Dear Cheslie…

I didn’t know Cheslie Kryst personally.

I have no particular personal, or professional insight into her life or any struggles she may have had.

But I saw her in Essence’s issue celebrating the triumphant triumvirate of historic Black pageant queens.

I saw her in her Miss Universe costume: an elegant platinum, gold and white-winged bird, uncaged and carrying Justice’s scales.

I saw her—super sharp, super talented, super chic—on ‘Extra.’

I read her essay in Allure.

I saw the news reports that she’d fallen to her death this past Sunday. Read that she’d left a note.

I saw her.

I see our Black queens, of all ages, economic backgrounds, and occupations, drowning every day right in front of our eyes, poised in public but crying off camera, dying inside while living their best lives in carefully posed and filtered and hashtagged social media posts.

You might look at someone like Cheslie and wonder, “What did she have to be sad about?”

You might look at me and wonder the same.

And that’s part of the problem.

Our varied crowns are heavy, sometimes even more so when they are invisible. We are buckling under their pressure. We are not often allowed to take them off—or the loads on our backs, hearts, and in our arms—not even for a minute.

We often can’t afford to. The narrow pedestal we are put on—or that we scramble to climb, or that we race up—demands we stand erect while bearing the weight of the world, often at an unbearable cost.

We know people are depending on us. We want to do our best, to make you proud, to achieve before our time is up. And that clock is ticking so loud—is there time enough to do or be it all?

Can we out-stride the pressure, the fear, the racism, the imposter syndrome, the naysayers? Our own expectations and limitations?

No. There’s never enough time.

We’re judged and discounted when we aren’t perfect. When we don’t push through. When we say, “No.” When we prioritize our healing, self-care, fulfillment, and joy.

Like Naomi. Or Simone. Or Janet. Or any number of women who fiercely protect their energy, their time, and their privacy against the demands of a public who believe they are owed much, much more.

Just because you see someone’s posts—famous or not—doesn’t mean you own or even fully know their narrative.

“Stand up straight. Smile!”

I see you looking. But do you see us? Do you know someone can look like they’re flying when they’re actually falling?

“Hold your head up. Fix your face.”

I see you.

Flawless, multi-talented, ambitious, and articulate.

Exhausted, traumatized, burned out, anxious, depressed, and trying desperately to keep going. Praying life begins at 30.

At 40.

Praying that it’s not too late to start over, to get there, to leave storms and clouds in the distance.

I am so close…

I recognize your pain and desire for peace of mind. I know you ache for real rest: the kind that allows you to soar sky high, then find a cruising altitude without sacrificing your mental, emotional, and physical health to an inevitable free fall.

I see you.

And I don’t want the soft place any of us land to be a casket.

***

If you or someone you know need help:

  • Crisis Center Crisis & Suicide Line: 205-323-7777
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Additional Resources:

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