A law graduate, TV star and model, Reeva Steenkamp was in the first flush of romance with South Africa's most famous sportsman when she died.
She had only been going out with Oscar Pistorius for "a couple of months", according to her publicist, and they had a "healthy, fabulous relationship".
"She was the sweetest human being, the kindest, most unbelievable girl," said Sarit Tomlinson.
"She was a rising star. There was so much in the pipeline for her.She was a very talented, bright young girl."
Ms Steenkamp (30) was due to appear this weekend on South African TV as a contestant on Tropika Island of Treasure, a reality show set in Jamaica.
Born in Cape Town, she grew up in Port Elizabeth where her father, Barry, trained race horses.
Samantha Sutton, a family friend, said her parents were "hysterical" when told of her death by detectives.
In a recent interview with 'FHM' magazine, Ms Steenkamp described a love of the outdoors and said she used to ride horses "until a bad fall left me with a broken back". She added: "People assume I'm of the princess variety, but the only Barbie I had growing up was one that came with a horse."
She was a model from her mid-teens, but attended a convent school, St Dominic's Priory, and went on to study law at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan university.
In 2011 she told a local newspaper of the day she went to apply to the Bar.
"It was nerve-racking," she said.
"As I walked out I got a call for the 'FHM' shoot. I made a decision to do the modelling. I believe in destiny."
Mr Pistorius was previously involved with Samantha Taylor, a student from Cape Town.
Until a year ago, Ms Steenkamp was living in Johannesburg with a long-term boyfriend and two cats.
Last Sunday, she told a newspaper that Mr Pistorius was "an impeccable man" who always had her best interests at heart. (© Daily Telegraph, London)