Demi-Leigh’s reign is over!

Her reign has come to an end but Demi-Leigh is not done with the Big Ap­ple just yet!


SHE’S walked the run­way for top de­sign­ers, trav­elled the world, spo­ken at the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly and rubbed shoul­ders with a raft of A-lis­ters. But the high-fly­ing times Demi-Leigh Nel-Pe­ters be­came used to dur­ing her reign as Miss Uni­verse are about to come to an end – al­though she has enough mem­o­ries to sus­tain her for a life­time.

“This year has ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions, the best and worst of them,” the 23-year-old beauty tells us from the apart­ment on 57th Street, New York, that’s been her home for the past year.

“You don’t re­alise what it takes to move to a dif­fer­ent coun­try where you know no­body, hav­ing to make new friends, fig­ur­ing out the trans­port sys­tem and ev­ery­thing.

“My big­gest low has been miss­ing my dog, Benji, but my mom sends me pic­tures of him ev­ery day.”

Al­though The Big Ap­ple isn’t al­ways an easy place to live, the city wormed its way into her heart, she adds. The fran­tic round-the-clock hus­tle, the con­stant hoot­ing of the yel­low cabs, the daz­zling lights of Times Square, the dizzy­ing sky­scrapers – she grew to love it all.

She found love too in the form of hunky pro­fes­sional base­ball player Tim Te­bow (YOU, 2 Au­gust 2018).

Al­though her joy is pal­pa­ble over the phone, it’s clear she val­ues her pri­vacy. “We’ve been very dis­creet. We get to choose what we share of our re­la­tion­ship. We pre­fer it that way.”

She’ll for­ever be grate­ful for all the doors that have been opened for her.

“What you be­lieve is what you’ll achieve,” she says.

“I never knew for sure this would be my life. But deep down in my heart, I al­ways dreamt about it and I al­ways worked for it.”

JUST look­ing at Demi-Leigh’s In­sta­gram posts is enough to make you green with envy. Clearly liv­ing it up in the con­crete jun­gle suits her: she’s al­ways dressed to the nines and im­pec­ca­bly groomed – but we shouldn’t be fooled, she says. It’s not all as glam­orous as it looks.

“Peo­ple think I wake up and have a hair and make-up artist wait­ing for me and my clothes all set out. It’s so not the case,” she says. “Be­ing Miss Uni­verse is a full-time job and there have been many times when I’ve got in at 3am from an over­seas trip and had to be at an event at 9am. I don’t know how I did it.”

She had to nav­i­gate her way around a for­eign city and learn to use words such as “traf­fic light” in­stead of “ro­bot” to avoid weird looks from Uber driv­ers.

She missed be­ing able to go into a phar­macy and or­der her usual painkiller, which is un­heard of there. It was sim­ple things like this she strug­gled with.

But if there’s one thing she’s proud of it’s that she’s stayed true to her­self.

“I don’t think I’ve lost my ac­cent. I still have peo­ple ask­ing me where I’m from. They all think the South African ac­cent is very beau­ti­ful, by the way,” she says.

She missed her fam­ily a lot, es­pe­cially when her dad, Ben­nie Pe­ters (55), needed back surgery, her mom, Anne-Mari Nel (57), un­der­went neck surgery and her lit­tle sis­ter, Franje (12), fell ill.

The time dif­fer­ence be­tween coun­tries made things dif­fi­cult, she says. “You wake up when ev­ery­body at home is go­ing to sleep. Both my par­ents had hec­tic op­er­a­tions this year, so not be­ing able to be there for them was tough.

“You can’t just get into your car and drive over to them. When my sis­ter was sick it was hard be­ing on the other side of the world. You feel help­less.”

A high­light of the year was when she saw both sets of her par­ents, Ben­nie and her step­mom, Elz­abé (44) and An­neMari and her step­dad, Jo­han (60), when they vis­ited New York in Septem­ber.

