Former Miss Antigua talks mental health and spiritual ownership

Kai Davis (right) says she became overwhelmed by keeping up with society’s image of beauty
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By Elesha George

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“We’ve lost many people through suicide and it didn’t have to end that way,” murmured Kai Davis as she sat across the room, recollecting the death of Cheslie Kryst – a former Miss USA.

The death of the 30-year-old American came as a surprise to many who knew her as a lawyer, TV host and an all-around confident and beautiful woman.

But on January 30 2022, the 2019 Miss USA would jump off her Manhattan apartment building. Her death has since been ruled a suicide.

Unbeknownst to even her mother, Kryst had been struggling with high-functioning depression for years.

April Simpkins is quoted in international media saying, “In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone — including me, her closest confidant — until very shortly before her death.”

This caused former Miss Antigua and Miss Congeniality at Miss Universe 2003, Kai Davis, to reflect on her own journey of what she describes as finding “an element of self-love and self-care”.

“They think because you are pretty, or maybe you have money or you’re in the right circles, that nothing affects you and nothing could be further from the truth,” she said, explaining that “sometimes dealing with the pressures of having to satisfy the public all the time can become very overwhelming and people have personal lives”.

“It was very, very disheartening because just the mere fact that she is that beautiful, it is a tremendous pressure that is put on you by society to maintain a certain level of image and to always be okay,” she continued.

“Being pretty doesn’t stop you from having a failed relationship or experiencing loss or grief and we don’t know what people are dealing with.”

In her own career, Davis became overwhelmed by keeping up with society’s image of beauty and journeyed to “own” herself. That journey led to her becoming an educator and Rastafari advocate.

“I would hope that if I meet anyone in a similar situation that they would listen if I said ‘own yourself’. There has to be that moment to own yourself. It’s your spirit, it’s your life,” she told Observer.

“Yes, you want to do something bigger than you and you want to consider persons outside of yourself but there has to be a moment for you to take ownership of your life and protect your own peace so that you can actually be effective to help someone.”

She beamed at the thought that mental health had somewhat taken centre stage on social platforms – a topic she says she has remained passionate about.

The former Miss Carival – a Grenada pageant – says finding out what a person identifies with spiritually is a good way to feel less overcome by the world.

Davis encourages those who are feeling overwhelmed to “delve into their spirituality, search their roots, look a little more into where you’re from, what culture you’re representing, methods of your ancestors”.

Her parting message was, “When you feel pressured don’t be afraid to take a step back and own yourself”.

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