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The Life, Legacy and Sparkle of Krystal Anderson
Remembering a member of the Chiefs family
By Matt McMullen Jul 09, 2024
Photographs By Steve Sanders

"I just keep thinking, what do we do?"

That was the question posed by Catherine Middleton to Mallorie Denmon, Shanna Adamic and Stephanie Judah, the Chiefs' Director of Entertainment Teams.

These individuals – all former Chiefs Cheerleaders – are uniquely bonded through triumph, heartbreak and so much in between. They've grown up together, having shared their deepest secrets and loftiest goals amongst themselves while wholeheartedly showing unconditional support and love for one another.

This is a chosen family. It's a network of strength and resolve that can only be truly understood by those within it, and on this particular day, they're here to talk about their teammate, their friend and their sister, Krystal Anderson, who passed away in March due to complications during childbirth. She was 40 years old.

Krystal was a pioneer in so many ways. She cheered in more than 100 games, attended the Pro Bowl and represented the Chiefs on several military tours, including a military outreach visit to Iraq. She was passionate about community service and was a visionary in her career field, which included developing a monitoring system for post-partum hemorrhaging that is now utilized in hospitals around the world.

Krystal represents the Chiefs and the AFC at the Pro Bowl Games
Krystal represents the Chiefs and the AFC at the Pro Bowl Games

She possessed a captivating spirit that demanded excellence, but did so with love. She was a "glam queen," as her friends described her, who loved applying makeup to young dancers as much as she enjoyed doing her own. She was loyal to a fault, and intentional with everything she did.

For Krystal, life was a matter of finding the joy in all situations. There were going to be ups and downs, but this El Paso transplant turned software engineer and professional athlete was undeterred. She was going to succeed with a smile, and it's something that was evident from the very beginning.

"I just remember the sparkle in her eye," said Mallorie, who first met Krystal at a party in 2005. "She was so excited to meet a Chiefs Cheerleader because it was something she wanted to do."

Mallorie (left) and Krystal (right)
Mallorie (left) and Krystal (right)

Mallorie encouraged Krystal to audition, which she did the following spring. She made the team, and as it turned out, Krystal and Mallorie were the only two Black dancers on the squad that season.

"We had each other, and we could see ourselves in each other," Mallorie said. "That was God's way of making us best friends…It's like we were supposed to be sisters."

Krystal's Sparkle

As layered as she was, one word could describe Krystal: sparkle.

"She was such a light in life and in relationships, and the girl loved her sparkle," Stephanie said. "There could never be too many rhinestones, beads or sequins. If she could wear the most sparkly dress ever, she would. You could never outdo her sparkle."

Even during practice sessions, when the rest of the team was sporting athletic leisurewear, Krystal was sure to feature a splash of sparkle on her sweatpants or don a rhinestone sweatshirt. In the years after her retirement, she wore rhinestone boots or a sparkly scarf as an assistant on game days.

There could never be too many rhinestones, beads or sequins. If she could wear the most sparkly dress ever, she would. You could never outdo her sparkle. Stephanie Judah
Krystal during cheer auditions
Krystal during cheer auditions

Krystal's sparkle, however, was about so more than just making a fashion statement.

"She was funny and fiery all at the same time," Stephanie recalled. "They'd refer to her as a sassy pants, but she'd do it with so much love."

Cat recounted Krystal's nature as a social butterfly, pointing out her desire to ensure everyone she encountered felt included.

"She was hyper-inclusive," Shanna agreed. "Nobody was a stranger. No matter how she met you, she was going to make you feel like you were hers, and she was yours. That's such a special ability."

Stephanie nodded, recalling Krystal's ability to connect with others with an aura of joy and light.

"She was so incredible at intentional relationships, and at making each relationship so special," Stephanie said. "I believe that was her sparkle – it was her special gift – and that's what she always loved to wear, too."

A Tale of Two Eras

Krystal's sparkle radiated throughout the squad for years after her faithful first audition back in 2006. She grew from a wide-eyed rookie to an equal with the veterans she originally sought to impress, and as the 2011 football season came to a close, the plan was to retire together.

Mallorie, Cat, Shanna and Krystal had agreed to hang up their pompoms as a unit, choosing to collectively close that chapter of their lives alongside one another.

