A South African native, Steenkamp was born in Cape Town and moved to the seaside city of Port Elizabeth as a child.
Her father, Barry Steenkamp, was a famous horse trainer, according to published reports.
Later in life, she graduated with a law degree from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Steenkamp was tapped to be the first face of Avon South Africa and moved to Johannesburg six years ago.
Steenkamp, a blue/green-eyed blonde, was 5-foot-7, according to her agency, Ice Model Management. That is short by modeling standards, but it did not hinder her determination or her success.
Her career as a professional model blossomed and in December 2011, she was featured on the cover of the South African edition of FHM magazine. She was named one of the magazine's 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running.
FHM in South Africa issued the following statement in response to her death:
"FHM was shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic passing of FHM cover girl Reeva Steenkamp. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends during this difficult and painful time. FHM knew Reeva as a beautiful, intelligent and warm-hearted woman who was a joy to work with and everyone at FHM mourns her untimely passing. May she rest in peace."
In addition to modeling, Steenkamp was picked as a celebrity contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure 5." The show involves both celebrities and ordinary individuals who compete in daily challenges that take place in remote and exotic locations.
"With a background in TV presenting, once the live roaming presenter for FashionTV in South Africa, Reeva is currently working on some major projects that include smaller TV roles as well as a lead in a new reality TV show," the show said on its website. "Reeva has a passion for cars and cooking and prefers to read a book on her off days and spend quality time with friends and family."
Mike Steenkamp reflected on his niece and her killing to The Associated Press.
"How it pans out at the end of the day, we will all know the story, the true story," he said. "But we must never forget what Reeva stood for. She loved people, she loved everybody, and it was her heart that went out."