Reeva Steenkamp made the life of those who met her lighter, brighter and more beautiful. Apart from the beach-babe looks, there was a heart as huge as her beloved South Africa.Speaking to NBC news before Oscar Pistorius' trial over her shooting, one friend described the model and reality TV contestant as "just this gorgeous angel, she was witty, charming and elegant, very diplomatic".
The Paralympian, who is awaiting the court's verdict on 11 September, certainly looked proud to have her on his arm. On meeting her at an awards ceremony, the South African sprinter asked her out and they quickly became the country's golden couple.Born in Cape Town on 19 August 1983 to parents Barry Steenkamp, a horse trainer, and his second wife June, Reeva had a happy secure childhood. Their daughter went on to study law at the University of Port Elizabeth, studies, which she combined with modelling, having started aged 14.At the time of her death Reeva had moved in with family friends in Johannesburg, the Myers, for work purposes. She was very close with the two girls in the family Gina and Kim.
Gina Myers said her friend was "grateful for her upbringing" adding: "Her family is very down to earth, they are the salt of the earth, very humble, beautiful people and Reeva was exactly the same."Such was her popularity as a model, by 2011 Reeva was ranked #40 in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women in the World poll of South African FHM readers.The charismatic blonde went on to sign up for a survival-style celebrity competition called Tropika Island of Treasure.
She used her celebrity status to campaign against sexual violence – a serious problem in South Africa – and fundraise for animal welfare charities.Friends spoke of a woman with "backbone". "She was outspoken. She wasn't a shy little girl. She gave her opinion – and she had one!"Her heightened profile inevitably bought attention from well-known celebs. She dated Springbok rugby player Francois Hougaard. Then handsome Paralympian Oscar came into her life, riding high from his wins at London 2012.
Court testimony showed that he could be moody and difficult, but the couple were clearly in love. She called Oscar "rockstar" and "boo" and sent him loving selfies; he called her "angel" and "baba".Reeva joked about giving her boyfriend a lifelike replica of herself to keep him company when he was lonely.The lighthearted messages were also accompanied by heartfelt romantic declarations. "I just want to love and be loved," she told him via phone messages. "Be happy and make someone SO happy."Indeed she made her friends and family happy. Before the start of the trial they insisted that her life should not be overshadowed by the tragedy.
One said: "She was not a pretty face or someone's girlfriend, she was Reeva Steenkamp. She was never in someone's shadow. She was her own person."That should not be forgotten not by anyone, not for anything."