Cheslie Kryst's Mom and Stepdad Open Up About Late Daughter, Say Death Wasn't Her First Suicide Attempt
Cheslie Kryst, 30, died by suicide in January. On 'Red Table Talk,' her mother and stepdad open up about the former Miss USA and 'Extra' correspondent's legacy.
Content warning: The following article and video contains in-depth discussions about suicide.
In the latest episode of Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and Willow Smith welcome the mother and stepfather of the late Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide in January.
Cheslie, whose varied and inspiring career included being crowned Miss USA in 2019 and working as an Emmy-nominated correspondent for Extra, jumped to her death from a high-rise apartment building in the Midtown Manhattan area on Jan. 30. Jada reflected on the 30-year-old’s extended list of accomplishments before welcoming mother April Simpkins to the table, noting that “underneath it all,” Cheslie was suffering from “debilitating depression.”
Kryst had “attempted suicide before” January, Simpkins shared. “It was after that first attempt that she and I grew very close, and I wanted her to feel comfortable calling me: ‘If ever you’re in crisis, call me,’” she said.
For April, having the opportunity to speak publicly about her daughter’s legacy is “healing.” Furthermore, she hopes that being open up about her daughter’s struggles with mental health can be encouraging for viewers who may be in a similar situation.
“She truly was my best friend,” April said. “She was the first person I talked to when I woke up. We would literally just go about our morning FaceTiming each other. … So to not have that, makes mornings awful for me. I don’t know that I’m going to get over the grief but I’m trying to accept that grief and I are gonna do life together.”
As April remembered, her daughter’s intelligence was apparent “from birth,” meaning her family wasn’t surprised by her multiple achievements. Looking back on the morning of her daughter’s passing, April shared passages from a text she received from Cheslie that morning.
“Sunday mornings, Cheslie knows I go to work out at my exercise class,” she told the panel. “I was leaving my class. I was gonna call her on my way home and when I looked at my phone, I noticed there was a text message from her. … The first thing she said is, ‘First, I’m sorry. By the time you get this, I won’t be alive anymore. And it makes me even more sad to write this because I know it will hurt you the most.’ I think at that point I near blacked out because by the time I read the text, an hour had passed.”
April said it took her some time to eventually get through the entire message, though—once she was able to absorb its contents—she “became thankful” to have these words from her daughter.
“She knew that I would need those words moving forward to just bring comfort,” she said.
Per April, she and her husband first learned from police that Cheslie was dead shortly after they had boarded a flight to New York.
From there, April urged the public to extend greater kindness to those struggling with mental health, which is an issue she noted is still in need of continued destigmatization. She also pushed back against the sustaining stereotype surrounding the very idea of depression, which is often depicted as someone “laying in bed or unable to do things.” The truth is often far more complicated, especially in high-functioning cases.
Later in the episode, Cheslie’s stepfather David Simpkins joined the discussion. Early into his comments, David addressed fabricated rumors that have spread since the death, including claims that he and April were pushing for Cheslie—who had also previously worked as an attorney—to get back into law.
“Even up until a few weeks before she passed, I was texting her saying, ‘Here’s how many hours I’ve billed this month’ and how happy I was for her that she would never have to do that again,” David explained. “I was always saying, ‘You’re having probably more impact in your current role than you would going back to law.’ And when I saw that, I just thought, people don’t really [know].”
David later revealed he most feels Cheslie’s presence when he’s in New York, which led him to open up about a touching moment he experienced after her death involving two unnamed Adele songs.
“After she passed I had kind of latched on to a couple of Adele songs and I had a moment when I was up there by myself,” David recalled. “I went down and ate at a pizza place in Little Italy that we had eaten at. And then I went and visited her favorite cupcake shop in SoHo and there was a street singer singing one of these Adele songs. I was really emotional. … He said, you know, ‘I’m gonna take a break for a minute.’ And I thought to myself, man, I sure wish he would sing that other song. A guy walks up to him, says something to him, and he says, ‘I’ve got another request for another Adele song,’ and he sang that song.”
The moment, David added, helped him know that Cheslie was still with them in some form.
See the full Red Table Talkdiscussion, including input from psychologist Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, above.
If you are currently struggling with mental health, know that you are not alone. Help is available.