Miss South Africa 2017, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, is a frontrunner at Miss Universe 2017 Pictures: Miss Universe Organisation/ Benjamin Askinas
Demi-Leigh is the frontrunner, the one most fans, even some from the Phillipines, want to see win. What do you think her chances are?  

I have a good feeling about this year’s competition and I am excited about Demi’s chances. Without a doubt, she is the biggest favourite this year but that also comes with massive amounts of pressure. She has worked hard for this, though, so I believe that she is ready to give it her all. 

If she wins, she will be only the second South African to win since Margaret Gardiner in 1978. Why do you think SA hasn’t been able to win at Miss Universe since then? 

South Africa did not compete from 1985 to 1994, so that is one of the reasons we still only have one winner. Also, since our return, the franchise has been owned by three entities. Diversity Management held the franchise for the first two years. 

Doreen Morris took over from 1997 to around 2000. Since then, Sun International has had the franchise, but they have only recently started understanding what it takes to compete internationally. It takes a dedicated, knowledgeable team and months of preparation to do well at international pageants. 

We all held high hopes for Melinda Bam in 2014, but she fell short. What is it about Demi-Leigh that makes her a frontrunner this year? 

South Africa has not reached the top five since 2003, with Cindy Nell in third place and I really feel this is our year. Demi is the kind of girl the new owners of Miss Universe are looking for. She is gorgeous, vivacious, smart, driven, energetic and will do wonders for their brand. 

She is so versatile. One moment she could sizzle in a swimwear shoot, before looking equally comfortable in sweats and trainers, teaching women self-defence moves. She is the kind of girl who will keep the sponsors happy, with her strong work ethic and great personality, and the appearance requests coming in.

With Melinda’s reign, we saw the emergence of a pageant trainer like Werner Wessels. How much do these trainers do to make the contestants ready for a competition like this?

Most countries or contestants that do well employ trainers, stylists or experts to work with them. It’s important to have these people as they have the knowledge to support the girls before and during the contest. 

In Werner’s case, he has an incredible eye for beauty and he instinctively knows what will work. He is so fresh and current. He doesn’t follow trends, he anticipates and sets trends. That is rare in this industry.
The many faces of Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. Has she done enough to convince the judges that she is the deserving winner of the Miss Universe crown? Pictures: Supplied/Miss Universe Organisation
Do you think we have everything right this year?The total package?

I do believe we have worked hard and are ticking all the boxes. The fans didn’t like Demi’s green velvet preliminary gown, but the team has a stunning gown for the final. She’s ready for this. After all the hard work and preparation, we can only hope Lady Luck will be on our side in Vegas. 

How different is the current Miss Universe, compared to the Miss Universe of Trump years? 

It is still essentially the same organisation running it; they just do not have the Trump brand associated with them. In terms of what they are looking for, they are looking for a woman of substance. 

Who are Demi-Leigh’s biggest competitors at Miss Universe this year? 

As always, the Philippines will be super prepared. Indonesia is a growing pageant powerhouse with a strong support base. They might do very well. Expect the girls from the US, Thailand, France, Brazil, Russia and Spain to shine too. 

Andre Sleigh is based in Shanghai, China. He started a pageant critique website, Eye For Beauty, in 2010. He joined the world’s most prestigious pageant website, Global Beauties, earlier this year. 

 Catch Miss Universe on Vuzu (DStv channel 116) at 5am, Monday. It will be repeated at 8pm, Tuesday, on Vuzu.