Actor-model Harnaaz Sandhu made history on Monday as she was crowned Miss Universe 2021 — beating contestants from 80 countries — 21 years after India’s Lara Dutta last brought home the title.
Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira and South Africa’s Lalela Mswane joined her at the final round.
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 pageant in 2020.
On being asked what advice she would give to young women on how to deal with the pressures they face, a composed Ms Sandhu said, “The biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in them, to know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide.”
“This is what you need to understand. Come out, speak for yourselves 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,” she said to a thundering applause.
Ms Sandhu, who started her journey in pageantry at the age of 17, has previously been crowned Miss Diva 2021, Femina Miss India Punjab 2019 and was even placed in the Top 12 at Femina Miss India 2019.
Fresh Face in 2017, representing Chandigarh at the age of 17. She later won the LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021 title. Sandhu has also worked in a few Punjabi films, including “Yaara Diyan Poo Baran” and “Bai Ji Kuttange”.
The selection committee included actor and Miss Universe India 2015 Urvashi Rautela, Adamari López, Adriana Lima, Cheslie Kryst, Iris Mittenaere, Lori Harvey, Marian Rivera and Rena Sofer.
So far, India has won the crown twice with Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000.