her mother, a former pageant winner. There was no explanation for her actions in the note.
‘Not only beautiful but she was smart — she was a lawyer,’ a police source told the New York Post. ‘She has a life that anyone would be jealous of. … It’s so sad.’
As Miss North Carolina, Kryst captured the Miss USA tiara wearing a sparkly winged outfit for the national costume competition, in a nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged BIrd Sings.’
During the competition, she described herself as a ‘weird kid’ with a ‘unibrow’ who’s now part of the first generation of truly empowered women.
Asked in the final round to use one word to summarize her generation, Kryst said ‘innovative.’
‘I’m standing here in Nevada, in the state that has the first female majority legislature in the entire country,’ she said. ‘Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mindset that has inclusivity, diversity, strength and empowered women.
‘I’m looking forward to continued progress in my generation.’
Kryst jumped from the 29th-floor open terrace area of the 60-story Orion building, cops said
Before joining the daily gossip show Extra, she founded the fashion blog White Collar Glam
Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, is pictured in 2019 with her mother, left, April Simpkins, Mrs North Carolina 2002. Seen right, Cheri Beasley, the first African American woman to serve as Chief Justice
Cheslie Kryst, seen left at the age of ten, with her mother April Simpkins, crowned Mrs North Carolina in 2002 seen right
Kryst was born in Jackson, Michigan, to a white, Polish-American father and black mother, April Simpkins, a winner of Mrs. North Carolina in 2002. She grew up in Charlotte and graduated from the University of South Carolina.
Cheslie Kryst who won the 2019 Miss USA final competition poses onstage
She went on to get her law degree from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was involved in a number of activities, including the National Black Law Students Association, according to her LinkedIn page.
After passing the bar, she worked as an associate attorney at Poyner-Spruill LLP in Charlotte between September 2017 and May 2019 as a member of the firm’s civil litigation team.
She did pro bono work to reduce sentences for inmates.
Kryst would often share her feelings to her Instagram followers and had said social media was all for show.
‘My Instagram is my highlight reel and I want to look my best while I share a look at my life, my fun, and the body I’m proud of. But that’s all it is. A fine-tuned glimpse into a moment in time. Don’t allow what you see on here make you forget that I’m incredibly flawed; I simply chose not to share those flaws in a photo,’ she wrote last June.
‘And definitely don’t compare your own flaws to what you see in this picture or any others on my page. It’s not fair to compare 100% of yourself, your good days, bad days, and everything in between to a highly curated fraction of me on my best days.’
In October 2019, Kryst spoke out on Facebook for World Mental Health Day. She offered tips on how she coped with stress.
‘I do a lot to make sure that I maintain my mental health and the most important thing that I did is talk to a counselor. She’s really easy to talk to. She gives me great strategies especially if I’m sad or happy or have a busy month ahead of me.
‘When I’m not talking to my counselor, I spend time at the end of every single day to just decompress,’ Kryst said. ‘I unplug, I shut my phone off, I don’t answer messages. I just sit and watch my favorite movies.’
She aired similar sentiments during an interview with The Hilltop.
‘There are three things that I’m doing with regard with self-care,’ Kryst began.
‘No. 1, I try to set a regular schedule so my alarm rings every day at 6:45. I know that I’m getting up and I’m starting my day.
‘Two, I try to set very clear boundaries, so even though I’m at home and I’ve got my computer, my phone with me, I’m done answering emails at 6 o’clock, I’m not responding to messages. It’s over.
‘Third, have a regular workout schedule that keeps my body healthy and my mind sharp.’
‘I can’t say pageants make you beautiful. I think they make you more confident in the person that you are,’ she said during her pageant
Kryst is pictured on her first day at her law firm, left, in 2017. She revealed her struggles with sexism at work
Steve Harvey interviews Miss USA Cheslie Kryst onstage at the 2019 Miss Universe Pageant in December 2019
Kryst said her interest in pageants began when she was 10 years old, watching her mother ride a horse-drawn carriage in a parade when she was named Mrs. North Carolina in 2002.
‘It was a time in my life when I didn’t’ know who I was and wasn’t confident in myself. I was that little weird kid who had a unibrow and didn’t have any friends. My hair was always pulled back. I thought I want to be just like her,’ she said.
Kryst then went on to compete in pageants in high school.
‘I can’t say pageants make you beautiful. I think they make you more confident in the person that you are,’ she said.
‘I’m still that same weird kid. I still like reading books. And at the end of the day, I like to sit by myself in my house and just watch movies. But I think pageants taught me all that, and my mom was really the one who introduced me to that and drew me to pageantry.’
Kryst had been working as a correspondent for the entertainment show Extra and had received two Daytime Emmy nominations for her work. She is pictured here interviewing Taylor Swift
Cheslie Kryst, 30, died after she leaped to her death from a 60-story Midtown apartment building. She would often be seen striking a pose around the city in fashionable clothes
Kryst obtained her law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she was involved in a number of activities, including the National Black Law Students Association, according to her LinkedIn page
During the Miss USA contest she told a story of when a judge at a legal competition told her to wear a skirt instead of pants because judges prefer skirts.
‘Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants,’ Kryst said.
She told reporters afterward she’ll never forget being in law school at Wake Forest participating in a moot court competition in Louisiana with a panel of judges who provided very little feedback to her and her partner.
In recent Instagram postings, there was nothing to suggest unhappiness or mental strain
‘We stood there for 30 minutes after practicing for months and all you said was wear a skirt next time?’ she said. ‘It was very frustrating. Don’t tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments.’
Kryst said she didn’t feel nervous as she advanced through the elimination rounds.
‘I just kept hearing my name get called,’ she said. As she waited for the winner to be announced, “All I could think was, ‘This is really cool.'”
After receiving her Miss USA 2019 crown she became a news correspondent for Extra, earning her two Daytime Emmy nominees.
‘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,’ read a statement from the show she worked on. ‘Our deepest condolences to all her family and friends.’
Before joining the daily gossip show she founded the fashion blog White Collar Glam. Kryst had also modeled for Express and served as an ambassador for the retail company.
She was also on the National Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for those in distress: 1-800-273-8255.