Fans and admirers were shocked and saddened by the loss of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, lawyer and Daytime Emmy-nominated correspondent for television newsmagazine Extra.
Cheslie’s 2019 pageant win was part of a historic sweep for women of African decent in the United States and internationally, alongisde that year’s Miss America Nia Franklin, Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, and South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi who became Miss Universe.
Her passing, which closely followed the deaths of Ian Smith Jr, son of actress and director Regina King, and Shane Lunny, son of singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, may reflect some of the pressures that are faced in navigating a life in the public eye.
The African American beauty world has been rocked by suicide in recent years, with the 2020 loss of Karyn Washington, creator of ‘For Brown Girls’ and the #DarkGirlsRedLip project, and the 2014 suicide of Titi Branch, co-founder of the highly popular natural hair care line, Miss Jessie’s. According to an article in Yahoo Life, Cheslie’s death resulted from high functioning depression and underscores the need for society to do away with the ‘strong Black woman’ archetype, which does nothing to support or remedy the very real mental health struggles of Black women.
“Cheslie embodied love and served others” – Extra
“She broke so many barriers, even [in terms of] winning with curly hair, which was at that time a first.” –Portia Kee
Cheslie’s radiant smile and fun personality were shared in her social media posts that discussed her beauty and hair care routine and the need for self-care. Some of her most fun videos were “How I Grew My Hair From The Big Chop” and “Must Have Was and Go Routine” in which she quips, “nothing about this process is wash and go, you might as well call it wash and work!”
Cheslie even touched on mental health concerns in her videos; in retrospect, this is a poignant reminder that addressing mental health can be a matter of life and death and preventing a crisis situation should carry no stigma.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255 is a multilingual 24/7 Crisis Line is a leading member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and CrisisChat networks.