Entertainment reporter, civil litigation attorney, Miss USA, and Hell’s Kitchen resident Cheslie Kryst has died — her family confirming the news of her untimely passing in a post to the EXTRA Instagram account. While an official cause of death wasn’t provided, the NYPD confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Kryst, 30, had taken her own life. Her body was found at 7:15am on Sunday on W42nd Street beneath the Orion Condominium building where she lived.
This morning at around 7am, Kryst posted a picture on Instagram to her 218,000 followers, saying: “May this day bring you rest and peace”.
The Kryst 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. 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.”
Born in Jackson, Michigan, Cheslie Kryst graduated from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina.
She would go on to earn an MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business and a JD from Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was an active participant in a variety of student organizations including the National Black Law Students Association.
After graduating and passing the bar, Kryst worked as an associate attorney and member of the civil litigation team at North Carolina firm Poyner-Spruill LLP from September 2017 to May 2019, dedicating a portion of her work to pro bono advocacy around reducing inmate sentences.
Her interest piqued after watching her mother win Mrs North Carolina in 2002, Kryst competed in pageants throughout high school. In 2019 Kryst entered the Miss North Carolina pageant, going on to win the statewide contest and move forward to the Miss USA competition.
During the national pageant, Kryst competed with a platform focused on social justice activism and reform. Asked to sum up her generation in a single word, Kryst described her cohort as “innovative”, adding: “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.”
After being crowned Miss USA, Kryst went on to work as an EXTRA TV correspondent, earning two Daytime Emmy nominations for her reporting as well as appearing on TV as a panelist on Black Girl Beauty and a guest on Live With Kelly and Ryan andThe Kelly Clarkson Show. She also modeled for fashion brand Express and served on the National Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, teaming up with the two organizations with a goal to raise $1 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters in the “Express Dream Big Project”.
After learning of her death, the Miss USA organization issued the following statement: “The Miss Universe and Miss USA Organizations are devastated to learn about the loss of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst. She was one of the brightest, warmest, and most kind people we have ever had the privilege of knowing, and she lit up every room she entered. Our entire community mourns her loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”
Johnny Triquest, Studio Manager at Lifetime Fitness at SKY on W42nd Street, paid his respects on Instagram: “My beautiful friend Cheslie — you were taken from us far too soon. You are one of the most gorgeous, intelligent and articulate young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You were not only Miss USA, but you were a brilliant attorney, businesswoman, television personality and HUMAN. The impact you had on the world will never die — Rest In Peace gorgeous.”
Kryst’s death is one of several troubling recent losses to the Hell’s Kitchen community. In October 2020, teenager Matthew Pierre fell to his death at Manhattan Plaza, in January 2021, a woman clutching a child leaped from a building on W53rd Street and in July of last year, actor Linda Holston jumped to her death with her dog from her 10th Avenue building. At nearby Hudson Yards, a 14-year-old boy was killed in July 2021 after he jumped from The Vessel, which has now been closed. He was the fourth person to leap to their death from the structure in two years.
As Aleta Lafargue, President of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association, told W42ST — “Our district has been particularly impacted by suicide and mental illness during this pandemic. We must make this crisis a priority.”
While it’s clear that Cheslie Kryst’s life’s work will echo long into the future, her death speaks to an urgent need for Hell’s Kitchen residents and New Yorkers at large to receive support in this challenging time.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.