AP NEWS

Chelsi Smith, 1995 Miss Universe from Texas, dies at age 45

September 10, 2018

Chelsi Smith, the first and only Texan to wear the Miss Universe crown, died Saturday after battling cancer, according to her family. She was 45.

The beauty queen from Deer Park celebrated her biracial background and vowed to take on racism when she won Miss Texas in 1994. Her victory streak continued at the Miss USA pageant before snagging the coveted Miss Universe title in 1995.

She was 22 when judges tapped her the winner over 81 other contestants during the annual competition in Namibia, Africa.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Chelsi Smith has passed away following a protracted illness,” her family said in a statement.

“Chelsi was our loving daughter, niece, and friend. We will miss her infectious laughter, joie de vivre, and free spirit. She left an indelible mark on all those who knew her,” the statement read.

Smith, a 1991 graduate of Deer Park High School southeast of Houston, was raised by her grandmother. Her mother was white, while her father was African-American. While competing in the pageantry circuit, Smith repeatedly said she objected to being identified as black.

“If people are going to know me,” Smith told the Houston Post, “I just think it’s important for them to know I’m half-black and half-white and that it hasn’t been a disadvantage.”

In hindsight, she looked back on her pageantry life with disenchantment for allowing her to doubt her identity.

“You forget who you really are and where you came from and why you are there,” she said in 1997, after relinquishing her Miss Universe crown.

She moved to Los Angeles after the 1995 competition to pursue a music career.

A memorial for Smith is being planned in Houston.

nicole.hensley@chron.comtwitter.com/nkhensley

AP RADIO
Update hourly