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Miss USA Is a Lawyer!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 07: Cheslie Kryst visits the BUILD Series to discuss Winning "Miss USA" at Build Studio on May 07, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 09, 2019 6:00 AM

Miss USA is a beautiful lawyer.

No offense, but beauty pageants are supposed to produce beautiful champions. Cheslie Kryst is an excellent attorney, too, but that's not the only reason she won the title. Kryst also made history as a pageant winner for another reason. She is a beautiful, black lawyer.

Historic Win

Along with this year's Miss America and Miss Teen America, Kryst joined the other winners to mark the first time black women have worn the crowns at the same time. Kryst, a North Carolina litigator, is an associate at Poyner Sprull in Charlotte. One of her clients is the current Miss America, but not all of her clients are famous. She also does pro bono work for prisoners.

At the Miss USA contest in Nevada, she described herself as a "weird kid" with a "unibrow" who is part of a new generation of empowered women. "Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mindset that has inclusivity, diversity, strength and empowered women," she said. "I'm looking forward to continued progress in my generation."

'Empowered Women'

In interviews, Kryst said sometimes her youth and appearance are a problem. Courthouse guards will ask her to show her bar card, but they don't require older white lawyers to show identification. When she meets other legal professionals for the first time, they ask incredulously whether she is an attorney. One time, during a moot court competition, a judge remarked that she shouldn't wear a pantsuit. The judge, a black woman, told Kryst she should wear a skirt because that's what judges prefer. "Don't tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments," Kryst told reporters later.

After all, that was a legal competition, not a beauty pageant.

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