There was only one problem: Krystal, after six years, wasn't quite ready.

"I knew she wasn't done," Cat said with a laugh. "She tried to fill her time that year, but she wasn't done."

Stephanie remembered it the same way, specifically recalling the message she received from Krystal herself.

"She reached out to me and was like, 'I don't think I'm done,'" Stephanie said. "I remember thinking that I already knew that, because I didn't think she was done either."

Krystal high fives fan during a Chiefs game
Krystal high fives fan during a Chiefs game

Krystal followed her gut, and after a year removed from the field, she earned a spot on the team for the 2013 football season.

"I was extremely proud of her, because she did it for herself," Mallorie said. "It was another version and another chapter of her experience on the team."

Krystal made sure to make the most of it, too. In fact, as her friends went on to describe, her second stint was distinctly different from the first.

"It was like a tale of two eras for her tenure. She was on the team for 10 years, but her final chunk of years were some of her best," Stephanie said. "She got better with time, and when she came back, that's when she spread her wings. That's when she became the leader of the team."

“She got better with time, and when she came back, that’s when she spread her wings. That’s when she became the leader of the team.” Stephanie Judah

Shanna, who continued to spend time around the team as a retired assistant, recalled the feeling of hierarchy as the years went on, describing Krystal as Stephanie's second-in-command.

"I think we were a bit of an anchor for Krissy when she began her career, but when she came back without us, she got to be the anchor for that team," Shanna said. "You could see that with how the team responded to her."

Krystal holds a football commemorating her 100th game as a Chiefs Cheerleader
Krystal holds a football commemorating her 100th game as a Chiefs Cheerleader

Cat noted Krystal's presence, while Mallorie cited her humble and gracious style of leadership.

"She completely grew into who she wanted to be as a woman, and as a sister," Mallorie added. "It made me so proud to watch her blossom."

Krystal remained on the squad for four additional seasons, culminating in her 100th game in December of 2016. Cat recalled the banner crafted by many of her former teammates, which featured a picture from Krystal's very first game with the team. Additionally, Tavia Hunt – the wife of Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt – presented Krystal with a celebratory "game ball" marking the occasion.

"It meant so much to us that our friend was loved so dearly, and seen in that way, because we witnessed her grow up in this career," Mallorie said. "To see her come back and create this person of her own was just incredible."

A Star Away from the Field

If there was ever a rule-follower, it was Krystal Anderson.

"She made sure I got places on time," Mallorie said with a laugh. "If I was running late, she was checking on me."

Shanna jumped in by recounting the high standard that Krystal had for not only herself, but also for her friends, teammates and co-workers. Shanna, in particular, had the privilege of being all three of those things to Krystal.

"I not only knew her as a cheerleader, but I lived my life and my career alongside Krissy," Shanna said. "To see that brilliance go beyond the football field into this world of changing healthcare was so special. I saw her in both worlds."

Krystal cheers during a Chiefs game
Krystal cheers during a Chiefs game

Indeed, Krystal was a rising star at Cerner, which is now known as Oracle Health. A graduate in Computer Science at the University of Richmond, her blend of genius and personality could be summed up by her annual tradition of texting Stephanie a birthday message in binary code.

"My day would not be complete until I got that text," Stephanie said. "It was such a tech, Krissy thing, but it became our thing."

Krystal was also determined to use her gifts to make a difference, and she did so in spades. Her monitoring system to assess the risk of post-partum hemorrhaging has been deployed around the globe, and because of her efforts, she was awarded a patent for the software in 2021.

"She really believed that technology was going to change the future of healthcare," Shanna said. "It gives me chills to think that she was able to develop something that will far outlast her lifetime."

“It gives me chills to think that she was able to develop something that will far outlast her lifetime.” Shanna Adamic

Shanna went on to explain that she hosted a virtual panel on the rising rate of maternal mortality last month. It was the most-viewed panel in the history of the organization.

Without hesitating, Shanna knew the reason why.

"It was because of Krissy."

A Commitment to Others

Krystal was dedicated to others. It was a quality that stood out in her personal and professional relationships, but it also extended to those who she had never met.

