5 Ways Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst Will Continue To Inspire Generations Of Black Girls


By Rayna Reid ·Updated January 31, 2022

The death of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst on Sunday sent shockwaves through the world. As we mourn her loss, ESSENCE remembers the legacy of our digital cover star and shares five ways the late beauty queen will inspire Black girls in the years to come.

01Shattering stereotypesCheslie spent much of her short life challenging the status quo—as she stated in an Allure interview, “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…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 legalization 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. I openly supported the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and marched in protests over the summer.” Paras Griffin/Getty Images 02BrilliantCheslie was extremely well educated, having graduated cum laude from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. She earned two additional graduate degrees from Wake Forest, a Juris Doctor and a Master of Business Administration. Cheslie was outspoken about her views on leadership and life. At a former legal competition, one of the judges told Cheslie that judges prefer skirts on women and suggested that she forgo her pants for a skirt. In recalling this moment, Kryst said “Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants…Don’t tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments.” Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG 03Role ModelCheslie meant so much, to so many people, including the current Miss USA, Elle Smith, who has stated that Cheslie was one of her “biggest inspirations…’Seeing someone confident in herself, confident in her abilities and just seeing a Black woman who knows her strengths and weaknesses…it’s a powerful thing.’” Many have paid tribute via social media, including Loni Love, Tamron Hall, Danielle Brooks, and Kenya Moore, who said, “A true role model I looked up to HER.” Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images 04Advocate/PhilanthropistCheslie was heavily involved in the community, serving on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, a Dress for Success volunteer, “a Millennial Advisory Board Member at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, and a member of the Ayscue Professionalism Award Committee for the Mecklenburg County Bar.” Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald 05Black Girl MagicCheslie was the epitome of Black Girl Magic, “[t]hat awesome ability black women have to hold our heads high in a world that wants us to hang them low.” But, as Jesse Williams said, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real,” and this is especially true of Cheslie’s death at the age of 30.To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454. Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/WireImage

TOPICS:  miss usa

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