“It is with great sadness the Miss America Organization relays the news our beloved Miss America and friend, Leanza Cornett, has passed away,” the organization wrote. The organization also shared a portrait of Cornett from when she won the pageant.
Leanza Cornett Won Miss America in 1993
According to CBS, the pageant crowned Cornett in 1993 as Miss America. Previously, she held the title of Miss Florida in 1992. Additionally, Cornett performed as Ariel in “Voyage of the Little Mermaid Show,” a production by Walt Disney World MGM Studios. She also sang as part of the Christian music group “Area Code” in the 1990s. She also worked in broadcast journalism.
“Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious,” the organization said in the Facebook post. “We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you. We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America family. And we are deeply sorry for her family and close friends for their loss.”
One of Cornett’s friends Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz spoke with WJAX about the pageant winner’s humanitarian work. She said Cornett used her title to help raise awareness for AIDs in the 1990s.
“If you look at some of her yellow pageant dresses, you’ll see that she’s wearing the red ribbon for awareness,” Kurtz told the outlet. “Leanza worked tirelessly to bring awareness, to reduce the stigma and to spread love.”
While the organization didn’t confirm a cause of death, CBS reported Cornett experienced a head injury on Oct. 12. Cornett had fallen and suffered a brain injury, requiring hospitalization. A spokesperson for Cornett told WJAX the injury was serious and required “a decompressive craniectomy.” Doctors performed the procedure to treat “brain swelling and manage bleeding.”
The organization asked for privacy for the family at this time.
“At the moment, we do not have any further information regarding service for Leanza,” the organization said. “And we ask that you please respect her family during this difficult time. Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious.”