2019 Miss USA Pageant

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Miss USA Rolls the Dice and Wins Big in Reno

Reno, Nevada, The Biggest Little City in the World, welcomed the fifty-one enthusiastic representatives vying for the Miss USA 2019 crown, title, and prize package as they prepared for the much anticipated live show on FOX.

Broadcast from the beautiful Grand Theater at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, the Miss USA 2019 Pageant was once again hosted by the always entertaining duo of Nick and Vanessa Lachey, with special commentary from industry veteran Lu Sierra. The show was a testament to women and women empowerment. With the venue situated at the base of the snow-capped mountains, it was surely a night to remember.

As the theater crowd came alive, the opening production number set the evening’s energetic tone with Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, and producer T-Pain welcoming the delegates to the Miss USA 2019 stage. With the final contestant’s introduction, the Top Fifteen were announced: Miss Florida USA Nicolette Jennings; Miss New Mexico USA Alejandra Gonzalez; Miss Arkansas USA Savannah Skidmore; Miss Ohio USA Alice Magoto; Miss Oklahoma USA Triana Browne; Miss Iowa USA Baylee Drezek; Miss Minnesota USA Cat Stanley; Miss District of Columbia USA Cordelia Cranshaw; Miss Louisiana USA Victoria Paul; Miss North Carolina USA Cheslie Kryst; Miss Kansas USA Alyssa Klinzing; Miss Pennsylvania USA Kailyn Marie Perez; Miss Maryland USA Mariela Pepin; Miss Hawaii USA Lacie Choy; and Miss Nevada USA Tianna Tuamoheloa.

The Miss USA 2019 Top 15 competed in the first stage competition of the evening, Swimsuit, which would narrow the field to a Top 10. After the Swimsuit Competition, which confirms the delegates’ commitment to a fit and healthy lifestyle, the Top 10 were beckoned center stage to prepare for the next round of competition, Evening Gown. The Top 10 Miss USA 2019 contestants were: Miss Arkansas USA; Miss Ohio USA; Miss Kansas USA; Miss North Carolina USA; Miss District of Columbia USA; Miss New Mexico USA; Miss Maryland USA; Miss Florida USA; Miss Nevada USA; and Miss
Oklahoma USA.

Serenaded by multi-platinum recording artist and Miss USA 2019 host Nick Lachey, the Top 10 Miss USA finalists gracefully took the stage during the Evening Gown portion of the night. Always the most anticipated competition, Evening Gown lived up to its perennial elegance with the live and television audience aptly rewarded for their dedication to this most glamorous event. As with any competition’s completion, the Miss USA field was once again winnowed to a Top 5: Alejandra Gonzalez (NM); Cheslie Kryst (NC); Tianna Tuamoheloa (NV); Triana Browne (OK); and Savannah Skidmore (AR).
It was time to hear from the Miss USA Top 5 in the Question Round, answering a question written and posed by one of her fellow contestants. Beginning the Question Round was Miss New Mexico USA’s question via Miss Colorado USA, “What is one issue you would like all the 2020 candidates to address and Why?”; followed by Miss North Carolina USA posed by Massachusetts, “Have the #metoo and #timesup movements gone too far?”, Miss Nevada USA answering Miss Michigan USA, “What is the largest contributing factor to the high rate of gun violence in our nation?”; Miss Oklahoma USA took the question “Should the incarcerated be allowed to vote?” from Miss North Dakota USA, with the final question “America is both racially diverse and divided, Why do you think that is?” answered by Miss Arkansas USA as queried by Miss Mississippi USA. These were extremely tough, poignant, and time pertinent questions and all answered with confidence and conviction. All that awaited was the Miss USA 2019 Selection Committee’s decision as to whom would advance to the final round of competition.

The Final Word & Final Look competition remained between the final Top 3 Miss USA contests and the Miss USA 2019 title. All would answer the same question, “What is one word you would use to describe your generation and why?” In order; Miss North Carolina USA, Miss Oklahoma USA, and Miss New Mexico USA. One of these women would soon earn the title of Miss USA 2019.

From the initial 51 Miss USA state representatives, the field had been narrowed to fifteen (Swimsuit), ten (Evening gown), five (Question Round), to a final three (Final word & Final Look). The final decision as to whom would capture the crown and title of Miss USA 2019 was now in the hands of the Selection Committee.

With the theater vibrating from applause and screams, it was the moment of truth as the Miss USA 2019 finalists were proclaimed with Second Runner-Up Miss Oklahoma USA Triana Browne the first to be announced. It was down to the final two, clutching hands, center stage and each hoping to hear her name called as Miss USA 2019. Miss New Mexico USA USA Alejandra Gonzalez became First Runner-Up as Miss North Carolina USA was announced, Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019. Cheslie is a civil litigation attorney with both a Juris Doctor and MBA from Wake Forest University and becomes the third woman form the state of North Carolina to capture the Miss USA crown.

Pageantry magazine: Now that you’re in New York, let’s talk about the media tour. Where have you been and who have you met with so far?

