There is a new Miss Universe, Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu.
The reigning Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico, crowned her successor at the 70th annual Miss Universe event in Eilat, Israel.
The international competition, hosted by Steve Harvey, featured 80 contestants vying for the tiara. But it went down to the final three-Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane, Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira and Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu. When the Bollywood actress Miss India was next announced as the winner, Sandhu fell into joyful tears before taking her first stage walk as Miss Universe.This was India’s first victory in 21 years, and its third in the history of the pageant. Sandhu had been previously crowned Miss Diva Universe 2021, and is the third entrant from India to win Miss Universe.
Miss South Africa, one of the many contestants pressured by her own government to boycott the controversial pageant to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, was named second runner-up. The contest suffered a last-minute hiccup with the arrival of the omicron variant, which forced Israel to close its borders to foreign tourists late last month.
Most of the Miss Universe contestants were already in the country before the new regulations came into effect. But those who came afterward were given special permission to enter, albeit with a mandatory 72-hour quarantine period.Throughout the run-up to final contest, all contestants were tested for the coronavirus every 48 hours and required to obey strict mask requirements.
Earlier in the competition, Harvey asked Sandu, who had just cracked the top 16 as Miss India, “I hear you do some pretty good animal impersonations. Let’s hear your best one.” Sandhu responded with a cat’s meow from the stage that became an instant internet meme, while Harvey received some criticism on Twitter for the question.In a speech on stage during the pageant, Sandhu urged young people to “know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful, stop comparing yourself to others.”I believed in myself, and that’s why I’m standing here today,” she added, to loud applause from the audience.
At a later Q&A session, when Sandhu had reached the top 5, she took the opportunity to spread a message on climate change. “This is the time to take action and talk less,” she said. “Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair.”After her win was announced, she celebrated with other contestants on stage, shouting to a camera, “Chak de Phatte India,” a Punjabi exclamation similar in meaning to “Let’s do this, India!”
Rewards and Perks
The official name of the crown that she now possesses after winning the beauty pageant is the Miss Universe Mouawad Power of Unity Crown. Estimated to be worth US$5 million, or Rs 37 crores, it is the world’s most expensive beauty pageant crown on record.
The contestant who wins the title of Miss Universe can stay in the Miss Universe apartment in New York for an year, sharing it with Miss USA. The costing of the entire apartment from groceries to clothing is absolutely free and is arranged by the Miss Universe Organisation.
Harnaaz Sandhu will get her won team of assistants that includes make up artists, photographers, stylists, dermatologists, nutrition experts, dentists, and others who would cater to all her demands and their expenses would be taken care by the Miss Universe Organisation.
The beauty queen is also given an opportunity to tour the world throughout the year with Miss Universe Organisation taking care of the accommodation and food charges.
Beauty with brains
As per her Miss Universe delegate bio, Harnaaz, draws inspiration from her mother, who “broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynecologist and led her family”. Deeply conscious of the privilege her mother’s struggles have gifted her, Sandhu said she is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, particularly their constitutional rights to education, careers and their freedom of choice.