Mr Gay World 2010 Charl van den Berg has died at the age of just 33 after losing a battle with lymphatic cancer.
van den Berg won the world crown in 2010 after being named the South African Mr Gay King in his native country the previous year.
Well-wishers have praised him for his activism after he was involved in a HIV campaign, saying he “made friends around the world”.
Upon winning the Mr Gay World title, van den Berg said it was his aim to “break down stereotypes and differing mindsets in the global community and promote oneness and equality for all people by bridging the gap between those mindsets”.
“It is my understanding that people are people before we are different,” he said.
A statement on the Mr Gay World website said: “We have lost a member of our family, a hero and a friend.
“Charl van den Berg will always be an icon to many around the world.”
An announcement on his Facebook page said that a funeral will take place this Friday, August 14.