Reeva Steenkamp was born August 19, 1983 in Cape Town, South Africa to parents Barry and June. Her family moved to Port Elizabeth when she was a child.
A tomboy growing up, Steenkamp owned only one Barbie—the one with the horse—and preferred to play with Lego men. She used to ride horses herself, until she injured her back off a fall.
She had been modeling since she was 14, and, in 2005, she was a finalist in the Port Elizabeth Herald's "Miss Port Elizabeth" competition. That same year, she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. After winning a contract as the first "Face of Avon Cosmetics" in South Africa, she packed a single suitcase and moved to Johannesburg to further pursue her modeling career, although she would continue to regard Port Elizabeth, where her parents lived, as her home. "PE will always be my home, though, and I visit the folks as often as I can. Nothing like good old PE to ground you!" (FHM Collections, Autumn/Winter 2011)
She also maintained plans to finish her master's degree and one day become an advocate. Speaking to FHM (December 2011), Steenkamp explained, "I'm passionate about standing up in defence of those who do not realise their own rights."
In the meantime, in addition to her modeling and TV presenting duties, Steenkamp had an export company that shipped fresh produce to such places as Mauritius and Saudi Arabia.
More recently, she had participated as a contestant on Tropika Island of Treasure, a South African reality TV game show filmed in Jamaica.
Steenkamp was active on Twitter, where she described herself as "SA Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God." She frequently interacted with followers and also used her account to encourage people to stand up and speak out against rape and sexual abuse.
According to an interview with ZAlebs, Steenkamp was scheduled to be at Sandown High in Johannesburg on Valentine's Day to give a motivational speech to students about loving and valuing themselves. “I’ve realised that although Valentine’s Day can be a cheesy money-making stint to most people, it’s a day of expressing love across the world. It doesn't have to only be between lovers, but by telling a friend that you care, or even an old person that they are still appreciated.”
Reeva Steenkamp had a passion for cars and cooking, and preferred to read a book on her off days and spend quality time with friends and family.