Cheslie Kryst, a former Miss USA winner, attorney, and correspondent for Extra, died Sunday morning at age 30. Kryst won the title of Miss USA in 2019 and took part in the Miss Universe pageant.
The New York Police Department is investigating her death as a suicide, the agency told news outlets.
Her family said in a statement to NBC News, "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.
"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," her family said. "But most importantly, as a daughter, sister, friend, mentor and colleague – we know her impact will live on."
Extra, the entertainment news program where Kryst worked, also expressed condolences from its social media account, saying "our hearts are broken."
When Kryst won the title of Miss USA in 2019, all the winners for Miss America and Miss Teen USA were Black, for the first time ever. Upon winning, Kryst said, "Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mindset that has inclusivity, diversity, strength and empowered women."
Kryst also worked as an attorney in North Carolina.
The Miss America Twitter account called Kryst "an incredible example and a role model for so many."
In an essay published in Allure last year, Kryst wrote about her struggles with turning 30 and dealing with internet trolls, as she approached her 30th birthday. Kryst won Miss USA when she was 28, making her the oldest winner in its history.
In the essay, she reflected on how society perceives aging women, writing, “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 wrote that in college she worked so hard, she ended up in the hospital for eight days. When she won Miss USA, she described how internet trolls told her she didn’t have the right look to win the pageant.
“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,’” she wrote.
The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).