Miss North Carolina Cheslie Kryst is the winner of the 2019 Miss USA pageant in Reno, Nev. (Jason Bean/Reno Gazette-Journal/AP)

Cheslie Kryst, a 28-year-old attorney from North Carolina, won the 2019 Miss USA pageant on Thursday night; she triumphed over the runner-up, Alejandra Gonzalez of New Mexico, and the second runner-up, Triana Browne of Oklahoma.

All three contestants impressed the judges during the interview round, which co-host Vanessa Lachey noted is the most challenging part of the competition: “A successful Miss USA must be an excellent public speaker and have strong communication skills if she hopes to make a meaningful difference,” she said.

It’s true — in recent years, the easiest way for a pageant to go viral is a powerful or controversial answer during the Q&A segment, in which contestants have 30 seconds to formulate eloquent answers to usually very difficult questions.

This year’s Q&A seemed ready to cause a stir, as it touched on politics, gun violence and the Me Too movement. Here’s the transcript from the top five, who faced questions written by their fellow contestants.


Cheslie Kryst, fourth from left, won the competition. Alejandra Gonzalez, fifth from right, was the first-runner up, and Oklahoma's Triana Browne, right, the second-runner up. (Jason Bean/Reno Gazette-Journal/AP)

Question 1: “The 2020 election is right around the corner. What is one issue you would like all candidates to address and why?”

Alejandra Gonzalez of New Mexico: “Being from a border state and being born and raised in a border city, immigration is something that is very important to me. This is not a black and white issue, and that is why we need to have discussions and continue to listen to each other. I think that there’s so many people out there wanting the American Dream, and my parents immigrated here from Monterrey, Mexico, and I am their representation of their American Dream.”

Question 2: “For the past two years, #MeToo and #TimesUp have dominated our national conversation. However, some believe it has only deepened the divide between men and women. Have these movements gone too far?”

Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina: “I don’t think these movements have gone too far. What #MeToo and #TimesUp are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country. As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear, and that’s exactly what I want for this country. I think they’re good movements.”

Question 3: “In October, my friend, Kelsey Quayle, was fatally shot while innocently driving to work. In your opinion, what is the largest contributing factor to the high rate of gun violence in our nation?”

Tianna Tuamoheloa of Nevada: “I think that what contributes to the high rate of gun violence is the availability to all of the weapons. I think there has to be another look into the gun reform. And we have to consider mental health in this situation as well because this is not just about guns. This is about what is going on in the minds of these people . . . who are using these weapons against everyone. It’s definitely a mental health issue. It’s not just a gun law.”

Question 4: “Voting is an American right. Yet, only two states currently allow their prison populations to vote. Do you believe that the incarcerated should be allowed to participate in our elections?”

Triana Browne of Oklahoma: “When it comes down to the situation, I definitely believe that if you’re a law-abiding citizen, then you have every right to vote. However, if you do anything that breaks the law, then you should be held accountable until you are released and serve your time.”

Question 5: “America is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, yet it is also one of the most racially divided. Why do you think this is?”

Savannah Skidmore of Arkansas: “I think diversity is one of the most unique things about our country, and it’s one of the most special, and we should cultivate that. We shouldn’t be divided. We shouldn’t look at our fellow contestants, our fellow man, and say, ‘You aren’t like me, so I don’t like you. You don’t look like me, so I am racist against you.’ We should come together and involve everyone in our lives. I think these 51 contestants that have stood up here tonight represent our country so well because they are so diverse. And I think that that is exactly what we need in our world. We need to celebrate our diversity.”

Afterward, the judges narrowed the field down to Kryst, Browne and Gonzalez, who had to answer one more: “Millennials are often labeled as entitled, but they’ve also been called one of the most socially conscious generations in decades. What is one word you would use to describe your generation and why?”

Kryst: “I would say that my generation is innovative. I’m standing here in Nevada, in the state that has the first majority female legislature in this entire country. Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mind-set that has inclusivity, diversity, and strength and empowered women. I’m looking forward to continued progress with my generation.”

Browne: “Diverse. We are a nation. We are a nation of diverse — a multicultural nation, which gives us the ability to view life from a completely different lens. At one point, my father, who is Caucasian, and my mother, who is African American, would not have been able to be together. But I am here standing today as a multicultural Chickasaw American Caucasian woman, along with my peers, able to view life from a beautiful, beautiful lens. And that is what a Miss USA represents, is a diverse woman.”

Gonzalez: “Impactful. We have the world at the palm of our hands right now. And I think that with youth using it so much today, we’re able to send out messages to the younger generations. I know, just this competition, my following has grown so much. And to be able to receive messages of inspiration that I’ve inspired someone to do something — it might not be necessarily pageantry, but in fulfilling a career. I have my masters in accounting, so that’s really hard. So, that’s just something that’s so important of a trait that we have, and I’m so excited to be able to contribute that to society.”


Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is crowned by last year's winner, Sarah Rose Summers of Nebraska. (Jason Bean/Reno Gazette-Journal/AP)

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