Black North Carolina Attorney Crowned Miss USA 2019

A 28-year-old lawyer from North Carolina was crowned Miss USA 2019 on Thursday, May 2. Miss North Carolina Cheslie Kryst was one of the 51 female contestants representing the states and the District of Columbia who were competing for the title in Reno, Nevada. Miss Oklahoma Triana Browne was named second runner-up, and Alejandra Gonzalez of New Mexico was declared first runner-up, according to the Associated Press.

“I’m standing here in Nevada, in the state that has the first female majority legislature in the entire country,” Kryst said at the event, according to the AP. “Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mindset that has inclusivity, diversity, strength, and empowered women. I’m looking forward to continued progress in my generation.”

In a video posted to Twitter by the Miss USA & Miss Teen USA account, Kryst and Gonzalez are facing each other and holding hands seconds before the winner was announced. The two hugged after Kryst was declared the winner. Kryst told the AP that she was not nervous as she advanced through the elimination rounds. Kryst is a “full-time attorney that is licensed to practice law in two states,”

according to her biography on the Miss Universe website. The 28-year-old earned her law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University and graduated cum laude from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s degree. The Miss USA 2019 winner is also a Division I athlete and has competed on the University of South Carolina’s track and field team in the heptathlon, the triple jump, and the long jump.

Kryst also runs her own fashion blog called White Collar Glam, which focuses on women's fashion in the workplace. She volunteers for Dress for Success, an organization “focused on improving economic mobility for women through work placement and suiting programs,” according to the Miss Universe website. Kryst won the first pageant she ever entered in the ninth grade, earning the title of Miss Freshman at Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School, and then won the Miss Fort Mill High School pageant after she transferred to Fort Mill High School in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported.

“Her focus was not on just wearing a crown and a sash,” Kryst’s mother, April Simpkins, told the publication. “I knew then that she was going to compete for the right reasons. She didn’t need praise and accolades.” While Kryst took time off from pageants to focus on college, she began competing again in law school, according to the Observer. After competing in the Miss North Carolina and the Miss North Carolina USA pageants four times, she finally won the title of Miss North Carolina USA in November.

Kryst is just one of the Black women who have won pageant titles in the past year. Kaliegh Garris, 18, won the title of Miss Teen USA on April 28, according to the New Haven Register. Garris, who competed as Miss Connecticut in the pageant, is a dual-enrolled student at Joseph A. Foran High School and the Educational Center for the Arts majoring in theater, according to her biography on the Miss Universe website.

In September, Nia Franklin, 25, was crowned 2019 Miss America in September. She told The New York Times it was crucial for young Black and Brown girls to see women like Kryst, Garris and herself as public figures.

“It is important to little Brown and Black girls to see three strong figures, three strong women, African-American women that are doing so much great work,” Franklin told The Times. “People will argue that race doesn’t matter. But race does matter in America, because of the history, because of slavery.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.