Demi-Leigh Tebow empowering American women
Demi-Leigh Tebow empowering American women. Photo: Video screenshot

Home » Former Miss Universe, SA’s Demi Tebow set to empower US women, following SA incident

Former Miss Universe, SA’s Demi Tebow set to empower US women, following SA incident

Demi, who misses SA so much, says her confidence-building workshops were triggered by the carjacking in Joburg…

04-10-23 21:28
Demi-Leigh Tebow empowering American women
Demi-Leigh Tebow empowering American women. Photo: Video screenshot

Former Miss South Africa and Miss Universe (2017), Demi-Leigh Tebow (formerly Nel-Peters), is relaunching Unbreakable in the USA this weekend. The confidence-building workshop which empowers women will include Demi and other speakers.

In a podcast interview last week, Demi revealed that living in South Africa had helped her build her resilience. Speaking to Kerena Dawn, the entrepreneur and model said that while Cape Town is “truly one of my favourite places in the world”, it is a scary experience in Johannesburg that triggered her wanting to empower other women.

Some men tried to car jack her in broad daylight at a traffic light, and as she fled her would-be attackers, she knocked on other women’s car windows and pleaded for help… but nobody would help her. They were probably too scared to get involved.

Demi relived the incident, which occurred on her way to a Miss SA event during peak hour. One of the men had a gun to her head, but fortunately she had learnt how to punch somebody in the throat, and although she hardly hurt the attacker, it startled him enough to buy her time to run away.

“It was traumatic, I was running up that avenue, in broad daylight, knocking on windows and nobody would stop in the traffic. Some had their windows open, they could hear me, it was bumper to bumper traffic.” She begged, she said she’d been carjacked (many had witnessed it), she was petrified the attackers would shoot her in the back, one woman even “shooed me away, ‘get away’, and rolled up her window!”

Demi says after going through trauma counselling she realised “I never wanna be one of those cars that decides not to see, that turns a blind eye”. And that’s what led her to begin confidence boosting workshops which include mental and physical tips.

Demi says most women in SA grow up being resilient. “Most know somebody who’s been affected by gender based violence. Growing up in SA, it’s top of your mind – to look out for yourself, have your back, be cognisant of your surroundings. Before I could drive my dad taught me how to change a tyre.” She says that all those precautions were normal to her whilst living in SA, “but now, living in a different country, I’ve realised that so many things I took as normal, were not”. She does stress that “each place has its own set of problems and it not that any place is better than another, just different”.

Demi, who was recently in South Africa for her ten-year high school reunion, also spoke about what fun it is returning to SA to her small hometown (near Cape Town) where she always bumps into everyone she knows.

Of South Africa, she says: “In general SA is such a vibrant country; I’m so grateful that SA was my foundation, and shaped the woman I am today, the opinions I have today… and in a big way created a lot of resilience for me – it was not always fun in the moment, but looking back, I’m grateful and wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Demi lives in Florida now with her sports star husband but says “I always miss SA”. There’s one thing she particularly misses – “our humour!” Demi says: “If there’s one country in the world that can’t take anything seriously it’s SA… like in the best way. They’re currently going through having a ton of power outages – you should see the memes and jokes.”

She’s grateful to social media for helping her feel closer to home and more connected. “I miss it so much. I go back as often as I can, for as long as I can.”

Even though she’s aware that most American woman won’t fortunately encounter a carjacking situation, she still believes her course is vital for women who’ve been taught culturally “to not make a scene, not make a fuss or make a drama” and that the empowering tools can be used for all kinds of situations, whether in a new relationship or interviewing for a job, to overcome challenges and break barriers.

Demi revealed on the podcast that it took her a long time to recover from her frightening attack, and that for months she couldn’t even close her eyes in the shower when she washed her hair, because she needed to stay alert.

The incident has not only triggered Demi to empower other women, but it has also been a “catalyst to learning more about GBV in South Africa” she says, and that has snowballed to learning about human and labour trafficking around the world. The philanthropist says it’s one of the “greatest evils we face in our world today” – an estimated 50 million people are trapped in human trafficking around the world. It’s a $150-billion industry per year.

“I couldn’t turn a blind eye once i knew,” she says, and has brought in different people in her network to help. Together we can accomplish great things. 

Demi’s Unbreakable workshop takes place this weekend at Jacksonville, Florida: register here if you’re in the US.