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Chelsie Kryst was many things, but she was most known for her crowning as the 2019 Miss USA. However, Kryst was much more than a pageant legend. Kryst was an extremely involved social activist and attorney. 

In 2013, Kryst graduated from The University of South Carolina with a degree in marketing and human resource management. Not only was she enrolled in the Honors College at USC, but she was a student-athlete who shined on their track and field team. After graduating cum laude from USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, she enrolled in graduate school. She graduated once again from Wake Forest University School of Law. When she graduated there in 2017, she had a Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor. She utilized her Juris Doctor (J.D.) to work as a civil litigation attorney. During her time in civil litigation, she was known for working pro bono for social activism. The pro bono cases she took on were cases of clients whose sentences were at fault of the justice system. Kryst’s work aimed toward shortening those sentences for inmates. 

Her social activism had no limits as she dipped into gender equality, racism, the justice system, and other controversial political issues. Kryst had a published essay in Allure back in 2021. In this article, she openly discussed social issues and noted she has no issues speaking openly about these issues. In the essay, she openly speaks about her personal struggles inside and outside of the pageant world as a black woman. Struggles in the pageant world included being told she would not win pageants if she were “too black” and that her body figure was too masculine. Her looks were criticized on the stage and on social media, but according to Kryst her opinions and social activism probably shook the pageant world even more. She not only spoke openly about hot topics such as marijuana legislation and anti-abortion laws but was also an active member of the Black Lives Matter movements – including attending marches. Outside of pageantry, she faced the criticism of being a woman, and a black woman, which we hear about all too often. She recalled a time in which she was at a legal competition, a commonality for law school students, and one judge told Kryst to wear a skirt next time in lieu of the pantsuit she chose. Kryst’s response to the recollection was very true to her character, saying “Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants.”

Unfortunately, behind the public appearance, Chelsie Kryst upheld in the public eye, there were much more pressing matters at hand. In her essay, Kryst recalls a time she was in her graduate schooling years and she worked herself into “an eight-day stint” in the hospital, which is when she began to become involved with work more purposeful to herself, which sparked her deep engagement with social activism. On January 30, 2022, the New York Police Department identified Chelsie Kryst in a case of an apparent suicide. Kryst presented herself in a much different way than she felt, even to her family. Her mother, April Simpkins, came out with a statement following Kryst’s death stating that in Kryst’s “private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression” and also noted Kryst hid her struggles “from everyone – including [Simpkins], her closest confidant – until very shortly before her death.” Her father Rodney Kryst also stated he believes her mental health struggles stemmed from family dysfunction, but the world will likely never know what Chelsie Kryst truly went through.

There is a giant and unnecessary stigma around mental illness. If you are experiencing mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts, there are many resources you can utilize. Below are just some of those outlets. 


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


SAMHSA’s National Helpline for mental disorders and/or substance use disorders: 1-800-662-4357

TextCrisis Text Line for mental illness, bullying, suicide, etc.: text “HOME” to 741-741

Kaitlin Serad

Coastal Carolina '23

Kaitlin is a Psychology (forensic concentration) major and she minors in Intelligence and National Security at Coastal Carolina University. She also was a part of Students Against Sex Trafficking at CCU. Kaitlin currently works at a local restaurant owned by her family. She loves true crime, binge-watching TV shows or movies, and spending time with family and friends.
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