Harnaaz Sandhu from India takes home the 70th Miss Universe title.

Actress and model Harnaz Sandhu did India proud today as she was crowned the 70th Miss Universe held in Eilat, Israel. Sandhu, who has previously worked in a few movies as well, blew the judges off their feet in the final round of questioning. The panel comprising of Adriana Lima and Urvashi Rautela to name a few acknowledged her response with a thundering applause. She is the third Indian to bag the position after Lara Dutt in 2000 and Susmita Sen, the first Miss Universe from India in 1994.

Sandhu’s co-participant and Miss Paraguay earned the runners-up spot in the coveted beauty pageant with Lalela Mswane of South Africa coming up in the second runners-up position. Harnaz who hails from Chandigarh was pursuing her master’s degree in public administration when she got selected for the pageant. She started her journey into the modelling industry at the age of 17 when she won Times Fresh Face in 2017 followed by the LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021 title. The ceremony hosted by Steve Harvey and guest performance from JoJo will see its winner a lump sum of $250,000 (including sponsor perks), and if that’s not enough, she gets to hold the title of Miss Universe for an entire year.

80 delegates from all over the world were chosen to compete in this show. The former Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico crowned her amid thundering applause in the full packed stadium at Eliat. The pageant was held in the middle of the night, wrapping up at 5 a.m. local time (10 p.m. EST) to accommodate the primetime schedule in the U.S. The contestants  were required to pass through several rounds, from a traditional display in their national clothes to swimwear as well as a series of interview questions to test contestants’ public speaking skills.

In the last round which required each contestant to answer a specific question by the judge, Sandhu was asked how she would advise young women on how to tackle pressure and societal judgement. Sandhu’s reply left everyone thoughtful and speechless. She started off saying that the most important thing for women of our generation would be to believe in themselves. 

“To know that you are unique makes you beautiful,” she added. “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 continued.

An estimated 600 million viewers in 172 countries were expected to watch the ceremony via the FOX network, according to organisers. This year’s selection committee included American model Lori Harvey, Brazilian model Adriana Lima, Puerto Rican actress Adamari López, Miss Universe 2016 winner (and former Miss France) Iris Mittenaere, Indian actress and Miss Diva 2015 winner Urvashi Rautela, Filipino actress and model Marian Rivera, American actress Rena Sofer, Miss USA 2019 winner Chelsie Kryst, and Miss Universe 1976 winner Rina Mor. The judges unanimously agreed that Harnaz had all the qualities it takes to be a Miss Universe. As per the agreement, Harnaz will now have to travel around the world to perform charity work, speak for awareness occasions, and even crown national titleholders.

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