Cheslie Kryst: Where have I not been, my gosh. On Monday we did Good Morning America. We also did Live with Kelly and Ryan then Inside Edition. We did a ton of Skype and phone interviews as well. We talked with TMZ and Refinery29. We talked with a few magazines and then throughout the rest of the week we went on Sirius XM. We talked with some people from Univision, talked with a few pageant blogs. We’ve been everywhere. Fox as well. I mean, it’s been a ton of fun. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve loved it. I’ve loved every moment of it.

PM: What have you learned about yourself from this quick introduction to the national media?
CK: I’ve learned my recent win, along with Nia Franklin’s (Miss America 2019) win and Kaliegh Garris’ (Miss Teen USA 2019) win has inspired a lot of women and that all three of us are national title holders and all three of us are women of color. So that has been impactful and profound for me because it’s something I didn’t think about even when I won. I didn’t realize it until a few people started posting on Instagram and on social media about it and that was really profound for me.

PM: That is a unique situation, the first time in history. When you were talking to Miss America, Nia Franklin, how did you discuss this new opportunity?
CK: We’re friends and she’d been texting me during the competition. I was there in Reno for about two weeks, so we were close and she was encouraging me. After I won, she congratulated me and we started realizing the significance of our wins. We were just happy for each other.

PM: You actually discovered the wonderful world of pageantry through your mother, correct?
CK: Yes, that’s correct. She was Mrs. North Carolina (United States) 2002. She won a pageant for married women when I was younger. I remember being 10 years old and just watching her, admiring her, thinking I want to be that someday.

PM: Did she give you any advice?
CK: Oh, of course. What’s interesting is that the morning of the competition my mom and I were just running through some mock on-stage questions, practices, and she was the one who reminded me to just take a breath, to just take a second before I answer my question, gather my thoughts, and then answer. I think that helped a great deal, for me to be able to focus my thoughts before I answered rather than just shooting off the cuff and just answering without having an end in mind. I think that was a
great help.

PM: You competed several times in North Carolina?
CK: Yes, yes, I competed twice in the Miss America system, at Miss North Carolina, and I competed three times in the Miss Universe Organization for the title of Miss North Carolina USA. I won on my third attempt.

PM: You’re the third woman from North Carolina to capture the crown?
CK: Yes. What’s interesting is that Kristen Dalton was Miss North Carolina USA 2009, and then became Miss USA 2009, 10 years before I won, so that’s really cool to win on the 10 year anniversary. Then Chelsea Cooley was Miss USA 2005, she’s actually from Charlotte, and what’s interesting is I volunteer a lot and I was doing a community service event in Charlotte at Independence High School. I happened to see that Independence still has Chelsea Cooley’s face, like a picture of her face, hanging in their cafeteria. The Charlotte area in North Carolina is really proud of all of our national title holders.

PM: What has pageantry taught you?
CK: It’s taught me a lot. You know, one of the great things about pageantry is that is requires personal development in order to be successful. So I had to do a ton of mock interviews, I had to have people review my bio and resume, I had to go through a period of self-discovery and figure out what I wanted out of the experience and what I was going to give to others. All of that personal development and practice really helps any woman who competes in pageantry and it certainly helped me.

PM: You’re standing on stage, two of you are in the center spotlight, what’s going through your mind?
CK: Honestly, you know I was holding hands with the first runner-up Alejandra and we were standing there quietly and I just said a prayer. I just said a prayer that God would watch over us and that he would lead the steps of whoever became Miss USA. I was glad to do that and glad to just stand there peacefully, holding hands with my first runner-up.

PM: Tell us about practicing law and why you chose this career path.
CK: Practicing law is really exciting. It requires a lot from the attorneys who decide to practice and I wanted to be an attorney for a really long time. I remember when I was little, I had five siblings, and I was always the kid who was representing my other siblings. I was always the friend who would speak for my other friends. So it just became a natural progression for me to go from people trusting me to represent them in really trivial disputes to representing people in incredible, important and groundbreaking cases.

PM: Can you explain the impetus behind White Collar Glam?
CK: When I was in law school, I competed in a trial team competition and we won our regional competition and went to nationals. While we were at nationals for the four day competition, I brought some suits with me and I ruined all of my suits while I was there. I sweat through one of them because there was no air conditioning in the court rooms we were in. Another one of them ripped, the skirt ripped all the way up the back. And the third one that I brought was just too big for me by the time we arrived to the national championship. So I remember feeling uncomfortable, insecure and desperate because I
didn’t have clothes to wear for a very important event. When I graduated from law school, I decided to start a blog so I could answer that question for other people.

PM: Miss Universe notwithstanding, what do you look forward to most as Miss USA?
CK: I would say advocating for Dress for Success. I’ve talked about starting my blog out of a moment of desperation. My blog shows women how to find clothing to wear, how to get clothing at different price points and where to shop. There’s an issue that some women cannot afford to buy clothing, regardless of if they know where to find it, regardless if they know how to style it. The Dress for Success answers that question in one of its programs: a suiting program where it provides clothing for free to women who can’t afford it who are going on job interviews. I’m looking forward to advocating for Dress for Success.

