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Former Miss America Leanza Cornett dies at 49

Cornett, a mother of two who was crowned Miss America in 1993, is being remembered for her "bright, beautiful spirit" and infectious laugh.
/ Source: TODAY

Leanza Cornett, who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died at age 49.

The Miss America Organization confirmed her death on Facebook Wednesday, writing that Cornett "had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious."

Leanza Cornett.Miss America Organization

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"We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you," the organization wrote. "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."

A Facebook page titled "Leanza Cornett's Circle of Love" shared that Cornett reportedly suffered a serious head injury on Oct. 12 and had been hospitalized.

"She sustained an enormous blow to the back of her head," according to an Oct. 18 post by the group. "The surgery she had on Tuesday was to stop the bleeding in her brain. Right now there is some continued bleeding and swelling. Brain injuries are not black and white. We have to just take this day by day."

Leanza Cornett is shown with Regis Philbin at the 1994 Miss America Pageant. Joe Sohm / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The page also shared the news of her death on Wednesday.

Cornett, who was born in Virginia and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, was a mother of two boys, Kai, 18, and Avery, 16, with ex-husband Mark Steines, a television personality. They divorced in 2013 after tying the knot in 1995.

Steines confirmed the news of his ex-wife's death on Instagram Wednesday with a throwback photo of her with their sons when they were young boys.

Cornett, shown here in 2017 at the Miss America competition, went on to a career in television as a host and guest star. Donald Kravitz / Getty Images

"It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of my ex-wife, Leanza the mother to our two extraordinary sons Kai and Avery," Steines wrote. "We will always remember the wonderful times shared during her short time here on earth. I find comfort knowing Kai and Avery will forever have the best guardian angel watching over them as they navigate life’s path. I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers."

Cornett was crowned Miss Florida the year before she earned the Miss America title. She adopted AIDS awareness as her year-long platform after winning the title in 1993.

Before being crowned Miss America, she played the original Ariel in the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" at Walt Disney World. She went on to become a television host, working for "Entertainment Tonight" and several other shows while also doing a string of TV guest appearances, including "CSI," "Saved by the Bell: The New Class," and "Weeds."