The death of Cheslie Kryst has spurred an outpouring of emotions around the world, as well as sparked a conversation about mental health awareness.
Now, Kryst’s mother is publicly sharing that her daughter privately battled depression — an inner struggle that she did not disclose with even her family and friends.
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“I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed,” Kryst’s mother, April Simpkins, said in a statement.
“Today, what our family and friends privately knew was the cause of death of my sweet baby girl, Cheslie, was officially confirmed,” Simpkins’ statement continued. “While it may be hard to believe, it’s true. 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.”
An autopsy this week officially confirmed Kryst’s cause of death. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner previously informed Variety that Kryst’s death had been ruled a suicide. Early Sunday morning, Kryst jumped from an upper level at the high-rise apartment building where she lived in New York City. She was 30 years old.
Kryst was an attorney, former Miss USA winner and a correspondent on the entertainment news show, “Extra.”
Inspired by her mother, who became the second Black Mrs. North Carolina in 2002 when she was a young girl, Kryst entered beauty pageants when she was a teenager. She went on win Miss North Carolina in 2019 and was crowned Miss USA that same year, making history as the first time all four major pageants in the U.S. were won by Black women, including Miss Universe, Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Kryst’s title as Miss USA. Kryst spoke often about diversity and inclusion in the pageant world, and she represented the USA in the 2019 Miss Universe competition where she placed in the Top 10.
In March 2021, Kryst penned a column for Allure, titled “A Pageant Queen Reflects on Turning 30,” in which she detailed the relentless pressure society places on women’s youth and her endless strive for accomplishment. “Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to find only emptiness?” she wrote.
In her mother’s mourning statement, Simpkins honors her daughter’s life and urges those who are struggling to seek help.
“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. 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,” Simpkins said.
“Cheslie — to the world, you were a ball of sunshine wrapped in smiles. We talked, FaceTimed or texted one another all day, every day. You were more than a daughter — you were my very best friend. Talking with you was one of the best parts of my day. Your smile and laugh were infectious,” Simpkins said. “I love you baby girl with all my heart. I miss you desperately. I know one day we’ll be together again. Until then, rest easy and in peace.”
In lieu of flowers, Kryst’s mom asked for donations to Dress for Success, an organization that was dear to her daughter’s heart, and asked for continued privacy while the family grieves.
If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
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