India's Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu has been crowned the new Miss Universe 2021. The 21-year-old model, representing India at the 70th Miss Universe 2021, held in Eilat, Israel on Monday, won the crown for her country exactly after 21 years. Apart from Harnaaz, South Africa's Lalela Mswane was declared the second runner-up and Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira was the first runner up.
Harnaaz, who represented India at the international beauty pageant, hails from Chandigarh, Punjab. Sandhu was crowned by Andrea Meza from Mexico, the previous Miss Universe title holder. The last Indian contestant to win the crown was model and actor Lara Dutta in 2000.
Harnaaz's win is being cheered across India given that the crown comes after 21 long years. She thus becomes the third Indian to win the crown after Lara Dutta and Sushmita Sen (1994).
It was a surreal moment as Sandhu made her final walk down the ramp as Miss Universe 2021. Keeping with the tradition, the top three contestants were asked a common question in the final round. "What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?"
"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, 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."
The answer not only impressed millions of her fans back home but also the judges, winning her the crown finally.
A Model and an Actress
Sandhu was crowned Miss Universe India 2021 in October. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Public Administration. The 5 feet-9-inch tall Sandhu started her beauty pageant journey when she was just 17. She is a model, dancer, actor, and has also a few Punjabi movies including "Yaara Diyan Poo Baran"and "Bai Ji Kuttange".
She has previously been crowned Miss Diva 2021, Femina Miss India Punjab 2019 and she also made it to the Top 12 at Femina Miss India 2019.
In the finals, Sandhu beat out 79 other contestants from various countries and territories. In the top 5 she was asked: "Many people think climate change is a hoax, what would you do to convince them otherwise?"
Sandhu's smart reply impressed all. "My heart breaks to see how nature is going through a lot of problems, and it is all due to our irresponsible behavior. I totally feel that this is the time to take action and talk less. Because our each action could save or kill nature. Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair and this is what I am trying to convince you guys today," she said.
The Miss Universe event was live-streamed globally and was broadcast in 160 countries. The event was hosted by Steve Harvey and saw performances from American singer JoJo.