Miss Utah 2020 Rachel Slawson told BI that Cheslie Kryst was a huge inspiration.
Kryst, who died by suicide in January 2022, won Miss USA in 2019.
Slawson said Kryst encouraged her to make history by wearing pants during the evening gown round.
It's been two years since the world lost former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, but her impact is still being felt by the pageant community and beyond.
Business Insider recently sat down with former Miss USA contestant Rachel Slawson, who called Kryst a huge inspiration.
Kryst, who won Miss USA in 2019, encouraged Slawson to make history as the first woman to wear pants during the evening gown competition when she competed as Miss Utah in 2020.
"Cheslie was a lawyer, and she really advocated for women being able to wear pants in their professional life," Slawson told BI. "I never would've had the confidence to wear those pants if it wasn't for her."
Slawson and Kryst first became friends after connecting during an Instagram Live chat in June 2020, just months before Slawson was set to compete.
The two bonded while discussing depression. Slawson, who has bipolar disorder, worried that being candid about her struggles with mental health could hurt her chances in the competition.
"Cheslie opened up to me about some of her own struggles," Slawson recalled. "I remember her sharing that she had gone through depression, and I really looked up to her for being vulnerable about that. It made me feel like someone like myself could someday become someone like her."
Kryst died by suicide on January 30, 2022, at the age of 30. Shortly after her death, Kryst's mother, April Simpkins, said her daughter had high-functioning depression.
Slawson has continued to take Kryst's advice through her pageant career, using her platform to advocate for mental health — even when others told her not to.
"People told me all the time, 'Maybe you should stop talking about this because it's not going to help you win, it makes you look bad, you're kind of embarrassing yourself,'" Slawson recalled.
"But I started to realize that the only way I was going to save myself was by being honest with myself and with other people and admitting that I'm not OK," she added. "And as I started to do that, I started to heal as a person, and I realized that so many people needed that conversation, too."
Slawson went on to make history as the first openly bisexual contestant at Miss USA, as well as the first queer woman to compete at the Miss Grand USA pageant.
Slawson, who is now the president of Miss Grand USA, said she's no longer worried about whether people in the pageant world will judge her for speaking openly about her mental health.
"I'm not worried if people judge me for my past," she said. "I use my past to help people."
Read the original article on Business Insider