May 29, 2019
Darla Moore School of Business alumna Cheslie Kryst (B.S. ’13) won the Miss USA 2019 title earlier this year.
Kryst, who majored in marketing and human resource management and also graduated from the UofSC Honors College, is a Charlotte-area civil litigation attorney.
Also a Wake Forest law and MBA graduate, Kryst is taking a hiatus from her Charlotte law firm Poyner Spruill to serve as Miss USA full time and prepare for the Miss Universe pageant, which will be held later this year in South Korea.
The Moore School asked Kryst how it feels to be crowned Miss USA, the lessons she learned while at UofSC and about her law career and interests:
How did it feel to win the Miss USA pageant?
Surreal! It’s something I’ve worked hard to achieve for years, and it was a dream come true when it actually happened.
How has this win changed your life?
It has turned my life upside down in the best way possible. The day after the pageant, I moved to my new apartment in New York City and went on a two-week media tour with huge news and entertainment outlets such as CBS This Morning, Good Morning America and Inside Edition, among others. I’ll spend the next year serving as Miss USA full time while I represent the Miss Universe Organization and advocate for Dress for Success.
What is your schedule like lately?
We’ve been doing my media tour for the last couple of weeks, so I wake up between 5 and 6 a.m., get my hair and makeup done, then I’m on the go until around 5 p.m. while I travel to news and radio stations or do phone or video interviews. After that, I’ll make sure to respond to messages and post on social media. I anticipate the next year will be pretty busy even after my media tour is over.
How will you prepare for the Miss Universe pageant?
The Miss Universe competition consists of interviews pre-event with the judges for them to get to know you better; during the televised event, the portions of the competition are swimsuit, evening gown, on-stage question and final word. To prepare, I’ll be working out four to five days each week, working with Sherri Hill to design my evening gown and collaborating with a couple of mentors to review my paperwork and practice for the interview portion of the competition. I’ll also be staying abreast of current events as the participants are asked relevant questions including those that affect our countries, women and overall views on topics based on the causes we are passionate about.
How did your time at the Moore School prepare you for the pageant and your career?
It required me to be resourceful. The Moore School offers a plethora of resources including well-connected and well-educated professors, career fairs and connections with internship opportunities. If you want to succeed, you’re able to take advantage of any and all opportunities the school makes available to students. I love the approach the Moore School has because I gained a sense of independence and drive that would not have been fostered absent the school’s educational strategy. That independence helped me to continue to use the resources around me in law school, in pageantry and in my career so that I could find success.
How did your time at the University of South Carolina prepare you for the pageant
and your career?
South Carolina is a welcoming campus full of students who want to help each other. There are so many opportunities to get involved in campus activities and build your own community. I was happy to learn that the pageant community and the legal community are similar — you have to take advantage of opportunities around you in order to be successful and, when you do that, you’re able to build your own community of people that care about you and want to help you accomplish your goals.
As an attorney, you work on prison reform. Why is this important to you?
I want to make sure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. I was inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and my stepdad’s pro-bono work to help in a couple of cases involving men who were sentenced unjustly for low-level drug crimes.
Will you return to your law career after your reign as Miss USA and after competing
in Miss Universe?
I plan to return to the practice of law because I’ve spent my entire life dreaming about becoming an attorney. I’m passionate about the work I have the privilege of doing and am excited to get back to it after my reign is over.
You mentioned in one of your answers in the Miss USA pageant that your generation
is innovative. You also noted your generation is focused on inclusivity, diversity
and empowerment of women in mentioning the Nevada legislature is one of the first with a majority of women. Why is this important to you?
Women’s empowerment is an essential movement that our society needs. In a day and age when women still aren’t paid as much as men for the same work and need to be included in more leadership positions in government, business, legal and other industries, it is essential to me that we constantly remind others that we are capable and deserving of the same pay and leadership opportunities as our male counterparts.
You have the fashion blog White Collar Glam. Why did you start this blog, and what is its purpose?
I provide work-wear fashion inspiration and resources for women on dressing in the workplace. I started it after realizing in law school that finding professional clothing and understanding the standard of dress required in the legal profession was a challenge. I wanted to help other women to learn the ropes a little easier than I did.