Steve May 4, 2022
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The mother of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide in January, revealed in an interview set to air Wednesday that the pageant queen had attempted to take her own life before and she learned of her daughter’s death while on a plane to New York to be by her side.

Kryst died at the age of 30 after falling “from an elevated position” from a building in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen area on Jan. 30. Her death was ruled a suicide by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Variety reported.

In her first sit-down interview, April Simpkins talked about her daughter’s death on Red Table Talk, a Facebook Watch show hosted by Jada Pinkett-Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and Pinkett-Smith’s mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

In a preview of Wednesday’s episode, set to air at 12 p.m. ET, Simpkins recounts the day of her daughter’s death, saying at first “it felt like any other day.”

But then, she got an alarming message.

“When I finally made it home and got to my husband, who was trying to understand what I was saying. So that was when we reached out to the police, like ‘We got this message, get a paramedic there,'” Simpkins said in a preview clip.

“So immediately I’m thinking OK this must be the first attempt, let’s get on a plane, get up there, meet her at the hospital, let’s see what we can do,” she continued. “We’re texting the family. We don’t live in New York, we made it to the airport.”

“We got on the plane, which is now taxiing, when the police confirmed that she was no longer with us,” Simpkins said.

Kryst was crowned Miss USA in 2019 and worked as a model, entertainment news correspondent, as well as a lawyer for a firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. But behind the curtain of her public life, she struggled with depression.

When asked if she saw any preliminary signs, Simpkins admitted she did. 

“I did. I knew Cheslie was suffering from depression. I didn’t know the severity of it,” she said. 

Simpkins revealed Kryst had attempted to take her own life before.

“This was not her first suicide attempt,” she said. “She attempted suicide before, and it was after that first attempt that she and I grew very close. I wanted her to feel comfortable calling me. ‘If ever you’re in crisis, call me.'”

“She began taking all the right steps. She began seeing a counselor, she was getting good sleep at night. She knew all the things to do,” she added.

Simpkins previously said that her daughter was “dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone — including me, her closest confidant — until very shortly before her death.”

In a statement released after Kryst’s passing, Simpkins recalled her close relationship with her daughter.

“We talked, FaceTimed or texted one another all day, every day. You were more than a daughter — you were my very best friend. Talking with you was one of the best parts of my day. Your smile and laugh were infectious,” her mother wrote.

Simpkins said at the time: “I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Marlene Lenthang

Marlene Lenthang is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

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