Fast forward to November last year and she finally had the chance to wear that crown.
Werner Wessels, style and etiquette mentor to various reigning queens, told Nel-Peters to make sure that her hands were on top of her rival just before they made the announcement for Miss Universe, because the one who wins always has her hands on top.
“Initially my hands were underneath her and then I remembered what Werner said and I put them on top,” she laughed as she relayed the story to the media gathered at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton for a press conference ahead of her week-long visit in the country.
“This victory was a country effort. People I haven’t even met supported me.
“I get goosebumps from knowing what a supportive country we are and hope this inspires every boy and girl.
“I had to go to the other side of the world to reach my dreams; it is possible,” she said.
Esther Swan, director for Talent Development at Miss Universe, said she was excited to be bringing Nel-Peters back home and to experience South Africa herself.
“We got such an amazing delegate who came to a competition and instantly brought home the crown to you all.
“This is an incredible moment for me to be here and witness and see Demi shine throughout the year. The sky is the limit.”
This week, Nel-Peters will travel across the country to do workshops for her Unbreakable women empowerment initiative and meet delegates.
She will also attend the Sun Met in Cape Town and visit her hometown Sedgefield.
Living in New York has been a bit of an adjustment for the 22-year-old who is used to lots of sunshine.
“Have you seen how the weather is there?
“My wardrobe has been the biggest adjustment,” she joked, adding that her role as Miss South Africa definitely set her up well for taking on the Miss Universe title.
“We have so many cultures here, it was already like being a mini Miss Universe.
“This title now applies on a bigger scale. New York is also such a concrete jungle, you miss the open spaces we have here in our country. We are so lucky to have that,” she said.
Nel-Peters arrived in the country yesterday morning to much fanfare at OR Tambo International Airport.
She was recently named one of the most influential young South Africans by Avance Media.
“It is such an honour. I look up to some of the people on that list and to be named among them; that’s what this platform stands for. If we stand together and build each other up we can do whatever we want to do.”
She said her definition of success was happiness.
“You have to do what truly makes you happy.
“I realised at Miss SA and more so at Miss Universe that it’s important to focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses to know yourself well.”