Chandigarh’s Harnaaz Sandhu crowned Miss Universe

Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu made the country proud as she has won the Miss Universe 2021 competition defeating South Africa’s Lalela Mswane and Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira. Sandhu becomes only the third Indian to win the coveted title after actresses Sushmita Sen and Lara Dutta, writes shveta mishra

At the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Israel, India’s Tricolor flew high as actress and model Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu was declared the winner of the competition. Apart from Harnaaz, South Africa’s Lalela Mswane was declared the second runner-up and Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira was the first runner up. It was the 70th edition of the prestigious annual event.

Sushmita Sen, sharing two pictures of Harnaaz from the pageant, wrote on Instagram, “#yehbaat ‘Har Hindustani Ki Naz’ Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu #MissUniverse2021 India. So proud of you! Congratulations @harnaazsandhu_03 Thank you for representing India so beautifully, for bringing back the Miss Universe Crown to India after 21 years (by a 21-year-old, you were destined). May you enjoy every moment of learning and sharing this incredible global platform @missuniverse will provide you… May you reign supreme!!! My love and regards to your Maa and family… bohut bohut Mubarak #jaihind #duggadugga. Adding to Sushmita’s words, a fan pointed out, “That too in the year 2021. Means a lot 21 21 21.” Another commented, “Queen congratulating another Queen.” A fan praised Sushmita’s note and said, “@sushmitasen47 – What a wonderful start (Har Hindustaani ki Naz, *Harnaaz*) Love to you.”  Lara Dutta Bhupathi too tweeted, Congratulations Harnaaz Sandhu. !!!! Welcome to the club!!! We’ve waited 21 long years for this!!! You make us SO SO proud!!! A billion dreams come true!!!

Harnaaz’s victory has left her mother speechless. She said “I don’t know how to express my feelings. She made the whole Sandhu family proud. She is a determined girl. She has been active and confident since childhood. Today, her dream was fulfilled. I could not thank God enough.”

Harnaaz’s brother Harnoor Sandhu added that they are planning a grand welcome for her at home. He said, “Dhoom dhaam se hum Harnaaz ka swagat karenge. (We will welcome her in grand style). She deserves it. We all are proud of her. When she called us after winning the pageant, we all started crying. It was an emotional moment for all of us. With her win, she has inspired millions of girls out there,” He also revealed that they fondly call her ‘Candy’.

The 21-year-old Harnaaz hailing from Punjab and now settled in the State capital at Chandigarh was representing India at the 70th Miss Universe event, held in Eilat, Israel. She brought home the crown 21 years after Lara Dutta won the title in 2000. Apart from Lara and Harnaaz, Sushmita Sen has won the title back in 1994.

As per her Miss Universe delegate bio, Harnaaz, a Punjabi, draws inspiration from her mother, who “broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynecologist and led her family”. “Driven to support other women the same way, Harnaaz grew up working with her mother at health camps addressing women’s health and menstrual hygiene. 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,” the bio reads.

Who is Harnaaz Sandhu?

She holds multiple pageant titles like Miss Max Emerging Star India 2018 and Femina Miss India Punjab 2019, as well. She has also starred in Punjabi films like ‘Yaara Diyan Poo Baran’ and ‘Bai Ji Kuttange’, which will release in 2022. A Chandigarh-based model, Harnaaz Sandhu has won several beauty pageants in the past. She has been crowned Miss Diva 2021 and Femina Miss India Punjab 2019. Harnaaz, in fact, was also placed in the Top 12 at Femina Miss India 2019.

She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Public Administration. Harnaaz Sandhu is on Instagram and has 269k followers. She often posts pictures from her photoshoots on the photo-sharing app. Her Instagram bio reads, “Shine like the whole Universe is yours”.

Harnaaz Sandhu did her schooling in Chandigarh’s Shivalik Public School. She is currently pursuing her Masters from Post Graduate Government College for Girls, Chandigarh. Her mother, Ravinder Sandhu, is a doctor. She is currently working as the SMO Senior Medical Officer at Sohana Hospital. Her father PS Sandhu is in the real estate business.

Harnaaz was visibly anxious in the lead up to her name being declared as the winner as she held hands with first runner up, Nadia Ferreira.

It was a surreal moment as Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu made her final walk down the ramp as Miss Universe 2021. As part of the top three rounds, the contestants were asked, “What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?”

To this, Harnaaz said, “The biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in them. To know that you are unique makes you beautiful. Stop comparing ourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide. Come out; speak for yourself, because you are the leader of your life. You are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that is why I am standing here today.”

The contest was hosted by U.S. TV personality Steve Harvey. Organizers said the pageant was expected to reach an estimated 600 million viewers via the FOX network in 172 countries.