For Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz, Leanza Cornett was more than just a beauty queen.
“È con grande tristezza che la Miss America Organization trasmette la notizia alla nostra amata e amica Miss America, Leanza Cornett, è passato oltre,” l'organizzazione ha scritto Facebook. “Leanza aveva uno spirito luminoso e bello e la sua risata era contagiosa. Sappiamo che significava così tanto per così tanti, compresi tutti voi.”
La dichiarazione continuava: “Siamo devastati da questa improvvisa perdita nella nostra famiglia Miss America e siamo profondamente dispiaciuti per la sua famiglia e gli amici intimi per la loro perdita.”
Di venerdì, Kurtz described Cornett to Rivista di persone as “smart, talented and driven.”
“You think ‘beauty queen,’ but that’s not what she was about,” Kurtz explained to the outlet. “She was our princess, and I hesitate to say that because it sounds so trite. But if we have to have a princess that envelops compassion and understanding and brings people together without judgment in a way that’s peaceful and loving, then we have Princess Leanza.”
Kurtz and Cornett met sometime in the late ‘80s when they both worked on the “Voyage of The Little Mermaid” stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
“There’s a way that people can roar just by walking in a room, and I remember thinking that on the first day I met her,” said Kurtz. “Before ‘Little Mermaid’ started, the stage had been transformed from ‘The Muppets’ and that set was designed by Jim Henson before he died.
“We thought there was nothing that could compare to it and that there was nothing as spectacular as the pieces that Jim Henson put on that stage, but that was until Leanza showed up on the mermaid block,” Kurtz continued. “She had a way of making every stage that she stepped on magical.”
Cornett, who was Miss Florida in 1992 before becoming Miss America, went on to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis.
“She taught me to be bold,” Kurtz told the outlet. “Leanza thought, ‘Now that I have a platform, I’m going to run through it with both feet.’ People weren’t talking about [AIDS] then but Leanza was one of the first people to put a red ribbon on [in support].
“She was breaking social norms left and right,” Kurtz shared. “She was, and could be, on a platform, but she stepped into the crown to change things. She didn’t think it set her apart – she thought it gave her a voice for the people she was among. She focused on each individual person, and believed that each person had a story and something to offer.”
While the Miss America organization did not reveal a cause of death, Fox30 Action News Jax in Jacksonville, Fla., Città natale di Cornett, reported she sustained a head injury after a fall on Oct. 12.
La notizia della sua ferita è stata condivisa per la prima volta dal Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love Facebook page. In ottobre. 16, a friend who belonged to the Facebook group informed the page’s followers Cornett sustained a “grave” trauma cranico ed era in terapia intensiva. L'amica ha detto di aver subito un intervento chirurgico a causa di un'emorragia cerebrale.
“It wasn’t bloody, it was just a bump that kept swelling,” said Kurtz. “We all believed she would beat this and rally. If she could come from a tiny town without a lot of things accessible to her and become Miss America, all in a positive way and without losing who you are, then anybody can. That’s why it’s so hard that she didn’t succeed in her battle. We wanted our champion.”
La Miss America Organization ha dichiarato di non disporre di alcuna informazione sui servizi per Cornett in questo momento.
Kurtz hopes Cornett’s legacy will inspire people to do something positive for others in their lives.
“She changed lives and did it in a quiet way,” said Kurtz. “People should try to go out and do something in her honor. Be kind to somebody, listen to somebody, not because you’re going to get an award but because you’re going to change something. I know the world is a better place because she has lived in it.”
Cornett era sposato con l'attore e l'ex “Spettacolo stasera” ospite Mark Steines negli anni '90. La coppia ha divorziato 2013 e ha condiviso due figli: Kai, 18, e Avery, 16, secondo i rapporti.
“Ricorderemo per sempre i momenti meravigliosi vissuti durante il suo breve periodo qui sulla terra,” Steines ha intitolato una foto di lei e dei suoi figli. “Trovo conforto sapere che Kai e Avery avranno per sempre il miglior angelo custode che veglia su di loro mentre percorrono il percorso della vita. I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers.”
Fox News’ Melissa Roberto contributed to this report.