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Cheslie Kryst’s mother speaks at daughter’s memorial: ‘Forever my baby girl’

The former Miss USA winner was honored in a private and public ceremony on Friday, February 18 after her death last month.
/ Source: TODAY

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

Last week, Cheslie Kryst was honored in a memorial service almost three weeks after she died by suicide at age 30.

On Friday, February 18, NBC affiliate WCNC reported that the family of the late Miss USA winner hosted a public celebration of life ceremony at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior to the public event, the family also held a private, invitation-only ceremony.

At the memorial, Kryst’s mother, April Simpkins, was among the speakers, taking a moment to reflect on her daughter’s life and impact through her work.

“Cheslie throughout her life sowed many seeds through her work, her philanthropy, her advocacy, and most importantly, her genuine care for others,” Simpkins said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I know those seeds will continue to bear fruit for many years.”

Simpkins also reflected on her relationship with her daughter, saying, “She is forever my baby girl and I’m going to miss all of her and the living example of a pure, giving heart. I’m going to miss that the most.”

As she spoke, Simpkins encouraged individuals to begin prioritizing their mental health, be aware of resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and above all, be there for others in need.

“Honor Cheslie by becoming an ally for a community that needs support,” Simpkins said.

On January 30, Kryst’s family confirmed the news of her death in a statement to TODAY.

Simpkins released an emotional statement just days after her daughter’s death, reading in part, “I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed.”

“Today, what our family and friends privately knew was the cause of death of my sweet baby girl, Cheslie, was officially confirmed,” she wrote. “While it may be hard to believe, it’s true.”

Though Kryst had spoken about the importance of mental health care in the past in a video on the Miss USA Facebook page, she hid her depression from her friends and family, including her mother.

“Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private 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 wrote. “While her life on this earth was short, it was filled with many beautiful memories. We miss her laugh, her words of wisdom, her sense of humor and mostly her hugs. We miss all of it — we miss all of her.”

Simpkins ended her heartbreaking letter with a message to her daughter.

“Cheslie — to the world, you were a ball of sunshine wrapped in smiles,” she wrote. “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.”

While Kryst was well-known for competing in Miss USA and her role as a New York correspondent for the TV show “Extra,” she also practiced law at the firm Poyner Spruill LLP after graduating from Wake Forest University School of Law, where she served as their first Diversity Advisor, according to the firm’s website.

In Kryst’s honor, Dress for Success, an organization she was heavily involved with in Charlotte, created the Cheslie Kryst Woman’s Advancement Fund to support more women during their employment journey. At her alma mater, Wake Forest University, fundraisers including the Cheslie Kryst Diversity and Social Justice Law Scholarship and the Dean’s List Media Scholarship have been started in her honor.