Former Miss USA and attorney Cheslie Kryst’s death has left obvious sadness, but has also served to further highlight the issues of lawyers’ mental health – an issue that has affected lawyers everywhere.
Kryst died last Sunday after she jumped from the 60 story Orion building in New York and had shortly before the jump posted on her Instagram page, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”
An attorney with an MBA, she was crowned Miss USA as Miss North Carolina in May 2019 and subsequently went on to finish in the top 10 of the Miss Universe 2019 competition.
The former Miss USA’s death has been ruled a suicide, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed.
Following her death her family remembered her for inspiring others “around the world with her beauty and strength,” they wrote in a statement.
Heart-Rending Essay on Pressures
She had written a heart-rending essay last year describing the pressures of getting older, the need to achieve – and her battle with online bullies and trolls .
She had written in an essay for Allure about overcoming the crushing expectations she once placed on herself after she “nearly worked myself to death.
“I discovered that the world’s most important question, especially when asked repeatedly and answered frankly, is: why?,” Kryst wrote of her change in thinking.
“Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to only find emptiness?”
Kryst went on in her Allure piece to say that “after a year like 2020, you would think we’d learned that growing old is a treasure and maturity is a gift not everyone gets to enjoy.
“Far too many of us allow ourselves to be measured by a standard that some sternly refuse to challenge and others simply acquiesce to because fitting in and going with the flow is easier than rowing against the current,” Kryst continued.
“Each time I say ‘I’m turning 30,’ I cringe a little,” she wrote. “Sometimes I can successfully mask this uncomfortable response with excitement; other times, my enthusiasm feels hollow, like bad acting.
“Society has never been kind to those growing old, especially women. (Occasional exceptions are made for some of the rich and a few of the famous.).
“I fought this fight before and it’s the battle I’m currently fighting with 30,” she wrote. “How do I shake society’s unwavering norms when I’m facing the relentless tick of time? It’s the age-old question: What happens when ‘immovable’ meets ‘unstoppable?’”
“I joined a trial team at school and won a national championship. I competed in moot court; won essay competitions; and earned local, regional, and national executive board positions,” Kryst wrote.
“I nearly worked myself to death, literally, until an eight-day stint in a local hospital sparked the development of a new perspective,” she said.
As for her less-than-conventional views, Kryst wrote, “Women who compete in pageants are supposed to have a middle-of-the-road opinion — if any — so as not to offend.
“I talked candidly about my views on the legalization of marijuana, the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, anti-abortion laws, the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and the successes and failures of criminal justice reform.”
Kryst ended her contemplative essay by saying she marked her milestone birthday in her apartment, “parading around in a black silk top, matching shorts, and a floor-length robe while scarfing down banana pudding and screening birthday calls.
“I even wore my crown around the apartment for most of the day knowing I’d have to give it back at the end of my reign as Miss USA. I did what I wanted rather than the expected,” she wrote.
Highlighting Mental Health
Her openness over pressure and lifestyle, as well as her attorney livelihood prior to winning her crown has helped highlight the mental health issues that are so endemic within the legal profession.
Cheslie Kryst had earned a law degree and an MBA at the same time at Wake Forest University after her undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina, where she was a track athlete.
As a person of accomplishment and who was also driven, she in many ways exemplified the pressures felt by lawyers seeking to succeed in often high-stress environments.
She was a litigation associate at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, North Carolina, when she was crowned Miss USA. Her legal background and high profile, along with her selfless description of career pressure has served to place the spotlight on the wide-ranging mental health issue – again.