South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters has been crowned Miss Universe 2017. The 22-year-old business management graduate beat 91 other contestants to the title in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Laura Gonzalez of Colombia was the first runner-up, with Davina Bennett of Jamaica the second runner-up.
Nel-Peters addressed women’s issues throughout the entire competition, impressing judges with her gracious heart and vast intelligence on gender pay to self-defence.
“As Miss Universe, you have to be confident in who you are as an individual. A Miss Universe is a woman that has overcome many fears and by that, she is able to help other women overcome their fears… And I think that is exactly who I am.” Nel-Peters said.
Her biggest motivator in life is her 10-year-old half-sister Franje: She said, “My half-sister was born without a cerebellum and is completely disabled. She is my biggest motivator and inspiration, because her situation makes me realize how special life is and I always want to work twice as hard, enjoy life twice as much so that I can enjoy it for her as well. Therefore each experience I encounter is that much more special.”
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) November 27, 2017
Nel-Peters is the second South African to win the title after Margaret Gardiner won it in 1978.
The idea of pageants may make some scoff, but the stakes are high for Nel-Peters, who will now earn a generous year-long salary, move into a luxury New York City apartment and be catapulted to fame which can result in a long-lasting career if you play your cards right like former Miss Universe winner Olivia Culpo, who makes a lucrative living as a model and influencer.