For the first time in 21 years, an entrant from India has been honored as Miss Universe. Harnaaz Sandhu took home the crown during the 2021 competition on Dec. 12.
Harnaaz Sandhu, 21, was crowned Miss Universe during the pageant on Dec. 12. The 2020 titleholder from Mexico, Andrea Meza, was on-hand to crown her successor at the event, which was hosted by Steve Harvey. The first runner-up was Nadia Ferreira, from Paraguay, with South Africa’s Lalela Mswane being named third runner-up. However, in the end, it was Harnaaz who accepted the crown, looking stunning in a sparkling silver dress as she did so.
With Harnaaz’s win, this marks the third time that a contestant from India has been named Miss Universe. In 2000, the winner was India’s Lara Dutta, and before that, in 1994, Sushmita Sen won the honor. Only the United States, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Philippines have crowned more winners over the years. After Harnaaz’s big night at Miss Universe, learn more about her below:
1. How Long Has Harnaaz Been Competing In Pageants?
Harnaaz was a teenager when she began partaking in beauty pageants. She was named Miss Chandigarh in 2017, as well as Miss Max Emerging Star India in 2018. The following year, she won the title of Femina Miss India Punjab, and competed in the Top 12 at Femina Miss India. In 2021, she competed in the country’s Miss Diva pageant, where she was crowned the winner and earned the right to represent India at the Miss Universe pageant that same year.
2. Harnaaz Has Struggled With Mental Health
During her opening statement at the Miss Diva competition, Harnaaz opened up about how her mental health has been affected over the years. “From a young girl with fragile mental health who faced bullying and body shaming, to a woman who emerged like a phoenix, realizing her true potential, from an individual who once doubted her own existence to a woman who is aspiring to inspire the youth,” she said. “Today, I stand proudly in front of the Universe as a courageous, vivacious and compassionate woman who is all set to lead a life with purpose and to leave behind a remarkable legacy.”
3. Harnaaz Is An Actress
Aside from just competing in pageants, Harnaaz also has a career as an actress. She has two pieces of work slated for release in 2022, according to her Miss Universe bio. In her spare time, Harnaaz enjoys yoga, dancing, cooking, horseback riding, playing chess and swimming.
4. Harnaaz Was Influenced By Priyanka Chopra
It’s no secret that Priyanka Chopra is an inspiration to many Indian women, including Harnaaz. After winner Miss Diva, Harnaaz opened up about how Priyanka is an inspiration to her. “She has created her own brand and represented India, not only in beauty pageants, but also through her acting and singing talent,” Harnaaz gushed. “She has made India proud and I am hoping to follow her footsteps and bring glory back the way she did.” Priyanka was the winner of Miss World in 2000, and took to Instagram to congratulate Harnaaz on her victory after the Miss Universe pageant, as well.
5. Harnaaz Values Women’s Empowerment
After being raised by a strong mother, who worked as a successful gynecologist, Harnaaz became and advocate for women’s empowerment. As a child, she worked with her mother at health camps, where women’s health and menstrual hygiene were addressed. “Deeply conscious of the privilege her mother’s struggles have gifted her, Harnaaz today is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, particularly their constitutional rights to education, careers and their freedom of choice,” her bio reveals.