CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Cristina Bolling/The Charlotte Observer) - Eight months ago, Cheslie Kryst was balancing being Miss NC USA and working as an attorney in an uptown Charlotte law firm. Then she won the Miss USA contest, and now is up for a major promotion this Sunday: Miss Universe.
There would be lots of perks to the new job, but she laughs about one in particular that she’s eyeing: a bigger bedroom.
Why a bigger bedroom? Miss USA and Miss Universe (currently Catriona Gray from the Philippines) share an apartment in midtown Manhattan, which means a short move down the hall if Kryst wins the crown.
“I live with Miss Universe – she’s literally a bedroom down from me,” Kryst said. “So I’d get a bigger bedroom, which would be great, because I love her bedroom.”
We caught up with Kryst by phone shortly before she was set to travel on Thanksgiving Day from New York to Atlanta for the Miss Universe competition, where she’ll don a bathing suit and square off against 89 other contestants from around the globe.
The Charlotte-area native talked about about how life changed the instant she was crowned Miss USA, her new job as a TV celebrity interviewer for “Extra” and what’s next if she wins — and if she doesn’t.
Comments have been edited for brevity.
Let’s talk about the last seven months. What was it like to suddenly have this major title?
When the (Miss USA) cameras turn off, they whisk you backstage to do a quick photo shoot and an interview, then we went back on stage. “Inside Edition” was there, we did more photos had a press conference. We went upstairs to a suite and watched the pageant on tape delay because we were on the West Coast, and while we were watching, CNN and USA Today and tons of other news outlets started reporting on my win. It was absolutely crazy.
My new manager came in and told me I had a 5 a.m. flight to New York the next day. I had a few hours to pack. I threw some of the stuff I’d brought with me in a bag and we flew directly from Reno-Tahoe to New York City. I moved into my apartment that day. It still doesn’t feel like it happened.
Is there an average week for Miss USA?
There’s not even an average day, which took some getting used to. As an attorney I always thought, “No day’s the same.” But, really, as Miss USA no day is the same. Sometimes I wake up and I don’t know what city I’m in. Because I’ve done a national tour for (the non-profit that helps women in need access professional work attire) Dress for Success, I’ve been able to travel all over the country talking about the organization.
Most days, I wake up and do a number of different things. If I’m traveling for Dress for Success, maybe I’ll be speaking at a luncheon. If I’m in New York, maybe I’ll have a meeting with the organization in the office or meeting with sponsors. Or I’ll be doing “Extra” TV correspondent work. There really is no day or week that’s the same. I’m on the road 60 to 70% of the time. The remaining amount of time I’m here in New York.
Since becoming Miss USA, you’ve also become a correspondent for the entertainment TV show “Extra.” How did that happen?
It’s been so much fun. Our director of PR brought to my attention that there was an opportunity open for us to work with “Extra.” So they came into the office one day and interviewed me and we did a FaceTime call session with Billy Bush, who is the host for “Extra TV.” They brought me on, first as a special correspondent, so I was given contract work, and then they signed me on as one of their official “Extra” correspondents, which is just crazy.
So far I’ve gotten to do a ton of interviews with Zendaya, Lizzo, Millie Bobby Brown, a lot of red carpets for “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Downton Abbey,” “Empire” and a bunch of CBS shows. All of those experiences have been new and exciting and challenging and scary all at once. I really like the challenge of it.
Had you ever thought about a career in TV before this year?
Before I became Miss North Carolina, on my application it asked you to describe yourself with one word, and I said “nosy.”
When I meet people, I’m very introverted, but I think what allows me to sort of seem extroverted or bubbly is that I’m very curious about people’s lives. I really do want to know. I ask a lot of questions when I meet people, because I just want to know. I think being an attorney brings out that nosiness. When I’m in a deposition or a mediation, I need to know what’s going on and it’s OK to ask questions. Being an “Extra” TV correspondent works really well for that.
How has preparing for Miss Universe been different from preparing for Miss USA? Or is it similar?
I still am preparing as much as I can as far as watching what I eat and making sure I’m working out.
I think there are two stark differences: One is that there’s the added challenge of traveling all over the country while I’m preparing, which didn’t happen when I was Miss North Carolina. In North Carolina, for the most part, I would still go back to my apartment at the end of the night, and even if I was traveling somewhere to go do an appearance, I could go back to my home gym, back to the food I bought in my refrigerator.
As Miss USA, I’m in hotels all the time and they don’t always have the gym equipment I like and not all of them have access to a gym. Or I may be going to an event where they’re serving heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of dinner, which means I have to pick from what they have there and make sure it’s OK to eat.
The second stark difference is that while I’m preparing for interview questions, my view of the questions is a little broader. When I was preparing for Miss USA, I knew they were going to ask about USA-specific questions like gun control and the presidency and the 2020 election. Whereas for Miss Universe, they’re going to ask about refugees and immigration and the legalization of marijuana and broader topics.
Do you get back to Charlotte much?
I get back to Charlotte at least once a month. I got free time to fly home for the Fourth of July, but there are times when organizations in Charlotte will push for me to be there. In June, Charlotte hosted the national convention for Big Brothers Big Sisters (Kryst is on the organization’s board of directors, both nationally and in North Carolina), and I got to be the opening speaker. Dress for Success Charlotte invited me back for one of their events recently. There have been so many events I’ve done because I’ve built so many connections in Charlotte.
If a Miss Universe win doesn’t happen, will we see you back in the Queen City?
Probably not immediately, no. I’ve been given so much correspondent work with “Extra” that the only thing that slows that down is my travel with Miss USA. Being here (in New York), I would have more work with them and have a great presence here in New York. I love New York. It’s incredible. I love my hometown, Charlotte. I love being home, but New York is a different feel, a different environment. It’s very fast paced, and I like that right now. I don’t know if I would stay here for forever, but for the immediate future, I’ll stay in New York.