Oscar Pistorius shooting: Who is Reeva Steenkamp?

"SA Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God."

This is how model Reeva Steenkamp (30) described herself on her Twitter account. An avid tweeter, her last message was posted only six hours before her gun-wounded body was pronounced dead by paramedics at Olympic champion Oscar Pistorius's Pretoria home.

The last photo Steenkamp posted on Twitter was of a health shake. "It's a beautiful day!" the girl with long blonde hair and a smattering of freckles wrote in the caption. Her "yummy healthy shake" had been made for her by her "boo".

On February 1, she tweeted a black and white portrait photo of Pistorius. "He certainly doesn't need more followers but he's beautiful to look at and says some smart stuff too," she swooned.

On January 12, Pistorius tweeted a picture of a Cape Town hotel with the happy caption that he had spent the day there with Steenkamp and friends.

Steenkamp's publicist, Sarit Tomlinson told Sky News that the couple had been together for a few months, in a "healthy, fabulous relationship". By all accounts, the two seemed very much in love, which is why the news that the athlete had fatally shot in his girlfriend in the early morning of Valentine's Day was greeted with widespread shock and disbelief.

Jane Celliers, operations director of ICE Model Management, Steenkamp's modelling agency, could not hold back her tears as she spoke about Steenkamp. She had become part of the "family" at the agency, she told the Mail & Guardian.  

"We are absolutely devastated," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "She was a wonderful, caring, amazing girl. We are completely shocked by the news. This is a very difficult day for us."   

Jean-Marie Neethling, sister of Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling worked alongside Steenkamp as an ambassador for Nimue Skin products. "We lost an angel on Valentines day," she told the M&G.

"Reeva was class, beauty and kindness personified! She treated every person she came in contact with, with respect and love. Her positive attitude to life was contagious. I can't believe I won't see her again!"

Tomlinson described Steenkamp as "the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth [who] will be sorely missed".

She said their thoughts and prayers went out to the Steenkamp family members, who are in Port Elizabeth. They have not released an official statement and have asked for their privacy to be respected.

The model was from Cape Town and later moved to Port Elizabeth with her family as a child. After matriculating, she graduated university with a degree in law.

Following an endorsement deal with cosmetics company Avon South Africa, Reeva moved to Johannesburg six years ago, becoming the first "face" of the international brand.

Steenkamp was one of a group of seven celebrities and seven contestants taking part in the annual Tropika Island competition. The show airs its first episode on Saturday February 16 on SABC 1.

According to the Tropika Island site, Reeva was working on small TV roles as well as a lead in a new reality TV show.

Pistorius and Steenkamp were spotted at the South African Sports Awards last year. At the time, Steenkamp claimed she and Pistorius were just friends.

Police spokesperson Katlego Mogale confirmed that the "26-year old male" implicated in the shooting was "in shock" and had been taken into custody. "We found a 9mm pistol at the scene," she said. Pistorius has been arrested and is being investigated for murder. He is expected to appear in a Pretoria magistrate's court later on Thursday.

Messages of condolences were posted on social networks. Model Lee-Ann Liebenberg tweeted: "How tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with Oscar and both their families".

Top Billing presenter Jo-Ann Strauss tweeted: "So sad for Reeva Steenkamp's family and for Oscar Pistorius. This highlights how unsafe most South Africans feel because of crime."

Actress Terry Pheto on Twitter said: "This is Tragic!! My heart goes out to both families. Sad how one's life can change in a minute."

Thalia Holmes
Thalia Holmes

Thalia is a freelance business reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Swaziland and lived in the US before returning to South Africa.

She got a cum laude degree in marketing and followed it with another in English literature and psychology before further confusing things by becoming a black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) consultant.

After spending five years hearing the surprised exclamation, "But you're white!", she decided to pursue her latent passion for journalism, and joined the M&G in 2012. 

The next year, she won the Brandhouse Journalist of the Year Award, the Brandhouse Best Online Award and was chosen as one of five finalists from Africa for the German Media Development Award. In 2014, she and a colleague won the Standard Bank Sivukile Multimedia Award. 

She now writes and edits for various publications, but her heart still belongs to the M&G.     


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