Mother of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst says pageant queen hid depression

The mother of Cheslie Kryst, the former Miss USA who died Sunday, has shared a touching tribute to her daughter, revealing she suffered from depression that “she hid from everyone.”

Kryst died at the age of 30 after falling “from an elevated position” from a building in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen area Sunday. Her death was ruled a suicide by the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Variety reported. 

“Today, what our family and friends privately knew was the cause of death of my sweet baby girl, Cheslie, was officially confirmed,” Kryst's mother, April Simpkins, said Wednesday.  

She said her daughter was living a public and private life, and in her personal 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 remembered Kryst as 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," her mother wrote. 

Simpkins noted, "I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed." 

She asked that in lieu of flowers, mourners seeking to help the family can make a donation to Dress for Success, an organization that was dear to Kryst's heart and provides professional attire for low-income women.

Simpkins also shared the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, urging the those struggling with suicidal thoughts to seek help. 

A New York Police Department source told NBC News Monday that Kryst had left a note indicating she was going to take her own life.

Several suicides over the past month have placed a spotlight on mental health in the Black community, in wake of the deaths of Kryst, and Ian Alexander Jr., the son of actor and director Regina King.

Kryst was vocal about her close relationship with her mother, telling the North Carolina Bar Association’s blog in 2019 that she was inspired to enter pageant competition by Simpkins, who was Mrs. North Carolina in 2002.

“I remember watching her win and going to appearances with her during her reign,” Kryst said. “Her title provided her with a platform to advocate for issues that were important to her and people listened.”

Kryst was not just a beauty queen, she was also lawyer who worked for a firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a correspondent for entertainment news program “Extra.”

Her Miss USA victory in 2019 — along with those of Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe — marked the first time Black women held all the major pageant titles in a single year.

The Miss Universe and Miss USA organizations said in a statement following her death that they “are devastated to learn about the loss of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst.”

“She was one of the brightest, warmest, and most kind people we have ever had the privilege of knowing, and she lit up every room she entered,” the statement said. “Our entire community mourns her loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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