Who Is Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters? South African Woman Is Miss Universe 2017 Winner

A South African woman has been named the newest winner of the Miss Universe crown. Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who recently graduated with a degree in business management, took the title Sunday in Las Vegas in the decades-old competition.

Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez was named the runner-up and Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett was the second runner-up at the competition held at the AXIS theater at the Planet Hollywood casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip. It was the toughest fight in the competition's history, which this year counted its most contestants ever. In all, 92 women were up for the title, the Associated Press reported.

Nel-Peters, 22, will receive a yearlong salary, a upscale New York City apartment through 2018 and other prizes. She takes over for Iris Mittenaere of France, who was crowned during last year's competition in the Philippines.

The women were eliminated after a swimsuit and evening gown segment, and questions from the judges. Grammy-Award winner Fergie performed her song "A Little Work" as the final 10 contestants modeled their evening gowns. The women were then whittled down to the contestants representing South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela, Jamaica and Colombia.

Nel-Peters graduated from North West University and plans to use her title to support women’s self-defense. Her official Miss Universe biography reads: “Demi-Leigh’s biggest motivation comes from her half-sister who has a disability, that lives in Potchefstroom with her stepmother and father. In her spare time, Demi-Leigh is passionate about a program she helped develop to train women in self-defense in various situations. She plans to share these workshops and help as many women as she can."

During the competition, Nel-Peters said her confidence was her best quality, saying that Miss Universe “is a woman that’s overcome many fears.” 

Her social media accounts are full of stunning images of the South African beauty in gowns and swimsuits. "'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you for supporting my dreams, South Africa. I hope I can make you proud," she tweeted Saturday.