The shattered mom of late former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst says she lost “my best friend.”
Kryst’s grieving mom, April Simpkins, talked to Gayle King on Monday, a day after her accomplished 30-year-old daughter leaped from a high-rise apartment building in Midtown, according to the CBS anchor.
“Cheslie wasn’t just my daughter; she was my best friend,” King said Simpkins told her.
“Months earlier, Cheslie had told me the exact same thing: Her mother was her best friend,” King wrote in an essay published Tuesday.
The TV host, who was close to Kryst, said she was stunned at the senseless loss of the beautiful lawyer and 2019 Miss USA winner, who left behind a note saying only that she wanted to leave everything to her mom.
“Not only is her family shattered, but everybody who knew or worked with Cheslie is walking around in shock,” King wrote in her heart-rending piece for Oprah Daily.
“How do you explain the unexplainable?” she continued.
At first, King said, she didn’t want to believe that Kryst had taken her own life and tried to convince herself there must have been a mistake.
“I simply refused to believe it. Perhaps she had been pushed? Maybe there was some other foul play? Now, of course, we know that is indeed what happened,” she wrote of the suicide.
King said she was “haunted” by the tragedy and all the unanswered questions swirling in her head: “What was she thinking in those final moments? Did she plan it out? Did something so drastic and traumatic happen over the weekend that could have caused this?
“I cared a lot about this girl — and I thought I really knew her, so that’s what I’m struggling with,” King wrote.
The two women met in 2019 when Kryst went on “CBS This Morning” to discuss how for the first time in history, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America were all black — and the pair kept in touch for years after.
“She had that gorgeous head of hair, that megawatt smile, not to mention that she was just a really kind person,” King wrote.
Kryst, a North Carolina native, went on to become a correspondent for ExtraTV — but “so much more than a pretty girl with a microphone,” King said.
Kryst had started entering beauty pageants when she was a teenager, inspired by her mother, who was crowned Mrs. North Carolina in 2002.
“My mom was the second black Mrs. North Carolina, so I knew no matter what, I was going to compete,” Kryst told the New York Times in 2019.
A month after Kryst was crowned Miss USA at 28 — becoming the oldest winner in the contest’s history — her mom appeared on the “Life After the Crown” podcast and told host Tim Tialdo about their close relationship.
“I do have six children, and out of the six, Cheslie is probably the one who is most like me, where I am now in life,” Simpkins said. “And we do spend a good bit of time together talking or sharing like interests, like working out or running our 5Ks, which is a ton of fun.
“She was actually born bald,” said her mom, when discussing Kryst’s famous long, curly mane.
The host recalled Cheslie once telling him: “It really all started when I remember as a kid watching my mom in a green dress in a parade as Mrs. North Carolina waving to the crowd and thinking, ‘I want to be like that someday.’ “
Kryst once said of her mom, “Her title provided her with a platform to advocate for issues that were important to her and people listened. I wanted the same.”