It's India's time to shine as Andrea Meza of Mexico officially passed on her crown to Harnaaz Sandhu! Harnaaz's journey to the title was no easy feat with fierce competition in the top three, as she was joined by Miss Paraguay, Nadia Ferreira, and Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane. Nonetheless, the South Asian beauty reigned supreme and was named Miss Universe 2021 in Eilat, Israel.
There's undeniably a lot to uncover about this 21-year-old pageant queen, so we've rounded up 10 things that'll help you curious folks get to know her better.
Here are 10 interesting facts about our newly-crowned Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu:
1. She's a Pisces.
The beauty queen was born on March 3, 2000 in the city of Chandigarh, India. Not all 21-year-olds can say that they've won the most coveted crown in the universe, but Harnaaz can.
2. She has a degree in Information Technology.
Aside from her killer runway walk and endearing aura, Harnaaz can boast about her bachelor's degree in Information Technology from the Post Graduate Government College for Girls. Prior to joining this year's pageant, she was also pursuing a master's degree in Public Administration.
3. She's been competing in pageants since she was a teenager.
Despite her young age, stepping in front of an audience in a gorgeous gown is almost second nature to Harnaaz. She previously bagged the titles of Miss Ferozepur in 2017 and Miss Max Emerging Star India in 2018. Her victory at Miss Diva 2021 last October was what sent her to the international stage at Miss Universe, where she, as we all saw, got her biggest break to date.
4. She's a Bollywood actress and model.
Aside from strutting in heels, Harnaaz also knows how to work her magic in front of the camera. She's had experience starring in a couple of Bollywood films, and has also walked down the runway for several fashion brands back in India.
5. One of her idols is Priyanka Chopra.
One of the most recognizable names when it comes to Indian icons is actress and Miss World 2000 Priyanka Chopra. Harnaaz previously expressed how much she adores the actress who, like her, is also an international pageant titleholder.
Through Priyanka's body of work, Harnaaz was inspired to take on roles that break stereotypes typically attached to Indian women like them. We wouldn't be surprised if the two end up working together sooner or later!
6. She looks up to her mom the most.
The phenomenal woman Harnaaz is the most inspired by is her mother who, she says, "Broke generations of patriarchy to become a succesful gynecologist and led her family." A mama's girl through and through, Harnaaz aims to use her platform to empower people like her mom.
7. She advocates for children born with clefts.
One of the advocacies closest to the 21-year-old's heart is to provide free treatment for children born with clefts, which causes difficulties in eating and breathing. She's worked with Smile Train India in reaching out and helping kids who are in need of the necessary surgical procedures.
8. She's fervently spoken up about addressing climate change.
"Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair," Harnaaz said when asked for what she would say to someone who thinks climate change is a hoax. The issue is far from just a Q&A topic for the beauty queen, who had previously spoken about it at Miss Diva 2021.
Her dedication to taking care of nature may be rooted in her being a "water baby," whose hobbies include swimming and horseback riding.
9. She once experienced body shaming for being "too thin".
In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, Harnaaz opened up about being body shamed for her appearance when she was in school. According to the beauty queen, she was picked on for being "too thin."
Luckily, she's since moved forward from such experiences by always firmly believing in herself and her capabilities. She even chose the saying, "Great things happen to those who don't stop believing, trying, learning and being grateful," to be her personal motto. Hear, hear!
10. Her national costume embodied the "Indian Queen".
Undeniably one of the most show-stopping national costumes at this year's pageant, Harnaaz's ensemble was an exquisite sari dress with a bewitching umbrella that she twirled around on stage.
According to her, the gorgeous garb was meant to symbolize the "[protective] instinct of women" who are "strong yet delicate." The use of vibrant pink shades for her national costume was meant to represent the power of femininity, which we're sure Harnaaz will have no trouble manifesting throughout her coming reign.
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