Famous Friday: Miss USA and Miss Teen USA

Miss USA Cheslie Kryst

Cheslie is from Charlotte, North Carolina and is a civil litigation attorney who does pro bono work to reduce sentences for inmates. Her mother is black and her father is Polish. Her mother primary raised Cheslie and worked hard to provide for her and her five siblings. Cheslie has stated in interviews that her mother is one of her biggest influences and motivator. She watched her mother work full time and start her own business from a fold up table in her bedroom. Cheslie became interested in pageants at 10 years old by watching her mother compete in pageants and hold titles. She described herself back then “It was a time in my life when I didn’t know who I was and wasn’t confident in myself. I was that little weird kid who had a unibrow and didn’t have any friends. My hair was always pulled back. I thought I want to be just like her.” Kryst graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina Honors College. She was also a Division I athlete who competed in the heptathlon, long jump, and triple jump. She received her Juris Doctorate and MBA from Wake Forest University. She now is a full time attorney who practices in North Carolina and South Carolina. While in law school and participating in a moot court competition she became frustrated when a judge’s feedback to her was wear a skirt next time while the men received substantive feedback about their legal arguments. She now runs a fashion blog called “White Collar Glam.” During the final round at the Miss USA pageant Kryst was asked to use one word to summarize her generation. She responded “innovative.” She said “I’m standing here in Nevada, in the state that has the first female majority legislature in the entire country. 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.” Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA, will now advance to the Miss Universe competition.

Miss Teen USA- Kaleigh Garris

Kaleigh is an 18 year old from Connecticut; she is a senior at Joseph A Foran High School and has aspirations to become a trauma nurse. She is also attending the Educational Center for the Arts, studying theater. Her father is African-American and her mother is white. After Kaleigh captured the Miss USA Teen title the internet blew up because of her choosing to wear her natural hair. She has stated she attends a predominantly white high school in Connecticut, and that her peers are not use to nature hair and that they are fascinated by it. She has been able to share information about curly hair with them when she does different styles. When Kaleigh was younger she said she looked up to her mom who is blonde and has straight hair and she wanted to physically look like her mom. She use to compete in pageants when she was younger and she wore her hair straight. She competed with extensions, but over time the heat and extensions damaged her hair making it shorter. Garris states she went natural from that point on. She now chooses to use no heat and no extensions so that her hair can be as healthy as possible naturally. Garris said now that she is older she has learned she can be powerful like her mom by having similar characteristics and just being herself.  Kaleigh stated to ELLE.com “For the first time in a long time the crown has been placed in natural hair. It’s something that people don’t usual see on a regular basis or in these major pageant competitions. So having that representation within the African American community has really opened up a lot of people’s eyes and has allowed people to see that people of color can accomplish amazing things.” Not only has her white mother been a huge influence in her life, her African American grandmother and fathers have pushed their influence on her and she says she is really grateful. Since being crowned Miss Teen USA she has gotten a lot of messages from moms of biracial kids, and children and teens who are biracial that have told her that they too feel more proud to be themselves. When asked about choosing to wear her hair natural she has said “I had to stop worrying about where I fit in and have enough strong will within myself to be comfortable with who I am.” Kaleigh will attend Southern Connecticut State University.

Kaleigh was crowned Miss Teen USA on April 28th, 2019. Cheslie won Miss USA on May 2nd 2019. The stunning, intelligent, and talented Nia Franklin who is African American had previously won Miss America this past September. Cheslie is actually friends with Nia and her attorney. They are both from North Carolina and had been involved in pageantry.  Kaleigh and Cheslie’s huge win created a fire storm of tweets, articles, and media coverage reporting they are making history together. Pageantry is tough and you learn quickly it’s almost impossible to win them all. These three women were able to capture three of the most prestigious titles in pageantry against some very beautiful, intelligent, and accomplished woman from around our nation. Winning a state title is difficult, and a national title is rare. Cheslie had competed in the Miss America system through the Miss North Carolina Organization for two years until she aged out, but she always placed well including 1st runner up to Miss North Carolina.   It took her three tries until she was crowned Miss North Carolina USA this past October which advanced her to the Miss USA pageant. Her advice is “Don’t let failure deter you.” Before the Miss USA pageant she told the Charlotte Observer that if she won she was ready to move to New York and if not her lease is up on her apartment in Charlotte and she had already picked out her Charlotte home. Successful people don’t give up, and we are glad that we have Cheslie Kryst representing the USA at Miss Universe. Big congratulations to Kaleigh, Cheslie, and Nia. Three different national pageants, three different judges’ panels, and you were judged by your accomplishments, beauty, intelligence, talents, and character. You have made history and we are proud.

Makensie Shay McDaniel

Project RACE Teens President Emeritus


Photo Credit: twitter.com