Actor-model Harnaaz Sandhu was proclaimed Miss Universe 2021 on December 2021, outlasting competitors from 80 nations, 21 years after India last won the title. Prior to Sandhu, just two Indians had previously won the coveted Miss Universe title, actresses Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000. The 70th iteration of the pageant was held in Eilat, Israel, and the 21-year-old won the prestigious title.
It took 21 years for the Miss Universe title to make its way back to India and Andrea Meza of Mexico, having won the contest in 2020, awarded the Chandigarh-based model her title crown. Harnaaz Sandhu who is completing a master’s degree in public administration began her pageant career at the age of 17 when she won Times Fresh Face, representing Chandigarh.
She grew up in the Kohali hamlet in the Gurdaspur region of Punjab, working alongside her mother at health camps to address issues of women’s health and menstrual hygiene. She is also an outspoken supporter of women’s empowerment, notably their constitutionally protected rights to an education, a profession, and the freedom to choose.
Miss Universe 2021
The top three contestants had to go through around where they were asked a set of questions. Firstly Harnaaz was asked “What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today”
Her response made the difference as she responded, “The biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves. To know that you are unique makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide.
Come out, and speak for yourself, because you are the leader of your life. You are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that is why I am standing here today.”
Followed by this eloquent and informed reply for which she was widely lauded she responded to another question on the burning topic of climate change. Her response even to this question made waves as she came across as a learned and wise individual apart from the stunner of a beauty that she is.
Harnaaz had been in a few productions before competing in the pageant. These include appearances in Punjabi films such as Yaara Diyan Poo Baran and Bai Ji Kuttange, as well as a guest appearance in the Colors program Udaariyaan, in which she portrayed a beauty competition participant.
Participants from Paraguay and South Africa joined her in this last phase to capture the championship. Supporters from all across India were applauding on social media for Harnaaz to bring the crown home, which she did with her charm and intellect.