Beauty pageants empower women: Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu

Harnaaz Sandhu
Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu (Miss India) greets reporters after winning the 70th Miss Universe beauty pageant in Israel's southern Red Sea coastal city of Eilat on December 13, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP

Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu made the entire country proud by bringing the beauty pageant crown back after 21 years. It was Lara Dutta who had won the title last in 2000. In a candid interview with Onmanorama, Harnaaz speaks about her experience and how beauty pageants empower women.

How are things at your end after winning the title of Miss Universe 2021?

It's a very beautiful moment for all of us and it will take some time to sink in. I am grateful and I am just enjoying the moment.

Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, is crowned Miss Universe during the 70th Miss Universe beauty pageant in Israel. Photo: AFP/ Menahem KAHANA

How was your journey to Miss Universe?

Well, it was not easy. You really need to work hard to achieve your goal. We got only 30 days for myself and my whole team to work on every possible skill, communication, ramp walk, hair and make up, diet, designer clothes, fittings and so on. So many things were happening. When I look back to that, I just smile and say that it was all perfect. And I could see a huge transformation in me. And that is something which will stay for the rest of my life.

Have you ever imagined coming this far?

I am a person who never plans life. Everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe in that. But yes, I have always expected myself to be this far. I am now looking forward to what life has in store for me.

What was your homecoming like?

My homecoming was grand. Being a Punjabi girl, I was so excited to bhangra and I went to Golden Temple.

Your performance at the finals was widely appreciated. What does it take to be so calm and composed while facing those questions?

That is the beauty of our culture where we are being taught to stay grounded, stay humble and be grateful for whatever happens in our life. Even throughout the time when we were having breaks, I made sure to stay focussed and stay calm. More than that I always believed in myself. Just be yourself, be genuine and be grateful that you got the opportunity to speak in front of billions of people all around the world who were listening to you and your one word can change their day. So use it wisely. I do meditate a lot and that helped me too.

What does women empowerment mean to you?

It means a lot to me. I have closely seen how my mom has broken the patriarchal system. She is a gynaecologist and being a breadwinner she made me realise how important it is to be empowered. And this is where I want to work especially regarding the right to work and education. If my mom could do it, even I could do it. I love meeting people and sharing their experiences, learning from their experiences and that's how life is going to be.

Harnaaz Sandhu
Miss Universe contestants congratulate Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu (C), as she is crowned Miss Universe during the 70th Miss Universe beauty pageant in Israel's southern Red Sea coastal city of Eilat on December 13, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP

A lot of feminists are against the idea of beauty pageants. What do you have to say about that?

I think everybody has their own perspectives regarding that. That's up to their expectations. But I never see beauty pageants against any issue because through this platform we are empowering women. We are embracing the beauty of all the women out there who are from different communities or colours. Trust me, it takes a lot of guts and courage to talk about something that you believe in. And you know that you are ready to bring the difference to society. Those who are against the idea of beauty pageants, I would like to appeal that you should also come, join us and see how many processes it takes.

How do you define beauty?

Everyone around me is beautiful. For me, my heart is the one that looks into beauty and captures personality. It's about how you feel beautiful rather than how you look beautiful. One myth that I want to break among the youth is that make-up never makes you look beautiful. That only enhances the beauty. Just be grateful for who you are and enjoy the process. This is your life and you have the right to change it.

Your future plans.

Well, that's something I really don't know as I am a person who doesn't plan life. I am excited and am sure there's something great happening. 

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