Miss SA's 3 year campaign for the title
Johannesburg - It is a sunny Monday morning at the Palace of the Lost City, the plush hotel situated at Sun City Resort in the North West.
Just 12 hours into her reign, the new Miss SA looks as cool as a cucumber, armed with no fewer than nine tailored outfits, complete with stilettos and accessories, for the various interviews she has lined up for the day.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters’ new clothes, which fit her slim size-8 waistline perfectly, are the creations of Bloemfontein-born celebrity designer Casper Bosman.
A mix of classic and elegant garments, they include tailored jackets and skirts, flowing chiffon blouses and dresses that are given a twist by means of bold floral accents and prints.
Fortunately, the size-8 outfits match Nel-Peters’ measurements – if either of her two size-6 runners-up had won, pins would have had to be used to hold the garments in place for Monday’s photoshoots.
No matter; given that Bosman’s clients include Miss SA 2014 and former Miss World Rolene Strauss, and Miss SA 2011 Melinda Bam, he is well versed in the beauty queen beat.
Nel-Peters greets City Press with a wide smile and a hug.
“I’m so thirsty, can I also bring you water?” she asks.
“You are the ambassador of the country now,” I reply. “Sit down; I’ll serve you.”
Swathed in a gold brocade dress for her first few interviews of the day, Nel-Peters (21), the small-town girl from coastal Sedgefield in the Western Cape, is still taking in the reality of stepping into the national limelight.
The commerce graduate was crowned at the Superbowl the previous evening – ahead of first princess, medical doctor Adè van Heerden, and second princess, University of the Witwatersrand master’s student Boipelo Mabe.
Nel-Peters says when the pageant’s host, rapper ProVerb, called her name, she couldn’t believe it and insists that she didn’t see it coming.
“I just sobbed,” she says.
In her acceptance speech, she made this promise: “I vow to dedicate the next 365 days of my life to serve the people of South Africa, to be a voice for those who are afraid to or cannot speak up, and to represent the whole of our beautiful nation.”
Nel-Peters says the “ambassadorship” came at a perfect time, after completing her BCom in business management and entrepreneurship at North-West University.
And for those who think beauty queens are airheads, Nel-Peters had her eye on the title from when she was a little girl, prompting her to work hard at her studies.
“It was always my dream to be Miss SA. I used to watch it as a child with my mother. It made me work hard and get good grades at school,” she says.
“I have been consistent throughout this journey. It is one of the most difficult things to be part of the Miss SA contest because everyone is so diverse.”
The day before the pageant final, she spoke of her desire to win.
“I truly believe I have put so much work into this; it’s something I’ve dreamt about my whole life. It is not just a bucket-list item but a lifelong journey,” she said.
So, for Nel-Peters, winning the Miss SA title was no stroke of luck. Hard work and staying focused throughout the competition paid off.
Nel-Peters has been involved in charity work for three years, supporting the Hartenberg Children’s Education Fund in Stellenbosch and having raised more than R60 000 for farm workers’ children to further their education.
She has also been involved in nonprofit organisation the Fresh Start project, situated in her home town, and raised R12 000 for children’s stationery.
“Now my focus is to look after our country and make sure I make a huge difference and impact,” she says.
“I want to be a Miss SA who will leave a legacy for the generation to come.”
Asked what she plans to do with her R1 million cash prize from sponsors Sun International and Cell C – she is the first winner to receive such a hefty cheque – she says: “Definitely I’ll spoil myself and go on a shopping spree”.
Nel-Peters says her biggest competitors were Van Heerden and Mabe because “they have also been consistent from the beginning”.
Her advice to young women who want to enter the pageant? “If it is your dream, go for it. Don’t even think twice. Just do it.”
Nel-Peters’ proud mother, Anne-Mari Steenkamp, said she was grateful that her “angel child” had made her, their small town and the country proud.
“I knew she was destined for greater things. She was an active child. She played hockey, netball and was an athlete. She was also bright – in matric she got five distinctions,” said Steenkamp, adding that the two were very close.
“She’s still my daughter, but she is also my best friend. We talk about everything and we shop together.”
The Sedgefield community plans to throw Nel-Peters a big homecoming party because “she is not only an ambassador for the country, but our region too”.
TALK TO US
Do you think contestants should prepare for the Miss SA pageant the way Nel-Peters did?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword MISS SA and tell us what you think. Include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50