Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst’s heartbreaking essay on getting older resurfaces after her death

Cheslie Kryst wrote about searching for ‘joy and purpose’ on her own terms in 2021 article

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 31 January 2022 17:54 GMT
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Cheslie Kryst: Former Miss USA jumps to her death from Manhattan skyscraper
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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An emotional essay has resurfaced providing some insight into the mindset of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who died at the weekend.

Ms Kryst’s body was found on the street near her home at the luxury 60-storey Orion Building on 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday morning. She allegedly died by suicide.

The Emmy Award-nominated presenter for ExtraTV left a note saying she wanted all of her belongings to go to her mother, who was also once Miss North Carolina.

No motive was given. A message on her Instagram page posted shortly before her death reads: “May this day bring you rest and peace.”

In an essay published by Allure in March 2021, the 30-year-old lawyer and former Miss North Carolina wrote about the challenges of growing older in the public eye.

“Each time I say ‘I’m turning 30,’ I cringe a little. Sometimes I can successfully mask this uncomfortable response with excitement; other times, my enthusiasm feels hollow, like bad acting,” Ms Kryst wrote.

“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 continued.

When she was crowned Miss USA at the age of 28, she was the oldest woman in history to win the title, and noted that it was “a designation even the sparkling $200,000 pearl and diamond Mikimoto crown could barely brighten for some diehard pageant fans who immediately began to petition for the age limit to be lowered.”

She wrote: “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.”

Ms Kryst reflected: “After a year like 2020, you would think we’d learned that growing old is a treasure and maturity is a gift not everyone gets to enjoy.

“Far too many of us allow ourselves to be measured by a standard that some sternly refuse to challenge and others simply acquiesce to because fitting in and going with the flow is easier than rowing against the current.”

She continued: “I fought this fight before and it’s the battle I’m currently fighting with 30,” she wrote. “How do I shake society’s unwavering norms when I’m facing the relentless tick of time? It’s the age-old question: What happens when ‘immovable’ meets ‘unstoppable?’”

The former pageant queen has an impressive set of academic credentials to her name, having earned a law degree and an MBA at the same time from Wake Forest University.

“I joined a trial team at school and won a national championship. I competed in moot court; won essay competitions; and earned local, regional, and national executive board positions,” Ms Kryst wrote.

“I nearly worked myself to death, literally, until an eight-day stint in a local hospital sparked the development of a new perspective,” she recalls.

“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?”

Reflecting on her pageant wins she noted that she won her title with a “five-foot-six frame with six-pack abs” and a “head of natural curls”, noting that “pageant girls are supposed to be model-tall and slender, don bouffant hair, and have a killer walk.”

“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.

“And that was just my looks. My opinions, on the other hand, were enough to make a traditional pageant fan clutch their pearls,” Ms Kryst added. “Women who compete in pageants are supposed to have a middle-of-the-road opinion — if any — so as not to offend.”

“I talked candidly about my views on the legalisation of marijuana, the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, anti-abortion laws, the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and the successes and failures of criminal justice reform,” she wrote.

Ms Kryst’s essay ends with how she spent her 30th birthday in her apartment “parading around in a black silk top, matching shorts, and a floor-length robe while scarfing down banana pudding and screening birthday calls”.

She adds: “I even wore my crown around the apartment for most of the day knowing I’d have to give it back at the end of my reign as Miss USA. I did what I wanted rather than the expected.”

Ms Kryst concludes: “I now enter year 30 searching for joy and purpose on my own terms — and that feels like my own sweet victory.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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