‘I had chills.’ Charlotte reacts to the new Miss USA, local lawyer Cheslie Kryst

If you’re wondering what the new Miss USA, Charlotte lawyer Cheslie Kryst, is like in the courtroom, look no further than her deft performance on the interview portion of Thursday night’s Miss USA pageant, her colleagues said Friday.

And if you’re curious about what she was like in high school, it’d be correct to assume that the dynamic, confident 28-year-old viewers saw on TV was very much the same person who was named Miss Fort Mill High School and prom queen during her teen years.

Both her law firm, Poyner Spruill in uptown Charlotte (with four locations across North Carolina) and her alma mater were abuzz Friday, as friends, former teachers and colleagues celebrated Kryst’s win.

“She is absolutely who you saw on TV last night,” said Dan Cahill, managing partner of Poyner Spruill.

“When she answered those questions, you can see why, as a law firm, we are so proud to call her a member of our team. I thought she gave deep passionate and thoughtful answers,” Cahill said. “I had chills.”

On Thursday night, Kryst cruised through questions about the #MeToo movement and the millennial generation, and seemed to float across the stage even during her “final walk” when the competition was down to herself and two other contestants, Miss New Mexico and Miss Oklahoma.

(When asked if the #MeToo generation had “gone too far,” Kryst answered: “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.”)

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Kryst’s win that means her uptown Charlotte desk will sit empty for the coming year, as she will move to New York City to serve out her term as Miss USA.

“We’re going to leave her office right where it is, because I hope she’s coming right back” when her Miss USA stint is over next spring, Cahill said.

Attorneys and staff at the four Poyner Spruill offices were in celebration mode even before the pageant. Staff at the firm’s uptown Charlotte office gathered Thursday for a celebration complete with boxes of Insomnia cookies — Kryst’s favorite — and crowns and sashes.

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Staff at Poyner Spruill law firm, where the new Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is an attorney, gathered with tiaras, sashes and Insomnia cookies on Thursday, hours before Kryst won the Miss USA title. Courtesy of Poyner Spruill

They signed a card and texted photos to Kryst. Plans were still coming together at the law firm Friday for how to honor her return to Charlotte following her win in Reno, Nev.

At Fort Mill High School, Principal Gales Scroggs and the staff marveled Friday over the big win for the student they called “CeeCee” — a double-sport athlete who was so admired by other students that she not only won Miss Fort Mill High School and prom queen, but was runner-up for homecoming queen, too.

“She was so well liked by her peers, such a genuine person. I think that it was hard for anyone not to like her,” said Scroggs, who was Kryst’s 11th grade history teacher before becoming principal.

Math teacher Ann Ledford was beaming Friday morning when she came into the school’s office carrying a copy of her 2009 yearbook, in which Kryst had inscribed that she was her “favorite teacher,” Scroggs said.

In January, Kryst returned to Fort Mill High School to judge the school’s pageant, Scroggs said. Before the pageant, she spent the day on campus speaking to students and connecting with teachers she’d had.

”She was as gracious and kind now as she was in high school,” he said.

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