Demi Leigh on what it takes to win Miss SA: 'Be genuine and be real'
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (Photo: Supplied)
A fabulous apartment in the Big Apple and a fairy-tale wedding to plan – Demi-Leigh is loving life.
It was Franje who brought Demi and Tim together. They met in April last year after he’d seen an interview she’d done about her sister.
Tim has a foundation which works closely with kids with special needs and each year they host a worldwide prom in more than 20 countries, including South Africa, on the weekend before Valentine’s Day.
“He invited Franje, and me and my family to get involved with the event,” Demi revealed during an interview with us last year (YOU, 13 December 2018).
“We started talking about it and that’s how we met.” When he asked for her hand in marriage, Tim pulled out all the stops. He surprised her with a romantic wedding proposal at his family’s farm in Jacksonville, Florida.
He went down on one knee and presented her with a 7, 25 carat diamond ring. But it didn’t end there – he’d also secretly flown in Bennie and Elzabé and her mother and stepfather, Anne-Mari and Johan Steenkamp, as well as some of her closest friends so they could be there to share in her joy.
South African musician Matthew Mole was also there to perform her favourite song for them as Tim proposed. “What he planned exceeded all my biggest proposal dreams,” Demi says with a laugh. “He occasionally calls me princess and that day I felt nothing less than his princess.
“The amount of effort and thought he put into his proposal is such a reflection of the person he is. I still get teary-eyed when I think of that beautiful day.”
With the wedding scheduled to take place next year, Demi is busy. “I never thought there’s so much detail attached to a wedding but I’m grateful for an incredible planner to assist me and help bring all my ideas to life.”
While she lives in New York City, Tim is based in Syracuse, about a four-hour drive away. They don’t get to spend a lot of time together because of their busy schedules, Demi says.
“I’ve signed with both IMG Models NYC as well as with [entertainment and media agency] WME and I’m working full time as a professional model, influencer and speaker. I’m hoping to add business owner and author to that list sometime in the future but for now I’m taking it one step at a time.”
Demi says Tim plays a big role in supporting her.
Before becoming a star baseball player, he had a long career as a professional football quarterback, so having been in the limelight longer, he has a lot of valuable advice. “I’m so grateful to be able to learn from him,” she says.
“I’m excited to live out my purpose with Tim. Knowing that we’re both so passionate about the same things in life is exhilarating.” The only thing she regrets is that her sister won’t be there to see her tie the knot. “Losing Franje has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with,” she says.
“She was going to be my maid of honour.” But she’s looking forward to returning to South Africa so she can see her family again. Even from afar they’ve brought her so much comfort during these difficult months. “When one of us has a bad day, we all cry and when we have a good day we laugh,” she says.
And she’s excited about the role she’ll play in choosing our next Miss South Africa. In a way it feels like passing on the baton.
What words of wisdom does she have for the crop of beautiful contestants who are hoping to follow in her footsteps? “Be genuine and be real,” she says. “When you speak, speak from the heart. When you smile, smile with everything in you.”