Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst passed away this weekend. Police believe she committed suicide by jumping from the window of her 19th-floor Manhattan apartment to the pavement below. She was 30.
Kryst won the Miss USA crown in 2019, the first year in which that crown, along with Miss America and Miss Teen USA were all won by Black women. She had achieved professional success before and after that win, earning a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University and competing as an NCAA Division-I track and field athlete in undergrad. After winning Miss USA at age 28–the oldest woman to wear the crown–she built a media career, garnering an Emmy nomination as a correspondent for the syndicated entertainment show “Extra”.
But the former pageant queen was also public that like many Black women, she had struggled with her mental health. In 2021, she wrote an essay for Allure that addressed how she’d internalized the societal pressures of ageism, toxic and racist beauty standards and expectations for achievement.
I discovered that the world’s most important question, especially when asked repeatedly and answered frankly, is: why? Why earn more achievements just to collect another win? Why pursue another plaque or medal or line item on my resume if it’s for vanity’s sake, rather than out of passion? Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to only find emptiness?
Too often, I noticed that the only people impressed by an accomplishment were those who wanted it for themselves. Meanwhile, I was rewarded with a lonely craving for the next award. Some would see this hunger and label it “competitiveness”; others might call it the unquenchable thirst of insecurity.
She also posted a video to Facebook in 2019 to discuss managing her mental health by seeing a counselor and being intentional about self-care. In that video she appeared upbeat as she shared examples of how she decompressed by watching her favorite movies or implemented strategies suggested by her therapist.
But on Sunday morning, a more ominous post appeared on Kryst’s Instagram account shortly before her death: a selfie with the caption, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”