Leanza Cornet, who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died. She was 49. A family spokesman told CBS News affiliate WJAX-TV that Cornet had died Wednesday. No cause of death was named, but the station said the Jacksonville-born mother of two suffered a brain injury after falling earlier this month.
Cornet’s death was confirmed by a Miss America Organization in a statement.
“Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laughter was contagious. We know she has meant so much to so many, including all of you,” the statement said. “We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America family and deeply regret her family and close friends for their loss.”
Cornet, who was crowned Miss Florida in 1992, sang in the Christian Music Group “Area Code” in the early 1990s, WJAX reported. She also played Ariel in Walt Disney World MGM Studios’ Journey to the Little Mermaid Show and made a career as a television host.
During her fall on October 12, a family spokesman told WJAX that the injury “required a decompressive craniectomy” to “treat brain swelling and manage bleeding.”
Girlfriend Elizabeth Tobin Kurz told WJAX that Cornett used his platform in the 1990s to become an AIDS awareness champion. Kurz said Cornet was often seen wearing a red ribbon, a common symbol of support for AIDS.
“If you look at some of her yellow dresses, you’ll see that she’s wearing the red awareness ribbon,” Kurz said. “Leanza works tirelessly to raise awareness, reduce stigma and spread love.”