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February 17, 2013

TV Show Featuring Slain 'Blade Runner' Girlfriend Airs in South Africa

by Anita Powell

South African television Saturday broadcast a reality show featuring running star Oscar Pistorius's girlfriend, who was shot to death this past week at his Pretoria home. The show aired just days after the Olympic athlete was charged with murdering her.  It is another twist in an already shocking case that has made headlines around the world.

Here is Reeva Steenkamp in her own words:

“I’m going to miss you all so much,” she says to the camera in a video tribute aired just days after her death, “and I love you very, very much.”

"The way that you go out and make your exit is so important, you either made an impact in a positive way or a negative way," Steenkamp is heard saying in the program, "Tropika Island of Treasure," the South African reality series now in its fifth season.

In the premiere of the 10-episode show, Steenkamp shows herself as a woman who is determined, adventurous, thoughtful and considerate of other contestants - but also, a bit cheeky.

“Be jealous,” the leggy blonde model says as she speaks from a white sand beach while wearing a bikini and blowing kisses at the camera. The reality show, which was filmed in Jamaica this season, subjects 14 contestants to physical and mental challenges in a bid to narrow the field to one winner, who receives about $113,000 dollars.

The series' producer defended the decision to air the program after Steenkamp's death, saying she would have wanted the show to go on.

The program's lavish setting is reminiscent of Steenkamp’s life in South Africa.  Her Twitter page is awash with news of glitzy parties, film sets, red carpets and fashion shoots.

But the show warns, almost prophetically, paradise is not all it seems.

In the show, contestants are asked to perform tasks that appear easy but are in reality difficult. In the first episode, Steenkamp effortlessly trounces a male competitor on an aquatic obstacle course.

In real life, Steenkamp also posted photos online of herself visiting animal shelters.  She made passionate comments against South Africa’s rape epidemic and was planning to visit a school to make a speech on the day she died. 

Police have said Steenkamp was shot four times through Pistorius’ bathroom door.  Afrikaans-language newspaper Beeld quoted a source who said Pistorius carried Steenkamp’s lifeless body to his front door and attempted, unsuccessfully, to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Charged with murder

The next day, Pistorius sobbed in a Pretoria courtroom as he was charged with murder.

Pistorius’s family has disputed the murder charge. His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said the couple had quickly become close and that Pistorius “was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time.”

The chief prosecutor has said the team will argue the murder was pre-meditated. Legal experts say it is likely Pistorius’s team will argue self-defense.

South African legal scholar Pierre de Vos says the sympathetic portrayal of Steenkamp will not have any legal consequences. De Vos teaches at the University of Cape Town.

“If we were in a system where there was a jury trial, I would be very concerned about a reality show airing. But because we have a system in which judges decide on the guilt or innocence of a person after listening to the facts, I would suspect it probably won't have an impact, because either the judge who might hear the case is going to make sure they don't watch the reality show, or they will try and keep an open mind.”

Hagel Engler, an old friend and colleague of Steenkamp, said the TV show was just a small step on her path to fame. Engler was an editor of FHM, a popular men’s magazine that featured Steenkamp on the cover.

"I think she probably would have been cool with it. She was on a trajectory to stardom, I guess, and she wanted to be well known and I guess she wanted to be successful and famous and she was trying to build her celebrity brand.  So that's where she was headed.  And I guess the show helped to do that, and it's even more tragic that she's not around to enjoy it."

Meanwhile, if convicted, Oscar Pistorius could spend the rest of his life in prison.