Former Miss America Leanza Cornett dies at 49: 'A bright and beautiful spirit'

Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
·1 min read
In this file image from November 1994, Miss America Leanza Cornett poses for a photo.
In this file image from November 1994, Miss America Leanza Cornett poses for a photo.

Leanza Cornett, who in 1993 became Miss America before going on to a career in television, has died, the Miss America Organization confirmed. She was 49.

"It is with great sadness the Miss America Organization relays the news our beloved Miss America and friend, Leanza Cornett, has passed away," read a post on the official Miss America Facebook page.

"Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you. We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America family and we are deeply sorry for her family and close friends for their loss."

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Born in Virginia and raised in Florida, Cornett would win the Miss Florida pageant in 1992, before going on to win the national title the following year.

According to posts from a Facebook group titled "Leanza Cornett's Circle of Love," Cornett starred as the original Ariel in Disney World's "Voyage of The Little Mermaid" show in the early '90s. She later appeared in episodes of the "Today" show, "Entertainment Tonight," "Rachael Ray," "CSI" and "Weeds," according to her IMDB page.