We caught up with newly crowned Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters to talk about her crowning moment, moving to New York and her hopes of empowering women across the world.
Back in August, The Juice spoke to the former Miss South Africa about her road to Miss Universe, and she vowed to bring the crown back to South Africa. And it’s a promise she kept.
Speaking to The Juice a mere five days after being crowned Miss Universe 2017, Demi says: “My goal was never to just come for the experience, it’s something that I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. And it’s something that I’ve worked towards just about my whole life.”
“To have a life-long dream come true is truly indescribable,” she adds.
She says: “I used to look up to the Miss South Africa and Miss Universe winners and they would inspire me to be the best Demi that I could be. They inspired me to work hard in school, to take part in extra mural activities and to be someone that implements change.”
As one would expect, Demi-Leigh said that the moment the crown was placed on her head she was in complete disbelief: “I thought to myself, ‘Is this actually real, is this actually happening, or is this just another dress rehearsal.’ It felt so surreal, but when the tears started rolling down my cheeks it became a reality. It was the most magical moment.
“It’s only starting to sink in now,” she adds.
The 22-year-old beauty from the coastal town of Sedgefield, on the Garden Route (Western Cape, South Africa) says her family is incredibly “proud” and “excited” for her to be living her dream.
“They believed in this dream as much as I did. And as a little girl told me to go get it,” she says.
Less than 24 hours after being crowned, Demi-Leigh moved into her lavish New York apartment and was booked for back-to-back interviews and public appearances in New York. She appeared on Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and Ryan.
About her first week in the Big Apple she says: “I wake up at 05:00 every morning, and it’s been absolutely incredible to appear on TV shows that I love and to meet personalities that I look up to. I used to watch these shows at home, and I dreamed that I would one day be on them. It’s been a dream come true, and an experience even more incredible than I thought it would ever be.”
Demi-Leigh’s new apartment overlooks Central Park and she says that she can’t wait for the snow to melt, and see the first spring leaves appear.
In the mean time, she’ll be going snow boots shopping very soon.
Having never been to the USA, Demi-Leigh looks forward to being a tourist in the Big Apple. “I want to go to Central Park, Madison Square Garden, see a show on Broadway and read a good book on the steps of the New York Library.”
Also having been a huge fan of the series Gossip Girl, she hopes to visit some of the locations where the drama was filmed.
“I want to do as much as I can. It’s so easy to procrastinate and say you have a lot of time, but in a blink of an eye my reign will be over. I want to live in the moment and enjoy as much as I can,” she says.
Demi-Leigh hopes to use her new platform to elevate her Unbreakable campaign. “Sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape is a problem that faces women across the world.”
Throughout her reign she will also be supporting various HIV/AIDS initiatives: “I look forward to getting on board with that. Working together and implementing change.”
Even though Demi-Leigh will be living abroad and travelling the globe for a year, she still remains a smalltown girl from Sedgefield, and has a keychain of the South African flag on the keys of her New York apartment.
The patriotic beauty also hung the South African flag against her wall, right above her bed. “It’s a special thing,” she says
In South Africa we’ve gotten to know the kind-hearted, humble and devoted business management graduate throughout her Miss South Africa journey, but says to the rest of the world she wants to be known as the “22-year-old girl with big dreams and hopes for the future.”
She adds: “When one goal is achieved I work towards the next one. I want to be seen as someone who is relatable and accessible to anybody. I want to be a representation of who any girl could be.”
Demi-Leigh is still unsure if her hectic schedule will allow her to spend Christmas at home with her family and supporters, but extends her immense gratitude to everybody who has always stood by her side.
“People have been supporting me throughout the year, even before I left for Miss Universe. I appreciate it. And I can’t wait to get home and give everyone a warm South African hug and celebrate with everybody,” she says.