Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst mourned during memorial service in Charlotte

Kryst, a 30-year-old attorney, "Extra" commentator and former Miss USA, died by suicide in New York in January

Editor’s Note: The following article discusses mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741. Both are free, confidential, and available 24/7.

The life of Miss USA winner Cheslie Kryst was honored on Friday, Feb. 18 as loved ones gathered in her hometown of Charlotte to mourn the 30-year-old who died by suicide in January.

Kryst’s family on Friday held a public funeral ceremony at Elevation Church in Charlotte, offering a live stream for those who could not be there in person, local NBC News affiliate WCNC reported. 

Per WCNC, the family previously held a private memorial following Kryst’s passing on Jan. 30. The New York Post first reported that she was alone in her ninth-floor unit in a Manhattan high-rise that morning when she lept to her death.

Kryst’s mother, April Simpkins, shared in a statement on Feb. 2 that her daughter was privately battling high-functioning depression.

During Friday’s memorial, Simpkins said of her daughter: “She is forever my baby girl and I’m going to miss all of her and the living example of a pure heart. I’m going to miss that the most.”  

“Honor Cheslie by becoming an ally for a community that needs support,” Simpkins added, encouraging people to save the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number 800-273-8255 and to prioritize mental health, WCNC reported.

Kerry Barr O’Connor, executive director of the Charlotte-based charity Dress for Success which worked closely with Kryst, said: “Cheslie was one of the most effervescent people I ever met… she was always positive, she was always ready to take on the next task.” 

Per WCNC, Dress for Success launched a new charity in Kryst’s honor: The Cheslie Kryst Woman’s Advancement Fund, supporting women as they seek employment. 

Kryst had both a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest and worked as a litigation attorney doing pro bono work to help free prisoners who have been wrongly accused of crimes. She also ran a fashion blog called White Collar Glam in her spare time.

Kryst’s alma mater has started a fundraiser to honor her memory, pledging money to the Cheslie Kryst Diversity and Social Justice Law Scholarship and the Dean’s List Media Scholarship, according to WCNC.

“Organizations that have said Cheslie gave so much to us it’s now time to continue her legacy and give to others on her behalf,” said LaToya Evans, a spokesperson for the family said on Friday.

Kryst, who also reported news for ExtraTV, posted on ​her Instagram page not long before her death: “May this day bring you rest and peace.”

Cheslie Kryst
Cheslie Kryst was an Extra correspondent and former Miss USA (Credit: Getty Images)

Two days after Kryst died, an autopsy confirmed the official cause of death. The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner ruled that Kryst died by suicide, PEOPLE reported, and suffered multiple blunt impact injuries, per CNN.

That day, Simkins released a statement that she has “never known a pain as deep as this,” and is “forever changed.”

“Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone – including me, her closest confidant – until very shortly before her death,” Simpkins captioned a post on Instagram featuring a photo of the two.

“While her life on this earth was short, it was filled with many beautiful memories. We miss her laugh, her words of wisdom, her sense of humor and mostly her hugs,” the mother continued. “We miss all of it – we miss all of her. She was a vital part of our family which makes this loss even more devastating.”

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