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Cheslie Kryst was more than a pageant queen—she was a trailblazer.
In 2019, she made history as the oldest Miss USA champion in the pageant's 68-year history at the age of 28.
The 30 year old was also an attorney, an Emmy Award-nominated television correspondent and the mastermind behind "White Collar Glam," a blog she founded to help women manage their professional style in the workplace.
She was an activist, she was outspoken and she was an inspiration to the millions of women of color she represented.
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On January 30, Kryst was found dead after allegedly falling from a New York City high-rise building in Midtown Manhattan.
According to Lieutenant Thomas Antonetti, a New York Police Department spokesperson, the death is being investigated as a suicide.
Kryst's death has shocked the world. On the day of her passing, the former beauty queen shared her final and haunting Instagram post, hours before police found her body, "May this day bring you rest and peace ❤️."
Her death—and suspected suicide—also sheds light on the rising suicide rate among African Americans in the United States, ranking as the second leading cause of death for blacks or African Americans, ages 15 to 24, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
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At this time, the details of the former Miss USA's death have not been confirmed, but the Extra correspondent shed light into the struggles she faced aging in the spotlight in an essay she wrote for Allure to celebrate her 30th birthday.
"Society has never been kind to those growing old, especially women. (Occasional exceptions are made for some of the rich and a few of the famous)," she wrote.
Adding, "A grinning, crinkly-eyed glance at my achievements thus far makes me giddy about laying the groundwork for more, but turning 30 feels like a cold reminder that I'm running out of time to matter in society's eyes—and it's infuriating."
The attorney went on to criticize society's views on aging, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world in 2020, and confessed her own wishes to fit into the "20 under 20" and "30 under 30" lists.
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"I nearly worked myself to death, literally, until an eight-day stint in a local hospital sparked the development of a new perspective," she said.
Kryst also faced society's imposed standards of beauty after winning the Miss USA crown.
"Pageant girls are supposed to be model-tall and slender, don bouffant hair, and have a killer walk. But my five-foot-six frame won with six-pack abs, earned after years of competing in Division I Track and Field, and a head of natural curls in a time when generations of Black women have been taught that being 'too Black' would cost them wins in the boardroom and on pageant stages," she wrote.
"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.'"
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Still, she prevailed, closing her letter with victory, stating she was entering "30 searching for joy and purpose" on her own terms.
Kryst's family has requested privacy, sharing their devastation 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," they wrote.
"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 are having thoughts of suicide, in the United States call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
Go here for resources outside the United States.