PM: If I remember correctly, you’re also looking forward to New York Fashion Week.
CK: I cannot wait for New York Fashion Week. I’ve studied the Miss Universe Organization and past title holders. It’s always an exciting time when Miss USA and Miss Universe get to go to Fashion Week, hang out with the designers and go to shows. So yeah, I’m thrilled for that and cannot wait.

PM: Going back to the crowning moment, when you realized you were now Miss USA 2019, there was an explosion of emotion on stage. How do you feel now?
CK: I’m still just as excited as I was then. I’m still in disbelief. I wake up every day and I get to go to media interviews. I think that’s the only thing that has made it seem more real, but for several days I would just wake up and think that it really was all a dream. So now it’s kind of setting in. I’m just happy and excited.

PM: Have you had a chance to spend any time with your sister queens Miss Universe Catriona Gray or Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris?
CK: Yes. In fact the day I moved into my apartment, Cat and I got pizza together, hung out in the living room for a little bit and watched some TV. That was a fun moment. We also got together for dinner with Pia (Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach) shortly after. Kaliegh and I got to hang out briefly when we went on CBS This Morning with Gayle King and with Miss America Nia Franklin. So it’s been fun. It’s been fun to be able to hang out with them even just for a little bit. I’m thrilled for that and cannot wait.

PM: Since you’ve competed in different systems, one requiring a
talent, arts are very important to you, correct?
CK: Definitely. You know, my mom instilled the importance of the arts in me and my siblings. She played piano and also sang. I remember being a little kid and on the weekends I would wake up every morning to my mom playing piano downstairs. It was sort of dream-like. I play piano as well, I play violin, and my brothers, they play guitar. They’re in bands together and they have tons of videos on YouTube, singing. So yes, the arts are very important to me.

PM: Is there any question the media hasn’t asked you that you would like to address?
CK: I think some of the things we haven’t talked about are really how I got involved in fashion and why I enjoy talking about it. Some of that started from when I was really young, when I had an interest in making clothes. Actually when I was in law school, I used to make fur vests and sell them to people. When I was in undergrad, I made a small clothing line of evening gowns for women with different body types. I think all of that provided some support for me when I decided to make a blog and as I’ve been dreaming of making my own clothing line of work wear fashion for women. I think those are some of the things I haven’t really spoken about very much, but I’ve loved speaking about Dress for Success and the other things that I’ve talked about this week.

PM: Well then, let’s speak about it.
CK: Like I said, making clothes has always been an interest of mine. When I was growing up, my family and I came from very humble beginnings. For us, if we were going to go back to school shopping, that didn’t happen at Target, it happened at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If I wanted cute and unique clothing, I had to do it myself.

I remember when I was in undergrad, my grandmother gifted me a Singer sewing machine. I used it to alter some of my clothes, to make some of my clothes unique, and I started using it to make clothing from scratch. For my senior thesis at the Honors College at South Carolina, I received a grant of $1500 from the Honors College and used it to buy fabric for a clothing line of five evening gowns. We did some photos and it was really, really fun.

I also competed in a design competition for Goodwill in the Triad area called Rock the Runway where we actually got a $250 gift card from Goodwill so that we could buy clothing and make it into a clothing line. I did that and also made a ball gown out of newspaper and glitter which was really great. Throughout my life it’s been really fun to
experiment with making clothing and designing it.

PM: What would you like our readers and listeners to know about you?
CK: I want them to know I’ve gotten here because I’ve overcome challenges and refused to be deterred by failure. I hope other people will see that and use it as motivation to continue pushing harder in trying to reach the dreams and goals they have for themselves.

PM: How can people find you? Where is your blog?
CK: It’s called White Collar Glam, so if they’ll just type in whitecollarglam.com in their web browser they’ll be able to find me or they can look at my Instagram or Pinterest. Both names are both White Collar Glam.

PM: You have your own passions that you support and you’re getting ready to now support the goals of Miss USA. Are you looking forward to that and have you already started it?
CK: I’m thrilled. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing, promoting some of the goals of the Miss Universe Organization. Throughout media week, we’ve really focused on just talking to media, celebrating my win, and helping me get acclimated to the organization. So later in the week and next week I’ll be doing orientation. I’ll be able to learn more about specifics and what happens next. Until then, I’m just excited to be Miss USA.

PM: How can everyone follow you throughout the year as Miss USA 2019?
CK: They can reach me on Facebook and they can look me up at Miss USA. They can also find me on Instagram, @missusa or @chesliekryst. They can also find me on Twitter, @MissUSA and @chesliekryst.

PM: With all that you do, you have a lot of social media to keep up on.
CK: Yeah, but that part’s exciting, right? It’s a time where I get to actually reach people and talk to people directly, so for me it’s fun. It’s not like a job. I get to talk to people who have supported me and who have been encouraging. So that’s the fun part of it.