It was the year 2006 that I watched the Miss Universe pageant live for the first time. I felt really happy when Neha Kapur made the first cut as India, but was heartbroken when she didn’t advance further. Then began my fascination with the pageant and I revisited old editions as well, reliving the crowning moments of Sushmita Sen and Lara Dutta. I had waited since then to witness India clinching that coveted crown once again and today that finally happened as Harnaaz Sandhu became the new Miss Universe 2021.
The beauty from Punjab emerged victorious over 79 delegates from across the world and was crowned by the outgoing titleholder, Andrea Meza of Mexico. Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira clinched the first runner up spot and Lalela Mswane of South Africa was adjudged the second runner up. Harnaaz’s beautiful silver finale gown was designed by Saisha Shinde and complemented her crown like they were made for each other.
Check out her crowning moment:
After giving a strong performance in the swimsuit and evening gown round, Harnaaz made it to the Top 5, where she picked American actress Rena Sofer as the judge asking her the question. She was asked what would she say to convince people who think that climate change is a hoax, that they are wrong.
Harnaaz gave a heartfelt answer to it, saying:
“Honestly, my heart breaks to see how nature is going through so many problems and it’s all due to our irresponsible behaviour. And I totally feel that this is the time to take action and talk less because our each action can either kill or save nature. Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair, and this is what I am trying to convince you guys today.”
Her amazing answer took her through to the Top 3 cut where all three finalists were asked the common question that what advice would they give to young girls watching the show about the pressures they are facing today.
Harnaaz’s winning answer was:
“Well, I think the biggest pressure that the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves, to know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourself with others and let’s talk about more important things that’s happening worldwide. I think this is what you need to understand. 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’s why I am standing here today.”
The passionate answer by Harnaaz convinced the jury, which also had an Indian representative with actress Urvashi Rautela who had previously competed at Miss Universe 2015, that she was the perfect representative for the Miss Universe organisation.
Her first message to India after winning:
In the last edition of Miss Universe, held in May this year, Adline Castelino brought India back to the Top 5, 20 years after Celina Jaitley’s finish as the fourth-runner up in 2001. So, my excitement was on a high at this year’s Miss Diva pageant as I was expecting the next delegate to cash in on that momentum and improve our result. When Harnaaz was chosen to be India’s representative I was thrilled as I had followed her since 2019 and knew her potential.
Harnaaz had previously competed at the Miss India pageant in 2019 where she finished in the Top 12. She has since them worked as a model and also as an actress in two Punjabi films. Ever since she was assigned as India’s delegate to Miss Universe 2021, she was on the top of the hot picks of all pageant enthusiasts worldwide. After a strong performance at the preliminary competition two days ago, Harnaaz was included in everyone’s probable Top 5, with a majority seeing her as the probable winner.
My morning today began with this moment of pride and it fills me with so much joy to see that Miss Universe crown coming back to India. I thank Harnaaz for bringing this moment of glory back to us and for paving way for more young girls to feel inspired and embark on the path to their dreams. A big congratulations Harnaaz!