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Entertainment Former Miss America Leanza Cornett, Who Died at 49, Was 'So Much More Than That Crown': Friend

01:30  30 october  2020
01:30  30 october  2020 Source:   people.com

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Leanza Cornett , who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died . She was 49 . Miss America Organization. Cornett , who was crowned Miss Florida in 1992, sang in the Friend Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz told WJAX that Cornett used her platform in the '90s to become a champion of AIDS awareness.

Leanza Cornett , who won the title of Miss America in 1993, has died . 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 We know she meant so much to so many , including all of you."

Leanza Cornett posing for the camera © Donald Kravitz/Getty Images Leanza Cornett

Leanza Cornett may have risen to fame after winning the 1993 Miss America pageant, but according to her friend, that accomplishment only hinted at how dynamic the beauty queen truly was.

Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz tells PEOPLE that Cornett — who died Wednesday at the age of 49 after she was hospitalized for a head injury — was "also smart, talented and driven."

"You think 'beauty queen,' but that's not what she was about," says Kurtz.

"She was our princess, and I hesitate to say that because it sounds so trite," Kurtz adds. "But if we have to have a princess that envelops compassion and understanding and brings people together without judgment in a way that's peaceful and loving, then we have Princess Leanza."

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Leanza Cornett , who was crowned Miss America in 1993, has died at the age of 49 . Her death was confirmed by the Miss America Organization on Wednesday in a statement reading, " Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to so many

Former Miss America Leanza Cornett has died at 49 as she was in a Jacksonville hospital being treated for a head injury she suffer less than three The organization added: 'We know she meant so much to so many , including all of you. We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America

Leanza Cornett posing for the camera: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images Leanza Cornett © Provided by People Donald Kravitz/Getty Images Leanza Cornett

RELATED: Former Miss America Leanza Cornett Dies at 49: She 'Had a Bright and Beautiful Spirit'

Kurtz says she met Cornett in the late 1980s or early '90s when they both worked on the Voyage of The Little Mermaid stage show at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. Almost immediately, Cornett, who starred as Ariel, stood out among the rest.

"There's a way that people can roar just by walking in a room, and I remember thinking that on the first day I met her," Kurtz recalls. "Before Little Mermaid started, the stage had been transformed from The Muppets and that set was designed by Jim Henson before he died."

"We thought there was nothing that could compare to it and that there was nothing as spectacular as the pieces that Jim Henson put on that stage, but that was until Leanza showed up on the mermaid block," she continues. "Leanza made that role... She had a way of making every stage that she stepped on magical."

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Miss America 1993 Leanza Cornett tries on a hat in New York in 1992.AFP via Getty Images. “Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious,” the organization added, with a sign-off of “With much love.” No cause of death was given for Cornett , who was born in Virginia and was raised

On Wednesday, the Miss America Organization confirmed the tragic news that former Miss America Leanza Cornett had passed away. She was 49 years old. " 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

a group of stuffed animals: courtesy Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz Leanza Cornett as Ariel © Provided by People courtesy Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz Leanza Cornett as Ariel

The pair also shared several personal memories during that time, including one moment when Cornett quite literally gave Kurtz the clothes off her back while she was in a bind.

"The Mickey Mouse Club was filming in the next studio over, and my job was to be a stand-in," Kurtz recalls. "They called and needed me, but I didn't have clothes to be Keri Russell's stand-in, so Leanza gave me her clothes, shoes and all — I wore them to the Mickey Mouse set that day. And Leanza, who was already in her mermaid attire, went home in sweats."

Eventually, Cornett went on to be crowned Miss Florida in 1992 and Miss America in 1993. She used her position to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis and embark on missions around the world to help others.

"She taught me to be bold," Kurtz shares. "Leanza thought, 'Now that I have a platform, I'm going to run through it with both feet.' People weren’t talking about [AIDS] then but Leanza was one of the first people to put a red ribbon on [in support]."

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Former Miss America winner Leanza Cornett has died at the age of 49 . The Miss America Organization wrote: “It is with great sadness that the Miss America Organization relays the news that our beloved Miss America and friend We know she meant so much to many , including all of you.

On Wednesday, October 28, the Miss America organization confirmed the tragic news that the former Miss America Leanza Cornett had died . She was 49 years old.“ Leanza had a bright and beautiful mind and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to many , including all of you, ”the

"She was breaking social norms left and right," continues Kurtz. "She was, and could be, on a platform, but she stepped into the crowd to change things. She didn’t think it set her apart — she thought it gave her a voice for the people she was among."

Leanza Cornett, Michael Wesley-Smith are posing for a picture: courtesy Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz Leanza Cornett as Ariel © Provided by People courtesy Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz Leanza Cornett as Ariel

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Adds Kurtz: "She focused on each individual person, and believed that each person had a story and something to offer."

Because she was so young and full of potential, Kurtz says that Cornett's passing is still hard to believe for many of her loved ones, including her two sons Kai and Avery, whom she shared with ex-husband Mark Steines.

"You think, 'It can't be true.' She just fell in the kitchen and landed on her head," Kurtz says of Cornett.

Jacksonville outlet WJXT reported that Cornett died after being hospitalized for a head injury. Kurtz says that another friend was with Cornett at the time of the injury and insisted they go to the hospital to check it out.

"It wasn’t bloody, it was just a bump that kept swelling," Kurtz adds. "We all believed she would beat this and rally. If she could come from a tiny town without a lot of things accessible to her and become Miss America, all in a positive way and not losing who you are, then anybody can. That's why it's so hard that she didn't succeed in her battle. We wanted our champion."

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Leanza Cornett , the American TV personality and former Miss America winner, has died at the age of 49 after suffering a head injury earlier this month. The Miss America Organization and her former husband Mark Steines both confirmed the death in separate social media posts.

Peter Cordwell died at his farm in Heywood, Greater Manchester, on Wednesday. Mr Cordwell was well-known in Heywood as a director of Spodden Mill Ltd and as the former owner and director of His devastated wife said online: 'Thank you so much to every single person who has sent kind message.

Leanza Cornett standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Joe Sohm/Getty Images Leanza Cornett © Provided by People Joe Sohm/Getty Images Leanza Cornett

Though no official memorial plans have been set at this time, the family is hoping to do something on a designated day where people all over the world — many of whom were personally touched by Cornett — can honor her life, according to Kurtz.

Her friend also hopes people can pay tribute to the "funny and caring" beauty queen by doing something kind, just as Cornett would've done.

"Leanza was amazing. She would provide you with ideas and challenge yours and move you forward. By sharing her perspectives, she was able to help me grow and I feel I'm not alone," Kurtz says. "Anybody she met, she really did consider a friend."

"To me, she 100% represented what a woman can be. She changed lives and did it in a quiet way," she continues. "People should try to go out and do something in her honor. Be kind to somebody, listen to somebody, not because you're going to get an award but because you're going to change something."

"I know the world is a better place because she has lived in it," adds Kurtz.

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