“We went on a tour of the city – Brook­lyn Bridge, Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion, 5th Av­enue, Cen­tral Park. It was a lot of fun.”

For­tu­nately Tim and his fam­ily were also in the city at the time which gave the fam­i­lies an op­por­tu­nity to get to know one an­other.

Demi-Leigh and Tim (31) met in April this year after he’d seen an in­ter­view she’d done about her beloved Franje, who was born with subto­tal cere­bel­lar age­n­e­sis, a rare con­di­tion where the brain de­vel­ops with­out a cere­bel­lum.

Tim has a foun­da­tion that works with kids with spe­cial needs. Each year they host events sim­i­lar to proms in more than 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing South Africa, the week­end be­fore Valen­tine’s Day. “Tim in­vited Franje, my fam­ily and me to get in­volved with the event. We started talk­ing about it and that’s how we met.”

She and Tim don’t get to spend a lot of time to­gether be­cause of their busy sched­ules but their re­la­tion­ship is based on trust and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. When they do get to­gether, they visit their favourite restau­rants, watch movies and have deep and mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions.

Demi-Leigh loves cook­ing for her man. “He’s on a ke­to­genic [ high-fat, moder­ate-pro­tein, low-car­bo­hy­drate] diet so it’s al­ways fun for me to fig­ure out new recipes,” she says.

And she’s made an im­pres­sion on his fam­ily, who by all ac­counts adore her. “His fam­ily, es­pe­cially his par­ents, are such warm, wel­com­ing peo­ple. It’s been won­der­ful get­ting to know them,” she says.

IT’S Thanks­giv­ing in the US when we chat and Demi-Leigh is pack­ing her bags for the week­end away – only this time she’s not off on one of her gru­elling in­ter­na­tional trips but rather a re­lax­ing week­end away to Flor­ida to be with the Te­bows.

“I’m ex­cited to take part in my first real Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing,” she says.

Demi-Leigh will hand over her crown at the Miss Uni­verse pageant in Thai­land on 17 De­cem­ber – but just be­cause her reign is end­ing doesn’t mean she’ll bid farewell to the USA just yet. She’s buzzing with plans and has signed a con­tract with IMG Mod­els in New York, which man­ages top mod­els such as Gigi and Bella Ha­did and Candice Swanepoel.

“I hope to em­bark on a full-time mod­el­ling ca­reer and I’ll be trav­el­ling as well. I also hope to get more into mo­ti­va­tional speak­ing,” Demi-Leigh says. “I love the fash­ion in­dus­try so hope­fully I’ll get to use my de­gree in busi­ness man­age­ment and en­trepreneur­ship in that field.”

She’ll be home for Christ­mas in SA where she’ll en­joy a week be­tween her two homes in Sedge­field and Potchef­stroom. Tim’s com­ing too. “He’ll be vis­it­ing SA for the first time, so I re­ally want to make it spe­cial for him.”

And by the time the hol­i­day is over she hopes he’ll be as hooked on bil­tong and braaivleis as she is.

ABOVE: It’s been a whirl­wind year for DemiLeigh Nel-Pe­ters as Miss Uni­verse. RIGHT: With her svelte frame and good looks she’s signed on with IMG Mod­els and plans to stay in New York. ABOVE: Demi-Leigh at The Bean sculp­ture in Chicago. RIGHT: At a US Open ten­nis match at New York’s Arthur Ashe Sta­dium in Au­gust.

LEFT: Demi-Leigh’s and boyfriend Tim Te­bow’s par­ents in New York in Septem­ber (from left): Demi-Leigh’s step­dad Jo­han and mom Anne-Mari; Tim and Demi-Leigh; her step­mom Elz­abé and dad Ben­nie; and Tim’s par­ents, Pamela and Robert. ABOVE: Demi spent Thanks­giv­ing with the Te­bows (from left): Tim’s brother Peter and his wife, Kenin; sis­ter Christy and hubby Joey; brother Robby, sis­ter Katie, Tim and Demi-Leigh.

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