Former Miss America Leanza Cornett has died at the age of 49.
The beauty queen — who won the title in 1993 — was confirmed dead by the Miss America Organization on Wednesday, October 28. “Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you,” the statement read.
“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,” the statement continued. “At the moment, we do not have any further information regarding a service for Leanza and we ask that you please respect her family during this difficult time.”
The organization added: “Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious.”
Although a cause of death has yet to be stated, News 4 Jax — a NBC News affiliate based in Cornett’s hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. — reported she died in the hospital after a head injury. A Facebook group called Leanza’s Circle Of Love kept fans updated on her condition at the time. On October 16, a post said Cornett “sustained a serious head injury that required emergency surgery” a few days prior. She was then admitted to the intensive care unit. According to the Facebook page, Cornett injured her head on October 12.
The young beauty was crowned Miss Florida in 1992. She previously starred as Ariel in the live-action production of Voyage of The Little Mermaid at Florida’s Walt Disney World in 1991. After being crowned Miss America the following year, Cornett went on to appear in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Grown Ups, The Tick, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Weeds.
Cornett married Home and Family host Mark Steines in 1995. The two — who share Avery Steines, 16, and Kai Steines, 18 — divorced after 17 years of marriage in 2013. Steines confirmed the heartbreaking news of his ex-wife via Instagram on Wednesday. “It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of my ex-wife, Leanza the mother to our two extraordinary sons Kai and Avery,” he wrote alongside a photo of Cornett with their sons.
“We will always remember the wonderful times shared during her short time here on earth. I find comfort knowing Kai and Avery will forever have the best guardian angel watching over them as they navigate life’s path,” he added. “I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers.”
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