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Reeva Steenkamp: Model, law graduate and 'sweetest human being'

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
South African model Reeva Steenkamp died in February 2013 after she was shot at the home of her boyfriend, Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius. She was 29. Pistorius has been charged with murder. South African model Reeva Steenkamp died in February 2013 after she was shot at the home of her boyfriend, Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius. She was 29. Pistorius has been charged with murder.
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Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Reeva Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
Steenkamp: From law student to cover girl
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Olympics and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius charged in Reeva Steenkamp's murder
  • The striking, platinum-haired model was gearing up for her reality television debut
  • "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she tweeted day before death
  • "She was the kindest, sweetest human being," her agency says

(CNN) -- A week before her death, South African model Reeva Steenkamp talked about her secure, blissful environment.

"I woke up in a happy, safe home this morning," she tweeted. "Not everyone did."

Four days after she posted that message, neither did she.

The 29-year-old model was found shot dead in her boyfriend's house in an upscale neighborhood in Pretoria.

READ MORE: Who is "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius?

Her boyfriend, Olympian Oscar Pistorius, 27, is facing a charge of premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day 2013 shooting along with two additional gun-related charges.

Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner" for competing on carbon fiber blades fitted to the stumps of his amputated legs, has admitted to shooting Steenkamp to death, but says it was an accident. Prosecutors argue that he intentionally killed her after a loud argument.

Closing arguments are under way in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday, August 7, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, the first double amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, is accused of intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in February 2013. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder and three weapons charges. It could take weeks for a judge and two lay assessors to consider evidence and testimony presented in court. Closing arguments are under way in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday, August 7, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, the first double amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, is accused of intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in February 2013. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder and three weapons charges. It could take weeks for a judge and two lay assessors to consider evidence and testimony presented in court.
Oscar Pistorius murder trial
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Photos: Oscar Pistorius murder trial Photos: Oscar Pistorius murder trial

Beauty and brains

Before she started dating Pistorius, Steenkamp was famous in her own right.

A striking, platinum-haired model, gearing up for her reality television debut.

A law school graduate, with a vibrant personality and a slew of modeling gigs under her belt.

Her growing exposure brought more opportunities. She served as a presenter for FashionTV in South Africa, was an FHM cover girl and was the face of cosmetics company Avon.

READ MORE: Photos show Steenkamp's transformation

FHM described her as a "beautiful, intelligent and warm-hearted woman" who had a "wicked" sense of humor.

"She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth," said Capacity Relations, the agency that represented her.

And her fame was growing.

Two days after she was killed, a pre-recorded reality show in which she appeared as a contestant aired. In the context of what transpired, her message in it now appears haunting.

INTERACTIVE: Explore each side's argument

"I'm going home with sort of a sweet taste in my mouth. I don't have any regrets. I don't have any bitterness. I'm going to miss you all so much and I love you very very much," she said as she blew a kiss to the camera.

South Africa's national broadcaster aired the show "Tropika Island of Treasure" showing a clip discussing her exit from the taped program. The show features local celebrities competing for prize money.

Power couple

Steenkamp was born in Cape Town, but moved to Johannesburg years ago to pursue modeling.

Reports say the two became an item around November 2012 and were popular in South African social circles.

About a month before her death, the model shared a picture collage that included the runner.

"Some of my favorite people," she described the picture.

"As you can imagine our entire family is devastated, we are in a state of total shock," the suspect's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said in a statement. "All of us saw at first hand how close she had become to Oscar during that time and how happy they were."

Both had big dreams, the uncle said.

"They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time," he said. "We are all grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends. Oscar -- as you can imagine -- is also numb with shock as well as grief."

The younger Pistorius made history when he became the first Paralympian to compete in the able-bodied Olympics in London in 2012. He ran on special carbon fiber blades affixed to his legs. He was born without the fibulae in his legs, and they were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.

Empowering women

Before she died, Steenkamp sent out a message urging her thousands of social media followers to empower women.

"Speak out against the rape of individuals" in South Africa, she said in a post on the photo-sharing site Instagram. "RIP Anene Booysen."

Booysen, 17, was raped and mutilated in South Africa in February of last year, putting a spotlight on violence against women in the nation.

Steenkamp urged her followers on Twitter to wear black the day after Valentine's to protest violence against women.

A tragic end on Valentine's

Steenkamp was looking forward to Valentine's Day.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she asked her Twitter followers the day before. "Get excited."

At dawn, she lay dead in a pool of blood.

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