Had things turned the other way, Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters wouldn't be wearing today the iconic Mikimoto crown—a crown which she reveals to be her favorite as it's adorned with her birth stone. Just days after bringing home the Miss South Africa title, Demi was robbed at gunpoint and was nearly kidnapped by three men in the city capital.
Fortunately, the 22-year-old knew how to defend herself, and was able to escape unscathed. Surviving the incident led her to begin her advocacy. She shares in an interview, “I wouldn’t call [my advocacy] just self-defense. It’s really more about empowering women with skills and knowledge on how to handle difficult situations. It goes so much deeper than just self-defense. I hope to use the Miss Universe pageantry to elevate that cause."
IMAGE Isha Valles
Demi adds, “I know that this is a problem not just in South Africa but all over the world. And that is exactly why I am so passionate about my campaign that I started. If there’s one thing that I can share with you, after the experience that I’ve gone through—my carjack or hi-jack, however you might know it as—is to just to never allow yourself to be a victim. To never allow yourself to be a prisoner of fear because if you’re going to do that, you’ll live your whole life in fear."
She goes on, sharing two concrete ways to help overcome such a traumatic encounter. "Go to therapy, it really helps. Don’t be too proud to go to therapy. There are so many people out there [who] want to help you and if we, as women, stand together and take turns in saying “I’m here for you; I can walk this road with you,” that is what makes us Unbreakable.”
And it seems that winning the Miss Universe title this year paves way for Demi to voice out her advocacy and at the same time, debunk the myth that beauty pageants send the wrong message to women. She is determined to demonstrate that "Educated women—by educated I don’t just mean with books, but women with experience—are knowledgeable and we are powerful so we don’t have to be just beautiful or smart anymore. We can be both. I think that’s the magic of the generation I’m growing up in,” she explains.