Leanza Cornett, a former TV host and winner of the Miss America beauty pageant, died on Wednesday after suffering a head injury and undergoing surgery earlier in October. She was 49.
“It is with great sadness the Miss America Organization relays the news our beloved Miss America and friend, Leanza Cornett, has passed away,” the company announced on its Facebook page on Thursday. “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.”
A Facebook page titled “Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love” shared on Oct. 18 that she had suffered “an enormous blow to the back of her head” and had surgery to stop bleeding in her brain.
Cornett won the Miss Florida beauty pageant in 1992 and a year later was crowned Miss America at the 66th annual ceremony. She was the first Miss Florida to win the national pageant. As Miss America, she spoke about AIDS awareness and prevention using her platform, the first winner to do so.
From 1994-1995, Cornett was a TV host for Entertainment Tonight, where she worked alongside Mark Steines prior to their marriage of 17 years. She also hosted “New Altitudes” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” and appeared on shows like “Melrose Place,” “The Tick” and “Fear Factor.”
“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 Miss America Organization wrote. “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. Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious.”