Former Miss Universe Chelsi Smith lost her year-long battle with liver cancer on Saturday. She was just 45 years old.
Her family shared the tragic news of her passing in a statement on her website.
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Chelsi Smith has passed away following a protracted illness,” the statement began. “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.”
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Smith was a biracial Texas native, who was the first and only Texas woman to win both Miss USA and Miss Universe titles. She was also the first African-American woman in fifteen years to be awarded the Miss Universe title in 1995 at the time she was crowned.
Smith used her time in the public eye to speak up about causes she believed in, including the fight against racism. She was also passionate about using embracing her biracial heritage and refused to see it as a “disadvantage.”
Smith’s family revealed that the pageant winner chose to face her illness in private.
They wrote, “As much as Chelsi cherished her privacy, she always appreciated the expressions of love and good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.”
“While we mourn the loss of this vivacious and kind-hearted woman, we also celebrate her remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young women around the world that their dreams are possible through a loving heart and an enlightened mind,” the family’s statement concluded.
Another family statement hinted that a public memorial service will be held in October.