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Miss USA contestants given access to mental health workshops to ‘deal with stress in the spotlight’


The organization behind the famed Miss USA pageant will provide contestants with  access to mental health workshops to ‘avoid depression’ in the wake of 2019 winner Cheslie Kryst’s suicide in New York City

Crystle Stewart, 40, the president of the Miss USA Organization and 2008 winner, announced the new program Friday that will focus on helping beauty queens deal with the anxiety and depression that comes with becoming overnight stars and dealing with grueling pageantry, she said. 

‘I put in place workshops,’ Stewart told TMZ. ‘Mental health workshops, mindset prep, how do you prepare for the pageant, not just physically, but mentally how do you prepare for the pageant? So there will be mental health workshops through my Crystle Stewart Foundation.’ 

The announcement comes two months after the 30-year-old Kryst jumped to her death from her New York City apartment. The beauty pageant winner had been battling high-function depression, her mother revealed, which she had hidden until ‘very shortly before her death.’ 

Kryst had been very open about mental health and advocated for it. In October 2019, she spoke out on Facebook for World Mental Health Day, offering tips on how she coped with stress. 

‘I do a lot to make sure that I maintain my mental health and the most important thing that I did is talk to a counselor,’ she said in 2019. ‘She’s really easy to talk to. She gives me great strategies especially if I’m sad or happy or have a busy month ahead of me.

Miss USA will be offering mental health workshops to its contestants to help them develop ‘coping mechanisms’ and to ‘avoid depression’ if they lose. The workshops were set up through 2008 winner and current owner of Miss USA Organization Crystle Stewart (pictured) and her foundation

‘When I’m not talking to my counselor, I spend time at the end of every single day to just decompress,’ Kryst said. ‘I unplug, I shut my phone off, I don’t answer messages. I just sit and watch my favorite movies.’

Now, Stewart said she has noticed ‘anxiety’ in contestants and wants to help. 

‘A lot of times – not all the time – but some of them do go through depression after the pageant, leading up to the pageant – sometimes they’re anxious and I notice that throughout speaking to some of the state titleholders beforehand, so I wanted to put in place workshops,’ she told TMZ. 

She also said a lot of beauty queens that lose the competition have a hard time, because unlike ‘NFL players and NBA players,’ these women get ‘one shot and if they don’t win, that’s it, they can’t come back and compete again.’ 

More importantly, she said her workshops will also help the ‘winners.’ She said: ‘Miss USA, there’s a lot that she has to do once she wins. She moves to Los Angeles the day after, she’s competing at Miss Universe, she’s a celebrity just like that. There’s a lot of mental prep that goes into that.’ 

The mental health workshops will be both before and after the pageant to help the women ‘cope with any losses or gains.’ 

As part of the programs, Stewart said the foundation will bring in a community of psychiatrists and mental health experts to help the ladies mentally prepare for such a big competition and be in front of a large crowd – both in-person and online. 

Cheslie Kyrst, 30, being crowned Miss USA in 2019 by former winner Sarah Rose Summers

Cheslie Kyrst, 30, being crowned Miss USA in 2019 by former winner Sarah Rose Summers

The beauty queen spoke openly about struggling with mental health, but kept her high-functioning depression secret. She leap to her death in January from her Manhattan residential building

The beauty queen spoke openly about struggling with mental health, but kept her high-functioning depression secret. She leap to her death in January from her Manhattan residential building 

In the workshop before the pageant, they will be given tips on how to use different coping mechanisms for when they start ‘getting nervous’ or ‘feeling overwhelmed.’ 

‘A lot of it will be dealing with coping skills,’ she told TMZ. 

After pageant workshops will focus on helping these women avoid ‘that state of depression if you don’t win.’ 

‘What are you going to do after the pageant? The pageant isn’t the end of the world, it’s not the end all be all,’ she said. ‘It’s a great asset, it’s a great thing to have that crown, but there are other things in life that you can still achieve and be successful at even if you don’t win.

‘So, we want to give them those resources and tools and those coping mechanisms.’ 

Although Stewart was already putting these initiatives into place prior to Kryst’s death, she said the loss of the beauty queen made her ‘speed up the process.’ 

‘[Her death] really struck not only the pageant world, but the world really hard,’ she told TMZ. ‘Cheslie was such a pillar in the community, she was just a pillar of strength, of beauty, of excellence, and to see her with this tragedy, we really wanted to give a positive energy to the state titleholders and really wanted to get someone professional onboard.’ 

Stewart also said she saw a therapist the Monday after Kryst’s death for a pre-scheduled appointment and asked her therapist to speak to ‘these girls’ to ‘give them something.’ 

Kryst was a lawyer and also worked as a correspondent for the entertainment show Extra. She won the Miss USA pageant in 2019 using her platform to speak out about social and criminal justice reform.

Kryst, who had an apartment on the ninth floor of the luxury building on West 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan, leaped from the 29th floor of the 60-story high-rise around 7.15am and was found dead on the snow-covered sidewalk.

She jumped from an area that was open to the whole building after being last seen on the 29th-floor terrace, sources said.

Only hours before, Kryst wrote on her Instagram page, ‘May this day bring you rest and peace.’

Police found a note in the apartment stating she wanted to leave everything to her mother, a former pageant winner.

There was no explanation for her actions in the note.

‘Not only beautiful but she was smart — she was a lawyer,’ a police source told the New York Post. ‘She has a life that anyone would be jealous of. … It’s so sad.’

As Miss North Carolina, Kryst captured the Miss USA tiara-wearing a sparkly winged outfit for the national costume competition, in a nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’

During the competition, she described herself as a ‘weird kid’ with a ‘unibrow’ who’s now part of the first generation of truly empowered women.

Asked in the final round to use one word to summarize her generation, Kryst said ‘innovative.’

Kryst jumped from the 29th-floor open terrace area of the 60-story Orion building, cops said

Kryst jumped from the 29th-floor open terrace area of the 60-story Orion building, cops said

Police officers are seen on the scene of where Kryst leaped to her death on West 42nd Street

Police officers are seen on the scene of where Kryst leaped to her death on West 42nd Street 

‘I’m standing here in Nevada, in the state that has the first female majority legislature in the entire country,’ she said. ‘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.’

Kryst was born in Jackson, Michigan, to a white, Polish-American father and black mother, April Simpkins, a winner of Mrs. North Carolina in 2002. She grew up in Charlotte and graduated from the University of South Carolina.

She went on to get her law degree from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was involved in a number of activities, including the National Black Law Students Association, according to her LinkedIn page.

After passing the bar, she worked as an associate attorney at Poyner-Spruill LLP in Charlotte between September 2017 and May 2019 as a member of the firm’s civil litigation team.

She did pro bono work to reduce sentences for inmates.

In a statement, Kryst’s family described her as ‘one that inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength.’

‘In devastation and great sorrow, we share the passing of our beloved Cheslie,’ the statement said.

‘Her great light was one that inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength. She cared, she loved, she laughed and she shined. Cheslie embodied love and served others, whether through her work as an attorney fighting for social justice, as Miss USA and as a host on Extra.

‘But most importantly, as a daughter, sister, friend, mentor and colleague – we know her impact will live on. As we reflect on our loss, the family asks for privacy at this time.’



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