She was on the advisory board of the KC STEM Alliance, which aims to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math among young people. She helped start several of the outreach programs at the Oracle Health Foundation, and she was active with the March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Gabriella's Little Library.

"I think what started as a way for her to create a network here became a way of life for her," Shanna said. "She was passionate about girls in tech, and specifically about a generation of black women in STEM. She wanted them to realize that they could be anything."

Mallorie then chimed in, recalling another story of Krystal's inherent generosity. Mallorie was working at a Black-owned dance studio, and a youth competition was approaching. She asked Krystal if she could help apply the young dancers' makeup, and in typical fashion, she went above and beyond.

Mallorie (left) and Krystal (right) working the sidelines of a Chiefs game
Mallorie (left) and Krystal (right) working the sidelines of a Chiefs game

Krystal – described as a "glam queen" who loved makeup – purchased the supplies and reported for duty wearing her tool belt. She provided professional care to every dancer for all three days of the competition, transforming these young performers into various characters for their shows.

"She contributed to their confidence in such a major way, and she didn't just do their makeup. She told them things," Mallorie said. "She gave them the confidence that they needed to crush it on that stage."

In the time following Krystal's passing, Mallorie has heard from many of those dancers and their families about the impact of that weekend.

"The messages that I've gotten from those students and the parents about how she made them feel have been beautiful," Mallorie said. "It was just another example of how she gave back, and the sparkle that she shared with so many people."

Krystal’s Legacy

Legacy was a word brought up often as these four sisters remembered their friend.

For the better part of almost two decades, there has not been a Chiefs football season without Krystal. She is synonymous with the team – her energy and spunk as constant as the squad's uniforms.

"The Chiefs gave us a gift, and it was each other," Shanna said. "What we found on the field with Krissy started something, and that turned into a forever bond because of her joyful, fierce, loving spirit. That's a gift that you can never put a price on."

With that in mind, it was paramount that Krystal's spirit be tangibly present throughout the 2024 football season, and the Chiefs will achieve that in two ways.

The most obvious will be a physical cuff worn on the right arm of each member of the squad in 2024. It will consist of Krystal's initials – embroidered in white rhinestones – on a field of red rhinestones. This tribute will sparkle just as she did.

Krystal (first row, middle) with her Cheer squad
Krystal (first row, middle) with her Cheer squad

Additionally, that same logo will be added to the padding near the 10-yard line on the Chiefs' sideline. This is where Krystal worked during every game day for the past seven years as a member of the Alumni Crew, often dancing with her headset on. As the squad performs throughout this upcoming season, Krystal will be represented in her spot.

These two gestures remember a significant part of who Krystal was, honoring her tenure as one of the most accomplished Cheerleaders in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, but – as we know – Krystal's legacy extends far beyond the football field.

It's for that reason that the Hunt Family Foundation will make a financial contribution in Krystal's honor to celebrate areas in which she was passionate. This will ensure that Krystal's impact endures for generations to come.

"Everything that Krissy was for all of us, it's our job now to take that and carry it forward," Stephanie said. "Think of all of the people she touched, and if all of those people could impact just one or two more. What a beautiful thing to make a difference and to carry on her legacy. That's our goal and our job. We owe that to her."

“Do What You Really Love, and Do It With Joy”

Mallorie, Cat, Shanna and Stephanie continued to bounce stories off one another, laughing and fighting back tears simultaneously. They remembered how their friend hated cold weather, and once burned her coat because she was standing too close to a heater.

Shanna recalled Krystal's love for Sour Patch Kids and beef jerky, while Cat remembered how much Krissy and her husband, Clayton, loved "Restaurant Week" in Kansas City.

Mallorie shared her ritual of seeing Krystal in the time between their recurring nail appointments. Mallorie had referred Krystal to her stylist, and for quite some time now, their recurring appointments occurred in back-to-back time slots. It was a brief interaction, but one they both looked forward to.

One story led to another and another, until Cat spoke up with a final thought.

"I just keep thinking, what do we do? She's not here with us to give us that sass or that sparkle, but I feel like Krissy is shining over us," Cat said. "She's reminding us that whatever we do, do it passionately. Work hard. Do what you really love, and do it with joy."

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