Miss Universe Survived Gun-Point Robbery on Her Way to the Crown

November 28, 2017 Last Updated: November 28, 2017

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss South Africa, won the Miss Universe crown on Sunday night, Nov. 26.

She wants to use her reign to promote two important causes: HIV/AIDS awareness and self-defense for women.

“HIV/AIDS is a very big problem in my country, South Africa, so I hope to stand as an advocate for that,” she told reporters.

Self-defense is an issue of personal importance for the newly-crowned Miss Universe.

In June, 2017 – one month after winning Miss South Africa – Nel-Peters was carjacked at gunpoint.

Nel-Peters was driving on Jan Smuts Avenue through the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Hyde Park.

Several armed men approached her car, pointing pistols at her. Fortunately, Nel-Peters was able to use her self-defense training to flee the men who tried to trap her in her car.

Another driver saw her running and stopped to give her a ride to safety.

Her car and purse were later found by a private security firm. Johannesburg has many private security companies that step for where the overworked police force cannot.

(L-R) Top 3 finalists Miss South Africa 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Colombia 2017 Laura Gonzalez, and Miss Jamaica 2017 Davina Bennett compete during the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on November 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Top 3 finalists Miss South Africa 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Colombia 2017 Laura Gonzalez, and Miss Jamaica 2017 Davina Bennett (L-R) compete during the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Nov. 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Self-Defense Training Might Have Saved Her Life

Nel-Peters had studied personal self-defense, so she was able to respond well when she saw armed men approaching her car.

“I saw them approaching me, three to my left and another on the other side, and I knew by their eyes what they were coming to do. I was petrified but prepared for what was coming,” she told Hollywood Life.

“I had at least three guns pointed at me,” she continued. “I climbed out of the car but they told me to climb back in because I was coming with them.”

Nel-Peters had no intention of being kidnapped. Rather than re-enter the car, she punched one of her assailants in the throat.

“He was dazed [after being punched] and pushed me into the car. I forced my way out and ran as fast as I could into traffic to get help,” she said.

Nel-Peters thought her training gave her the confidence and the technique to create a window of opportunity to escape. What might have happened had the attackers been able to kidnap her is too unpleasant to contemplate.

After that incident, Nel-Peters decided to start training other women in personal self-defense.

(L-R) Laura Gonzalez, Miss Colombia; Davina Bennett, Miss Jamaica; Maria Poonlertlarp, Miss Thailand; Keysi Sayago, Miss Venezuela; and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss South Africa, are finalists at the Universe pageant on November 26, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Patrick Gray/AFP/Getty Images)
Laura Gonzalez, Miss Colombia; Davina Bennett, Miss Jamaica; Maria Poonlertlarp, Miss Thailand; Keysi Sayago, Miss Venezuela; and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss South Africa (L-R) are finalists at the Universe pageant on Nov. 26, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Patrick Gray/AFP/Getty Images)

Miss Universe Growing More Global

While the contest claims to crown the most beautiful and talented woman in the universe, it has not managed to attract representatives from all countries in the world — but that is changing.

For the first time, contestants from Laos, Nepal, and Cambodia entered the pageant.

The 2017 event was the largest in the contest’s long history. The first “Miss Universe Pageant” ran in 1952, but the phrase “Miss Universe” was used in an earlier pageant that ran from 1926 through to 1935.

Ninety-two women participated in this year’s Miss Universe contest. The United Nations recognizes 206 sovereign nations.

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