Actor-model Harnaaz Sandhu created history on Monday as she was crowned Miss Universe 2021 – beating contestants from 80 countries – 21 years after India last won the title.
Before Sandhu, only two Indians have won the Miss Universe title – actor Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000.
The 70th edition of the event was held in Eilat, Israel, where the 21-year-old won the prestigious competition.
The Chandigarh-based model, who is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration, was crowned by her predecessor Andrea Meza of Mexico, who won the competition in 2020.
Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira, 22, came second, while South Africa’s 24-year-old Lalela Maswane came third.
Sandhu said, “I am very grateful to the almighty, my parents and Miss India organization for guiding and supporting me. Lots of love to all those who prayed and wished the crown for me.”
“It is the biggest proud moment to bring back the glorious crown to India after 21 years,” he said.
During the final question and answer round, Sandhu was asked what advice she would give to young women on how to deal with the pressure they face today.
“The biggest pressure the youth of today face is to believe in yourself, to know that you are unique and that is what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourself to others and what is happening around the world. Talk about more important things.
“This is what you need to understand. Come out, speak for yourself because you are the leader of your life, you are your own voice. I believed in myself and that’s why I stand here today,” she roared Applause.
Sandhu began her journey in pageantry when she won the Times Fresh Face in 2017, representing Chandigarh at the age of 17. She later won the title of LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021.
Sandhu has also acted in a few Punjabi films, including “Yaara Diya Poo Baran” and “Bai Ji Kuttange”.
The ceremony was hosted by Steve Harvey and saw performances by American singer JoJo.
The selection committee included actors and Miss Universe India 2015 Urvashi Rautela, Adamari El Pez, Adriana Lima, Chesley Crist, Iris Mittenaere, Lori Harvey, Marion Rivera and Rena Soffer.