Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned Miss Universe 2021

Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned Miss Universe 2021 on Sunday, marking the end of a controversial contest held this year in southern Israel.

In his on-stage speech during the competition, Sandhu urged young people to “know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful, stop comparing yourself to others.

“I believe in myself, and that’s why I stand here today,” she added to loud applause from the audience.

The contest was held in the resort city of Eilat, with 80 women from around the world competing for the crown. Sunday night was the final day of the competition, with eliminations narrowing the number of finalists until the last two were left.

Nadia Ferreira of Paraguay and Lalela Mswane of South Africa finished second and second respectively.

The contest was hosted by comedian Steve Harvey, who at one point of the night asked Sandhu, “I hear you’re pretty good at impersonating animals, hear your best quote.”

Harvey was later criticized online for kicking her out with what many saw as an inappropriate question.

“Oh my, Steve, I didn’t expect to do this on the world stage. I have to do this, I have no choice. Be confident, people,” she said in surprise. before showing off a few meows.

In the Q&A session that followed, when Sandhu made it to the top 5, she took the opportunity to spread the message about climate change. “This is the time to act and talk less,” she said. “Prevention and protection is better than repentance and repair.”

After the win was announced, she celebrated with the other contestants on stage, shouting to the camera, “Chak de Phatte India”, a Punjabi exclamation similar to “Let’s do it” this, India!”

This year’s contest marks the second time Miss Universe in the Covid era. Israel’s borders have been set to open to tourists for vaccinations ahead of this year’s main event, which will allow thousands of fans to attend.

But with the arrival of the new Omicron variant, the Israeli government closed its borders to foreigners two weeks before the competition, sending travel plans and preparations into chaos. One contestant, Miss France, tested positive for the virus upon landing in Israel and had to be quarantined – exiting in time for Friday’s preliminary competition.

The contest was also surrounded by another layer of political controversy, with some critics and countries calling for a boycott – like previous international events held in Israel.

The South African government withdrew its support and called on Mswane to quit, citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, calling it “racism”, an accusation Israel has vehemently denied. But Mswane – with the backing of the Miss South Africa organization – chose to go to Israel and compete.

Other figures, including Miss Israel, Noa Cochva, responded with a chorus popularly heard from pageant organizers and contestants: Miss Universe shouldn’t be about politics.

Israel was one of the first countries to start vaccinating its population and hit a high vaccination rate in May of this year, as the country prepares to host the competition in December, according to a spokesman. of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.


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