Nel-Peters, 22, wants to use her reign to champion HIV/AIDS and self-defence causes, was crowned at The AXIS theatre at Planet Hollywood casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
For the first time since 2010, Jamaica has secured a top 3 placement in the Miss Universe pageant.
Nel-Peters took home the crown at Sunday night's pageant in Las Vegas, making her the first victor from South Africa since 1978.
The 23-year-old philanthropist and model wowed the crowd and viewers everywhere, not to mention sparked an instant conversation on social media, when she stepped out wearing an Afro.
"As Miss Universe, you have to be confident in who you are as an individual", she said. "So, you can sit here and act like you didn't see what Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway did, but it got me off the hook".
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The woman representing South Africa has won the Miss Universe crown.
Aside from her Afro, she dazzled in her yellow evening gown and was also solid in the question and answer segment.
Her passion for self-defence was reinforced when she was hijacked and held at gunpoint a month after winning her title as Miss South Africa, she said in a video on the Miss Universe website.
Peters earlier entered the top 16 of the pageant as wildcard finalist, even after failing to enter the top four of the Africa and Asia Pacific group. "She is a woman that nothing is ever too much to ask for, and I think that is exactly who I am". Her runner-up is Colombia's Laura Gonzalez. Also in the Top 5 were Miss Venezuela Keysi Sayago and Miss Thailand Maria Poonlertlarp. Named best in National Costume Contest was Japan's Momoko Abe. Miss Universe shows us that a pretty, young woman doesn't need education, their beauty will do it all.