Leanza Cornett, who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died at the age of 49. The Miss America Organization confirmed her death in a statement on Wednesday. "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 organization's 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 organization went on to say it had no information about a funeral service for Cornett and asked for privacy for her family. "Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious," the statement said.
An official cause of death has not been given, though News 4 Jax out of Cornett's hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, reports that Cornett died after she was hospitalized for a head injury. A Facebook page that was monitoring Cornett's condition periodically shared updates on Cornett's health after she sustained the injury on Oct. 12. A post on Saturday afternoon quoted Cornett's mother, Patti, as having recently said, "No news is good news."
In addition to holding Miss America's 1993 title, Cornett was also crowned Miss Florida in 1992. After being crowned Miss America, she was recognized as the first beauty queen to adopt AIDS awareness and prevention as her platform. She's also known for being the first actress to play a live-action Ariel in the Voyage of The Little Mermaid stage show at Walt Disney World in 1991. She served as a host for several television shows throughout the course of her career, including Entertainment Tonight, according to her IMDB profile. She also appeared on shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Weeds and Saved by the Bell: The New Class.
Cornett is survived by two children — Avery Steines, 16, and Kai Steines, 18, whom she had with ex-husband Mark Steines, a television host. Steines confirmed Cornett's death in an Instagram post 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 children. "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. I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers."