Johannesburg – In the space of just two years Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters went from being an ordinary girl from the Western Cape town of Sedgefield to becoming an international beauty queen who has walked the red carpets of some of Hollywood's finest events.
Her whirlwind journey started on the Miss South Africa stage in 2017 when, at the age of 21, Demi was crowned the winner of the 59th edition of the show held at the Superbowl in Sun City.
Just a few months down the line, the beauty queen would go on to win the Miss Universe title, then jet off to New York City to start her new life.
I first met Demi on the night of her Miss SA win in 2017. I remember her as a kind, down-to-earth, bubbly young woman. And as I sit and talk with her now at the Boss Models office in Johannesburg, I realise that has not changed.
But there is one thing that's different – this time there's no crown or sash. I've only ever known her as Demi the beauty queen, so I have to find out what life has been like after her reign.
She's genuine in her response. "It's not exactly what I've expected," she starts, telling me that she has signed with IMG models in New York as well as talent agency WME.
"It's really exciting, but I must say things have been way slower than I thought it would be. You think you win something like Miss Universe, and you achieve something internationally, and then everything just works out and just falls into place, but to be honest, now is when the hard work really starts."
New York City is a notoriously competitive industry for models, and even though she just completed her first big campaign, Demi admits it's been stressing her out a bit. "It has definitely tested my faith and my patience in many, many ways."
But that won't stop her, because she's got a goal in mind. "I don't see myself as being a model for the rest of my life. I'm an entrepreneur. I would love to use the experience the I'm gaining now through the modelling industry," she says.
That experience would go towards building her own brand in the world of fashion and extend beyond life as a model.
Unbreakable grew from a self-defence course to a women empowerment movement.
"Through my journey, I have spoken to over 3000 ladies in South Africa, and every single time a lady comes up to me after a workshop and tells me, 'Demi, because you had the courage to share your story, for the first I can speak up about what happened to me. For the first time, I have the courage to go and see a psychologist or a doctor'. To me, that has already achieved a big goal."
Soon the conversation switches to another big part of Demi's life – her fiancé, US sports star Tim Tebow.
In January of 2019, Tim got down on one knee and asked Demi to be his wife.
She perks up immediately as we start to talk about him – her smile is uncontrollable.
I ask about the proposal, but before I can even get the question out, she's already answering it. "Sorry, I totally interrupted your question. I'm so excited," she giggles.
Her happiness is contagious, and I can feel my own smile start to stretch from ear to ear as she talks about Tim's sisters and how they tricked her into getting dressed up for a "Christmas lunch", which later turned out to be much more than that.
Though they did not get to see each other that much at the beginning of their relationship, Demi says she knew from the start Tim was the one.
"He just exceeded every expectation I could ever have. He taught me things that I needed in a relationship that I didn't even know of."
There's another secret about Tim that she shares – his love of biltong.
"I am not kidding you if I tell you that he eats biltong and droëwors for breakfast, lunch and dinner," she says, adding that he loves South African food and, "thinks the quality is incredible".
Going back to the wedding, we talk about what the planning process has been like.
While Tim admitted in a chat with USA Today that he is pretty chilled when it comes to the big day, Demi says at times she really feels the pressure.
"It's stressful, I won't lie. I've always said I'm never going to be a bridezilla; I'm never going to be one of those stressed-out brides. And here I am, stressed out."
But despite the stress, she says things are "falling into place".
Looking to the future, Demi tells me what she wants for her life in the next five years.
"I see myself as a successful model, definitely a married woman, and a business owner."
She adds: "I also look forward to doing work with my fiancé/future husband. It would be exciting to see what ventures we get to take on as a team. And in 5 years hopefully Benji (her dog) is in America with me at the time."