(WIS) - It’s a crown only 67 women have ever worn on their head -- the Miss Universe crown.
Sunday night, Atlanta hosted all 90 countries that hoped to see their representative take it home. South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi won the crown, but Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, a former University of South Carolina student athlete, earned a spot in the Top 10.
Kryst is no stranger to high pressure situations. She competed for years as a student athlete, is a practicing attorney and holds the title of Miss USA. She said that all prepared her for the moment she would compete for an audience of about 500 million people worldwide.
The title of Miss USA is something Kryst said she never imagined she would wear on her chest.
“I think competing in pageants has always been a dream of mine, but I don’t know if I always dreamed of being Miss USA because I don’t think I ever dreamed that big,” Kryst said.
However, Kryst said many things prepared her for the moment she stepped out on the Miss Universe stage, including her time as a UofSC Track and Field athlete competing in the heptathlon, long jump and triple jump.
“Being an athlete taught me the importance of time management," Kryst said. “And whenever I meet challenge I need to meet it with grit and intensity.”
Kryst said she battled stress fractures in her spine during her years on the team.
“I had to recover from that and learn how to go through rehab and how to keep my mind mentally tough so that I could overcome a lot of those challenges,” Kryst said.
She still holds a top 10 record for the triple jump at South Carolina.
Kryst didn’t stop chasing her passions after graduating UofSC in 2013.
“I think there are many women who feel like they have to choose -- they have to choose beauty or purpose, or they have to choose intelligence or athleticism -- and you don’t have to,” Kryst said.
She earned her law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University.
“There are women here who have accomplished great things," Kryst said. “I have accomplished great things and I hope that people see that and recognize that we are more than just a beautiful body. We also have purpose and depth too.”
In addition to her title and career, Kryst is a correspondent for Entertainment News Source, EXTRA. Through her many passions, she said she hopes to inspire other women to chase their unique and diverse passions.
“I hope when people see me that’s the legacy I leave -- that if you want to be Miss USA you can do that, but you can be an attorney too, you can be an EXTRA correspondent, you can do anything you want to do,” Kryst said.
Kryst also works to empower other women through Dress for Success. She said as an attorney she realized the importance of her outfits when she walked into a courtroom and wants to help other women be confident and empowered in the workplace.
Kryst won Miss USA in May and will continue to make appearances, many with the new Miss Universe, until she gives up her crown in 2020.