Leanza Cornett, who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died. She was 49. A family spokesperson told CBS News affiliate WJAX-TV that Cornett died Wednesday. No cause of death was given but the station had reported the Jacksonville native, a mother of two, suffered a brain injury after a fall earlier this month.
Cornett’s death was confirmed by the Miss America Organization in a statement.
“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 reads. “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.”
Cornett, who was crowned Miss Florida in 1992, sang in the Christian Music Group “Area Code” in the early ’90s, WJAX reported. She also performed as Ariel in Walt Disney World MGM Studios’ “Voyage of the Little Mermaid Show,” and held a career as a network TV broadcaster.
At the time of her fall on October 12, a family spokesman told WJAX that the injury “required a decompressive craniectomy” in order to “treat brain swelling and manage bleeding.”
Friend Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz told WJAX that Cornett used her platform in the ’90s to become a champion of AIDS awareness. Kurtz said Cornett was often seen wearing a red ribbon, a common symbol of AIDS support.
“If you look at some of her yellow pageant dresses, you’ll see that she’s wearing the red ribbon for awareness,” said Kurtz. “Leanza worked tirelessly to bring awareness, to reduce the stigma and to spread love.”